To decide which maca is the best for you to buy, is not easy if you take into consideration some elements such as ethics, sustainability towards the community and the environment, flavour, texture, and of course therapeutic properties of the final powder.
To make therapeutic grade maca is a blend of tradition, art and science; and the final quality could be influenced during production. So, how do we know whether the maca powder we buy is worth the cost we pay? Is it the best maca for your specific condition? How do we know if we are supporting an industry that exploits communities in Peru? In other words, what is the best maca for you to buy?
Click to find the best maca for you
1. What is the best maca or the best colour of maca for you to take?
For starters we need to know what type of maca it is, this means the preparation of maca; this is fundamental to determine if is good for our health or might put us in danger. Is it raw, dried, activated, gelatinized, atomised, extracted or concentrated? Below is a chart outlining the different preparations, and how each of them is recommended to be consumed according to tradition and science. One of the biggest mistakes is to consume raw maca powder, this goes against tradition and how ancient civilizations have been consuming it for ages, as well as scientific studies relating to it.
Never eat raw maca is our advice because it may contain mould that produces aflatoxins and also it has a nasty taste. Due to humidity, this mould gets on maca and produces aflatoxins that can be toxic to the gut and liver, even in small doses. This is prevented by heating or cooking maca, so be careful because even if you cook raw powder, it may already contain this toxin, which are not destroyed by heat. That is why is much safer to buy activated maca, which is pre-heated, and you can trace its origins and techniques used in its production.
Another factor to take into consideration when buying maca, is the colour; maca can be Yellow, Red, or Black. Each of them has different biochemical profiles and properties or benefits. It is particularly important to determine which colour is the appropriate one for our constitution and also for the conditions that we want to treat. Maca powder offers several health benefits and helps many treatable conditions. So check the condition you want to treat and the best combination for it, before selecting a maca powder to buy.
2. How can we determine the best quality maca powder? Check its macamide concentration
Maca has special and unique bio-active components that work in our brain, harmonizing our hormones and our nervous system imbalances. These special molecules are called macamides and macaenes which are unique to maca. These molecules work directly with our endocannabinoid system to regulate our endocrine function. More macamides = more potent maca.
They also act as a marker for maca’s therapeutical potential and as a guide of the dose you should take. A good quality maca powder should have the macamide levels listed on the nutritional panel of the packet. To calculate the activity of a maca powder, you need to analyse the macamides and their respective weight per gram of powder. For a therapeutic powder, a total known macamide weight percentage should be 0.6% or higher. This ensures 60+mg per 10g serve (1 tsp). The ideal target dose of maca for general conditions and maintenance should contain 60-100 mg of total macamides per day, while acute or chronic conditions can sometimes require 100-140 mg per day. For most endocrine issues it is recommended to consume daily for 6-12+ weeks to fully benefit from maca, follow our guide for taking maca.
An independent analysis of 5 commercially available maca samples in New Zealand recently demonstrated that only 2 of the randomly chosen powders were within this therapeutic range, which means you might be buying maca powder that lacks therapeutic benefits. Macamides are predominantly made after the harvest, they require optimum root selection, a minimum of 3 months of sun drying and a proper processing to become therapeutic. So, the best way to ensure you are taking maca that works, is to check the macamide concentrations on the pack or with the supplier. The best maca powders are the ones that will have a standardised macamide levels and every batch will be tested to ensure quality.
Not all maca powders have the percentage of macamides needed to be considered therapeutical. We have maca powders that do achieve that level and above. Graph - HPLC analysis of total macamides in randomly chosen commercial samples in New Zealand expressed as a % of total weight (mg/g).
3. How can I be sure the maca is safe?
In the Andes of Peru, there is a region called Junin, this region is the spiritual home and main area where maca is cultivated. It grows between 3800-4500m where the climatic and soil conditions are ideal to produce the best quality roots and has been cultivated for 2000 years, is a tradition coming from the Incas, with medicinal and therapeutic purposes. Scientific studies have shown that Maca grown in other areas of Peru and the world lacks the therapeutic properties of Maca from its cultivated birthplace in Junin (see here). Recently, maca has been taken illegally out of Peru and into China to develop this crop there, but Chinese maca lacks the therapeutic potential of the Peruvian equivalent. Furthermore, there is ongoing concern about GMO Maca from China due to their high number of patents for such crops. GMO was banned in Peru and as such all Peruvian maca is GMO free. All maca coming from Peru, comes with a certificate of origin that should be provided upon exportation. It should also have an organic certification and analysis of mould, yeast, bacteria, aflatoxins, and heavy metals.
