Royal Maca Q & A
How do we make the best Maca Root product in the world?
- Whole World Botanicals has forged long term personal relationships with the indigenous maca growing communities, based on Fair Trade and community development projects.
- The maca growers plant and harvest our Royal Maca bio-energetically.
- Our Royal Maca is truly, absolutely organic: USDA-approved.
- Whole World Botanicals’ maca roots are always dried slowly in the sun for many weeks in the more expensive traditional way.
- Royal Maca is put through a “cooking” process that makes it more digestible, more potent and cleaner. The maca growers NEVER eat their maca raw!
Royal Maca® is a Single Source Indigenous™ botanical
Whole World Botanicals has partnered for more than a decade with the Quechua speaking communities who grow our organic maca roots in the high Peruvian Andes. WWB pays a floor price, which is above market price, for the maca roots. This allows the peasant producers with only a small land base to purchase basic necessities such as food which cannot be locally grown, clothing, transportation, school materials for their children and to live with dignity. Paying by a Fair Trade price has also permitted enough savings for a land-poor maca-growing community to build a low-heat solar dryer for drying the maca roots with technical assistance and an interest-free loan provided by WWB.
Traditionally, the freshly harvested maca roots have been allowed to dry for six to eight weeks in the open air on the ground. With the disruptive global climate changes, the dry season, which permits this type of drying, is no longer totally dry. By drying the roots in an open structure with a plastic roof, the maca roots can be kept free of the rain while continuing to sun-dry in the traditional way. Recent scientific research has confirmed the great superiority of traditional slow sundrying of maca roots for preserving their hormone-balancing properties to the quick drying in electrical dryers used today in most commercial maca production. Paying Fair Trade prices has also enabled maca-growing communities with a large land base to make capital investments.
At Whole World Botanicals we keep talking about our SUN DRIED certified organic, precooked (gelatinized) Royal Maca.
Q: Why is “sun dried” important, critically important, and why do so few companies dry their maca naturally?
The traditional way of drying the freshly harvested maca roots is in the sun. At 14,000 ft. above sea level, the sun never gets hot, so it is a slow drying process over a period of 6 to 8 weeks. And it turns out that this method is far superior to fast drying at high temperature (4 to 5 hours) in large electrical tumbler dryers. Reason? The traditional way of drying the freshly harvested maca roots is in the sun. At 14,000 ft. above sea level, the sun never gets hot, so it is a slow drying process over a period of 6 to 8 weeks.
And it turns out that this method is far superior to fast drying (4 to 5 hours) in large electrical tumbler dryers. Reason? Maca roots (hypocotyl is the botanical term)– like all cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, kale, cabbage, radishes, cauliflower, watercress—contain glucosinolates. Of course, maca’s glucosinolates are unique to the maca plant. When cruciferous vegetables are subjected to high heat after harvesting, only a tiny percentage of their glucosinolates convert to isothiocyanates . But when maca’s glucosinolates are subjected to slow drying with low heat over many weeks, a good percentage of their glucosinolates slowly convert to isothiocyanates. It is these isothiocyanates, unique to maca, which have a major role in hormone balancing. So if the maca has not been slowly dried in the sun for weeks, its isothiocyanate content will be very low and the maca roots will be very weak in their hormone balancing effects.
Why is Certified Organic important when choosing your maca product?
Herbs are natural products grown in the earth. They don’t come from nature “standardized” like human-made factory substances. To ensure the highest quality of herbal material in your supplement, you want a guarantee that it has been grown using only natural fertilizers—no chemicals—and only natural insect repellents—no toxic chemical sprays. In studies on organically grown tomatoes, they have been found to have nearly twice the amount of nutrition as tomatoes grown in the usual commercial way.
In the same way, to receive maximum benefit from the herbal products you use, you need to purchase your products from a company that is based on Single Source Indigenous products so that they know who the growers and collectors are and under what conditions the botanicals are grown. As a minimum – not a maximum condition – if a botanical is farm grown you need some way of determining if that product has been organically produced.
Q: How can a consumer confirm that a product is truly organic and that the manufacturer is not just making a false marketing claim?
A: For products that are 95 – 100% organic, look for the USDA Seal on the label. The United States Department of Agriculture has a National Organics Program (NOP). The USDA does not itself provide organic certification, but it verifies the credentials of organizations which provide organic certification. You can check their website www.ams.usda.gov to see if the organic certification organization which is named on your herbal supplement bottle or package is listed as a legitimate organic certifier which meets the stringent requirements of the USDA required in order to be labeled as “organic.”
Q: What if the manufacturer calls their product “organic” and claims to have USDA approved organic certification, but there is no organic certifier listed?
A: To comply with the USDA regulations for claiming organic certification, the manufacturer must list both the name of the certification organization and its location (city and state or country). Noncompliance with these rules can lead to fines for the manufacturer. If you do not see a organic certification listed, along with location, you can contact the manufacturer and demand to know who their organic certifier is. Non-compliance with the law hurts the truly organic manufacturers who spend thousands of dollars every year to ensure that their products are organically grown and to pay for the verification provided by third party certification.
Q: What does the USDA require from organic certification organizations in order to legally claim in the U.S. that a product is “organic”?
A: Following is a list of some of the requirements:
- The farmer must list all farms or growing plots where he/she grows crops. All of them must use completely organic methods of producing these crops, even if they are grown for personal use by the farmer’s family.
- The manufacturer must provide professional inspection by an agronomist on a monthly basis of all crops grown by the farmer it is certifying. The agronomist inspects the fields and discusses any challenges the farmers are facing in growing their organic crops.
- The agronomist provides monthly reports on all of the farmers covered by organic certification.
- The manufacturer must submit to the organic certification organization a 5 year plan for utilization of her/his fields where organic agriculture is practiced.
Special Challenges of Growing Organic Maca
It is well known by the maca farmers that maca “sucks everything out of the soil” making it impossible to grow another crop there for many years, if organic farming is practiced.
- Since maca is the only food crop which will dependably grow at 14,000 + feet above sea level, rotation farming is not possible. There is a certain type of grass which grows well at this altitude and sheep, llamas, and cattle graze on it. The land where maca has been grown during one year (it takes 9 months to grow), must lie fallow and be used for grazing of animals for five years before replanting another organic crop of maca.
- Since it is so cold all year long at this altitude, even the animal dung provided by the grazing animals which is needed to fertiliza the maca plants, doesn’t break down and mix with the soil very well. Whole World Botanicals has helped our organic maca growing partners shorten the fallow time needed between maca crops (to only five years) by teaching the farmers how to create a liquid compost from the dried animal dung and to spread it on the fields.