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It's Time for a more ethical maca

Updated: Jan 8

We often get asked what makes our maca different from others on the market. For example, “Product X is only $15.00. What is the difference between yours and theirs?”

Peruvian maca

After answering questions like that hundreds of times, I thought it would be a good idea to put the answers all in one place.


Maca has many excellent properties and is one of my favorite herbs, but these benefits only come if grown and manufactured correctly.


It all starts with respecting the growing process. Maca takes a lot of nutrients out of the soil, so crop rotation is critical. Every field needs to grow one maca crop and then rest for nine years to produce the best maca. If there is no proper crop rotation, it will result in poor-quality maca. Unfortunately, most companies do not do this, resulting in maca with little to no beneficial effect.

The next step is the drying process. The main group of beneficial compounds in maca is called macamides. Few of these compounds will form if the maca is not dried correctly. Maca must be sun-dried for ninety days at the high altitudes where it is grown in Peru. The drying process will cause maca to lose up to sixty percent of its weight. This process is much more expensive, but it results in the best maca. Unfortunately, most companies now oven-dry their maca at lower elevations without going through the proper sun-drying process. Other companies claim to do sun-drying, but it is for much shorter periods, such as thirty days. It is much cheaper to use these improper processes, but it results in maca that has little to none of the beneficial macamides.

The next step is the processing stage. Maca must be cooked to make it digestible and usable by the body. Gelatinization (no gelatin, it’s just the name of the process) performs several essential functions. First, when maca grows, a mold forms around it. Removing the mold is necessary to make maca safe to eat. It is one of the many reasons never to eat raw maca. In Peru, maca is cooked and never eaten raw. Gelatinization removes the mold and much of the starch, making it easy to digest. Raw maca is incredibly hard on the digestive tract. It also helps to remove compounds, such as glucosinolate, that can negatively affect thyroid function. Some companies tout the levels of this harmful compound in their product, which shows they have a genuine lack of understanding of maca. Raw maca is much cheaper to sell and produce, but it has little to no beneficial properties and can have many harmful side effects.

Next up is traceability. Most maca comes through middlemen and brokers, which combine maca from various farmers and regions. It results in a wide variety of maca quality mixed in big batches. Some of it might be of good quality, but much of it will not be. If even a tiny amount is made correctly and dried, companies will not hesitate to label it that way, even if it was just a small part of one batch and the rest was of inferior quality. Our maca comes directly from our farm partner in Peru. There is no middleman involved, and only maca from that farm is in the products. Traceability is a crucial step in ensuring a high-quality product.

Adulteration is a common problem with maca products. Caramelized sugar is added to give most maca powders a particular taste and color. This impurity will not be listed on the label. Another problem is the addition of Chinese grown maca. A few years ago, the Chinese mafia came to Peru and started stealing Maca roots from farmers. Maca is considered a heritage crop, and it is illegal to take whole roots from the country. These were taken to China, genetically modified, and planted. However, the climate and soil are not suitable for growing maca, and the crop grown there has little to no beneficial properties. As a result, much of the maca sold in the United States is Chinese maca labeled as being from Peru.


High levels of heavy metals, such as lead, are a problem with many maca products. Often companies will reduce the serving size of their products to make it appear that their products have lower levels of heavy metals. The maca is tested for heavy metals to ensure that a proper serving size is low in heavy metals. Rather than use a small serving size to make the heavy metal levels look good, levels should be based on the daily amounts used.


Another factor that adds to the cost of a maca product is using different colors of maca. The same maca seed produces three colors of maca. The colors have different effects. Yellow makes up about 65 percent of the crop, red about 25 percent, and black about 10 percent. Products containing red and black maca will be more expensive than those having just the yellow variety.

Serving size is a common problem in the maca industry. Depending on the use, five to ten grams of gelatinized maca (while ensuring adequate macamides) are needed each day. Often companies will sell products with a one to three gram serving size. This amount is not enough to do anything, but it does allow them to sell products and claim more servings per bag or bottle, making the product seem less expensive when in reality, it is much more costly to take a dosage that does not do anything. For example, a company might sell 500 mg pills and tell people to take just two pills a day. So while a thirty serving container might only cost fifteen dollars, it will do anything at two capsules per day. If they were honest with the dosage, that bottle would only last five to ten days. So always check the serving size to ensure you are getting enough maca and not being taken advantage of by companies who want people to think their product is less expensive and don’t care about whether someone gets results.

One of the most important factors is the level of macamides per serving. Unfortunately, most products do not list the percentage of macamides. Products with little to no macamides will not have a therapeutic effect. While two product labels may look similar, the levels of macamides can vary greatly. Buying maca products without knowing the amounts of these critical compounds is a terrible idea.

One thing that is often not talked about is fair pay for the farmers who grow the maca. Many maca farmers are impoverished and often get taken advantage of by brokers and middlemen. They are paid next to nothing for their crop, barely enough to survive. It is wrong on every level, but it is great for the profit margin. They must get a reasonable price for their hard work to produce an ethical product. They do the hard work of growing and processing the maca. They deserve a fair price that allows them to live a life of dignity. Sure it would be easy to pay them poverty prices and sell maca for much less, but can a product be good if those who grow it are taken advantage of and forced to live a life of poverty because of greed? No, it cannot.

Essential to the ethical production of any product is investing in the communities that make it possible. A portion of every bag of maca helps support schools, bring clean water, and many other improvements that make the lives of the people there better. It would be cheaper to skip all of these things, but it would not be ethical. Unfortunately, all too often, companies take and never give back. Breaking this cycle is essential. Truly investing in these communities, not just token lip service, is something more companies should do.

When you see cheap maca, it is not just your health being cheated; the farmers and community suffer greatly.


Instead, seek out maca that benefits the farming communities.

Hopefully, this blog covered all the questions you might have about what it takes to make a good maca product and why the ethical production of maca is so essential. If you have a question about our maca products, feel free to email us at info@rooted-nutrition.com, and we will work to get you the information you need!


Click the button below to learn all about maca, from farm to bottle.


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