So, if you are buying maca, make sure it comes from Junin, Peru, as this is the region that produces best quality roots. Also ensure it is organic certified and free from any substance that might put your health at risk. Another desirable quality is that maca should be from a single origin (from 1 single farm), because otherwise it can affect its quality. Sometimes multi origin maca is a mix of maca powders, a mixture of qualities. It is best for you to look for authentic artisanal, sun-dried maca from a single origin; as it is the most therapeutic and safest to consume, also check the macamide percentage per packet.
The list below can help you choose your maca properly, make sure it has:
1. A certificate of origin (Junin, Peru)
2. An organic certification (USDA or EU or other)
3. No risk of being GMO
4. Safe levels of mould, yeast, and bacteria.
5. Safe levels of aflatoxins
6. Safe levels of heavy metals
7. Single origin status and 100% traceability
Never eat raw maca due to the risk of mould and aflatoxins. When we do not know the origin of the maca we buy, we are exposed to different risks. Is better to choose a single-origin, safe, certified, and tested maca powder.
4. Is your maca respecting the sacred indigenous customs for preparation?
Growing maca is a spiritual experience since it is the most sacred plant for the indigenous people of Peru who cultivate it. They follow the practice of Pagapu – payment to Mother Earth to nurture the soil with love and intention, and in return Pachamama provides healing medicine for us to consume. The spiritual practices involving maca are as important as the techniques used as the spirit of maca is what heals our bodies. We shall feel grateful for being able to have access to this sacred plant and its medicinal benefits and for that we should respect it and its traditions. Not all companies comply with these sacred requirements as we do. Taking maca from the soil without Pagapu is considered bad luck and bad energy.
We respect the spiritual process of Pagapu, a payment to Mother Earth to make sure maca is full of healing power.
Incan tradition respects Pachamama and as a way to protect their local environment, it allows for 10 years of soil resting and re-mineralising after harvest before re-planting maca. According to this logic every batch of our maca takes 13.5 years to produce from start to finish – 10 years of soil preparation, 2 years for production of the seeds, 1 year to grow and harvest the medicinal root, 3 months to naturally sun-dry and 3 months to powder, heat-activate, package and ship. We are creating a sustainable way to produce maca by respecting their culture and traditions, this way we preserve the environment as well. Not all companies and farms follow this process, especially with the global demand to rapidly produce maca.
5. Are we having a fully sustainable relationship with the farmer and community?
While some companies around the world sell maca powder for up to $120 per kg, most farmers receive $1-2 per kg for the maca powder they produce. Farmers are often pressured into taking low prices with threats of buying somewhere else if they do not agree. That is one of the reasons most maca farmers live under such poor conditions, living without access to necessities and comforts. Farmers end up accepting exceptionally low prices just so they can feed their families, but those prices are not enough to support them until the next harvest which will take place a year after. These conditions are responsible for the economic, cultural, and spiritual demise of the maca farming industry.
What some farmers do is push their maca production at the expense of the environment, this leaves a long-lasting damage to the land that may take generations to fix. On the one hand we have farmers struggling with their production and on the other hand, farms that are on the verge of an environmental disaster. As you can see, maca farming needs to be sustainable not only for the environment but for the farmer as well, they go hand in hand. If not maca farming and the land will cease to exist 10 years from now. This economic and environmental exploitation has turned a 2000-year-old sacred practice into a commercialised venture where traditions are not being respected, where brokers and exporters in a hurry to get rich off the backs of farmers have taken the spirituality out of the equation and are producing poor quality and unethical maca. A question you should ask the company selling maca is if they are being socially responsible and if they are giving back to the community.
We believe that as consumers, suppliers, and retailers; is our responsibility to protect the heritage, culture, and history behind maca, and also to make sure that ethics and sustainability are involved with the farming process. We have a direct partnership with our farm, farmer, and community; and we are committed to offer protection from exploitation, that is why we buy directly from our farmer with a transparent pricing structure and this way they can see their product’s value in our market.
Our farmer carries out full production of our final product, so technically we are selling his product on his behalf; and we share back profits with him. Also, a percentage of our profits goes into a development fund destined to improve the lives of the people involved in producing our products. So, every bag you buy from us, represents approximately $1 towards supporting our community.
We have a commitment with the community of San Jose de Quero, we are improving the infrastructure, heating system, water, internet, and sanitation of the school and of our farmer’s house. We also sponsor 14 children from the community, and we pay for their annual schooling needs. We have collaborated with our farmer in building accommodations to house eco-tourists, which will represent an additional long-term sustainable income for him and his family. And to improve our farmer, his family and the local children’s education, we are creating cultural and professional development programs. Learn more about our social responsibility here.