AUSTIN, Texas (October 14, 2020) —The American Botanical Council (ABC) welcomes Symphony Natural Health’s adoption of maca (Lepidium meyenii) through ABC’s Adopt-an-Herb botanical research and education program.
Symphony Natural Health’s adoption supports ABC’s extensive HerbMedPro database, ensuring that this unique research and educational resource remains up to date for researchers, health professionals, industry members, students, consumers, and other members of the herbal and dietary supplement and natural medicine communities.
HerbMedPro is a comprehensive, interactive online database that provides access to important scientific and clinical research data on the uses and health effects of more than 265 herbs, spices, medicinal plants, and fungi.
“We could think of no herb other than maca that is more ideal for our company to adopt,” said James Frame, CEO of Symphony Natural Health. “Maca is the core ingredient in half of our product line, we have been researching the plant for more than 20 years, and we have exported thousands of tons of maca around the world from our operation in Peru, controlling the whole process from seed to shelf.
“Since 1999, our director of research and development, Dr. Henry Meissner, has conducted extensive clinical research on maca and its effects in women,” Frame added. “To promote maca and its health benefits around the world, he has collaborated with Dr. Gloria Chacón, who is regarded as the ‘Mother of Maca,’ and Dr. Gustavo Gonzales, who has conducted extensive research on maca and its effects in men.”
Symphony Natural Health’s “why,” or purpose, is to be conscious, lead, and empower, according to Frame. That includes providing optimal health solutions, leading by example, creating trends instead of following them, and offering products supported by clinical trial results. “Supporting a leader like ABC through the Adopt-an-Herb program helps empower our industry with the latest information about maca, which is perfectly aligned with our ‘why,’” Frame said.
“We hope that with this adoption, the industry will recognize that there are, in fact, different phenotypes [observable characteristics or traits] of maca,” Frame added. “By illustrating that these phenotypes can be different colors and have different DNA, analytical profiles, and physiological effects in the body, we can then ensure that when people consider using maca, they can assess what would be the best phenotype or combination of phenotypes.”
ABC Chief Science Officer Stefan Gafner, PhD, said: “ABC highly appreciates the adoption of maca by Symphony Natural Health, which allows the published science on this important plant to be made available to a broader audience via ABC’s HerbMedPro database. Unfortunately, maca has become an example of a medicinal plant for which biopiracy [the illegal export of maca and establishment of large cultivations in China] has deprived producers in Peru, where the plant is native, of fair compensation. As such, we applaud Symphony Natural Health for its long-standing commitment to Peruvian-grown maca and supporting the plant’s health benefits with scientific research.”
Maca is an herbaceous biennial plant in the Lepidium genus, which is one of the largest genera in the mustard or cabbage family (Brassicaceae). It resembles a radish (Raphanus raphanistrum subsp. sativus) and is the only species in its genus with a fleshy, starchy subterranean storage part called a hypocotyl, which is fused with the taproot and is the part of the plant that is used most often. The species is native to plateaus of the central Andes at altitudes up to about 4,500 meters (14,764 feet), in habitats that are intensely cold with extreme sunlight and wind.
For centuries, native Peruvians, including the Inca, have used maca as a vital dietary staple and traditional medicine. It probably was domesticated in present-day Ondores, Junín, Peru, about 1,300 to 2,000 years ago. Traditionally, the hypocotyls are dried and can be stored for many years. Maca reportedly often was traded for lowland foods, including cassava (Manihot esculenta), corn (Zea mays), papaya (Carica papaya), quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa), and rice (Oryza sativa).
In 1553, Cieza de León, a Spanish conquistador and chronicler of Peru, provided the first known description of maca and noted that Peruvian highland natives used the plant to maintain health. In the 17th century, Padre Bernabé Cobo, a Spanish Jesuit missionary, described the plant’s name and noted that it grows in the coldest and harshest areas of Chinchaycocha, where no other plants for sustenance could grow.
Some sources consider maca to be adaptogenic (i.e., it may increase the state of non-specific resistance to stress), and it may have antimicrobial, antioxidant, hepatoprotective, immunomodulatory, and neuroprotective effects. It may also have benefits for anxiety, benign prostatic hyperplasia, energy, libido, mood, osteoporosis, reproductive function, and more. However, more human studies that evaluate individual phenotypes and combinations of phenotypes are needed to confirm some of these potential benefits, because many of these potential benefits have been attributed to only one phenotype, according to Frame.
Maca has high nutritional value and contains starch, dietary fiber, protein, and lipids. Glucosinolates are also important constituents of maca. Traditionally, before consumption, maca often is boiled to produce a juice, which seems to increase the contents of and the body’s ability to digest some active metabolites. However, Frame noted that the heating also has been shown to destroy some potential active constituents.
About Symphony Natural Health
Symphony Natural Health was founded with the vision to form and support a synergistic “symphony” within the body and also among the communities with which it partners, and the environment in which it works, to promote harmony and health. Symphony Natural Health’s products are all organic, vegan, and kosher certified and free of extractives, alcohol, additives, colorings, preservatives, silicon dioxide, magnesium stearate, gluten, dairy, soy, and corn, according to the company. Finished capsules are packed in oxygen- and moisture-protected blister packs and in boxes made from recycled fibers printed with vegetable ink.
All the company’s operations in developing countries are either joint ventures with local people or completely locally employed, according to its website. The company uses customized growing, harvesting, and proprietary manufacturing processes for each herb, depending on what is best for its chemistry and biology.
About Adopt-an-Herb and HerbMedPro
Symphony Natural Health is one of 65 US and international companies and organizations that have supported ABC’s educational efforts to collect, organize, and disseminate reliable traditional and science-based information, including clinical studies, on herbs, medicinal plants, and other botanical- and fungal-based ingredients through the Adopt-an-Herb program. This program encourages companies, organizations, and individuals to “adopt” one or more specific herbs for inclusion and ongoing maintenance in the HerbMedPro database. To date, 72 herbs have been adopted.
Each adopted herb is researched continuously for new scientific articles and botanical, chemical, pharmacological, toxicological, and clinical studies, ensuring that its HerbMedPro record stays current and robust. Access to the studies is organized conveniently by publication type, with each study condensed to a one-sentence summary with a link to the study’s official abstract on PubMed (the US National Library of Medicine’s free-access database) or other publicly accessible databases.
HerbMedPro is available to ABC members at the Academic level and higher. Its “sister” site, HerbMed, is available to the general public at no cost, with access to 25-30 herb records from the larger HerbMedPro database. In keeping with ABC’s position as an independent research and education organization, herb adopters do not influence the scientific information that is compiled for their respective adopted herbs.