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Info: Maca > Maca root

Maca root

maca rootMaca is the root of a Peruvian plant - Lepidium meyenii - growing in the Central Andean Region of Peru between 4000 and 4500 meters of altitude, mainly in the Peruvian regions of: "Junin" and "Cerro de Pasco". This species is described in the catalogue of the flowering plants and gymnosperms of Peru. Maca has traditionally been employed to improve sexuality and fertility. Oral administration of Maca significantly improved the sexual behaviour of male rats and mice. More recently, it has been demonstrated that Maca improves spermatogenesis in male rats.

Dry maca hypocotyls have the following composition: 59% carbohydrates, 10.2% proteins, 8.5% fibre and 2.2% lipids among a few other compounds (Dini et al. 1994).

Maca has a large amount of essential amino acids, vitamins and high levels of iron and calcium.

History

In early times (1600 b.C), maca was appreciated not onlyAndes as a high nutritious food, but also as a gift of the gods along with corn and potatoes. Mountain Raco in Junín was considered the god of stewed food. In its honour, the natives buried potatoes and maca there among other offerings. Maca also was used in beverages with hallucinogenic products in dances and religious ceremonies (Castro de León 1990). Today in local markets it is advertised as an aphrodisiac, stamina-builder and fertility-promoter. It is also often promoted as a cure for rheumatism, respiratory ailments and as a laxative.

Botanical description and reproductive biology

The maca plant is a rosette of frilly leaves with an enlarged fleshy underground organ formed by the taproot and the lower part of the hypocotyls (Leon 1964; Tello et al. 1992).

These parts of the plant swell during growth, forming a storage organ resembling a turnip. For simplicity, we will call this organ ‘hypocotyls’, which is the economic product of maca.. The foliage forms a mat, growing in close contact with the ground. The leaves exhibit dimorphism, being larger in the vegetative phase and reduced in the reproductive cycle (Tello et al. 1992). The ‘hypocotyls’ display a variety of colours from purple to cream and yellow (Leon 1964). This species is an octoploid with 2n=8x=64 chromosomes (Quirós et al. 1996), considering that the basic genomic number of Lepidieae is x=8. Its meiosis is normal, with the chromosomes associating predominantly as bivalents. This type of association indicates that maca is a disomic polyploid. Polyploidy is a common event among the species in the tribe Lepidieae to which maca belongs (Darlington and Wylie 1945).

Most of the pollen collected from the flowers is fertile, as measured by pollen stainability. Consistent with other cruciferous species, pollen grains are trinucleated.

CROP: Maca is an Andean crop of narrow distribution. It is restricted today to the suni and puna ecosystems (Bonnier 1986) of the Departments of Junín and Cerro demaca roots Pasco of Peru at elevations above 3500 m and often reaching 4450 m. in the central Andes of Peru (Leon 1964; Tello et al. 1992). The largest cultivated area is found around Lake Junín at Huayre, Carhuamayo, Uco, Ondores, Junín, Ninacana and Vicco. Apparently maca occupied wider areas of cultivation in the past (Johns 1981). In addition to Junín and Cerro de Pasco, presumably, it also was grown in Cusco and in the Lake Titicaca watershed. Some of the writers of the time mention that many natives did not have any other food but maca. It was also used as payment of taxes to the Spanish administrators (Castro de Leon 1990). Its restricted cultivation today indicates that maca may have been in danger of being phased out as a crop.

At the present time less than 50 ha are being dedicated to the production of maca in Peru and presumably in the world (Tello et al 1992). However, the popularity of this crop is steadily increasing, not only in its area of production but also in large cities because of its putative medicinal properties.

  

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