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Colors (Phenotypes) of Maca

The most known or obvious feature of maca root is the variations in colors (also referred to as phenotypes), for which 17 different colors have been identified (1). The hypocotyl is the part of the plant where colorful pigments are contained in the skin (outer layer), with one exception of yellow maca, which is also yellow on the inside flesh (2). As denoted in image 1, the spectrum of colors of the maca hypocotyl that has been identified ranges from white to gray (lead) to black, as well as more colorful varieties such as red, red-white, red-yellow, white-red, white-lilac, white-purple, yellow, yellow-red, yellow-purple, purple (violet), purple-white, purple-gray, light gray, and light-gray-yellow (3,4). It is challenging to visually categorize each of these shades and mixtures of colors due to subjective interpretation, therefore the main colors can be consolidated into purple (violet), red, black, white (“creamy white”), gray (also referred to as lead), and yellow (2).



To date, maca colors have been grossly overlooked in the methodology of published research studies. This website aims to delineate the importance of not just the color of maca, but also the growing location and phytochemical makeup of the colors of maca in order to best apply the science into clinical application.


Research has identified that select colors of maca have DNA variations (although still identifying as the same genus and species), display different distribution patterns of active constituents, and, most importantly, can elicit different physiological responses in the body and even gender affinity (5–10).

The most researched colors are black, red, yellow, and purple (violet) (3,11). [Photo 1]

Image 1. Seventeen (17) Colors of maca

Image credit: Minich DM, Ross K, Frame J, Fahoum M, Warner W, Meissner HO. Not All Maca Is Created Equal: A Review of Colors, Nutrition, Phytochemicals, and Clinical Uses. Nutrients. 2024 Feb 14;16(4):530.

Photo 1. Examples of colored maca hypocotyls (black, red, yellow, purple).

Photo courtesy of Symphony Natural Health, taken by Patrice Christensen.

This website has organized the research on maca by color and clinical application.

Below is a summary of the findings of this evidence.

Black Maca

The overview of research suggests that black maca supports:

  • men’s fertility

  • spermatogenesis in animals

  • memory 

  • metabolic health

  • bone health

  • physical endurance in both men and women 


Red Maca

The overview of research suggests that red maca supports:

  • prostate health

  • bone health

  • skin health

  • detoxification support

  • brain health

The evidence is limited for the use of red maca on these health conditions with the exception of prostate health, which has been extensively studied in animals.  


Yellow Maca

While yellow maca accounts for the largest percentage (47%) of maca distribution (8), the evidence on yellow maca is limited. The research suggests that yellow maca supports:

  • Musculoskeletal health

  • Reproductive health in males and females 


Purple/Violet Maca

Overall, purple maca has not been well studied for its efficacy, rather studies that include purple maca have explored the nutritional content (3,8) .


Combination of Colors

Combining maca colors has been documented in the literature, most extensively as a formulation known as Maca-GO. The research suggests that this proprietary combination of black, yellow, purple, and red maca supports:(12–17)

  • Hormone health

  • Bone health

  • Adrenal health

  • Cardiometabolic health

  • Menopausal symptoms 

Another combination of black, red, and yellow maca, known as MACAXS has been shown to impact testosterone levels in animals, though this is limited to one study (18).


Unspecified Colors

Despite the compelling evidence that the colors of maca vary in their composition and impact on various health conditions, much of the published literature does not disclose the color(s) studied, creating a challenge in understanding the potential health benefits and highlighting the need for color-specific studies to be completed. A 2022 systematic review and meta-analysis revealed that 50% of the articles published did not state the color(s) used (19).


The research suggests that maca, without specifying the color(s), support:

  • Mood regulation (anxiety and depression)

  • Sexual health (libido, erectile dysfunction

  • Reproductive health (sperm health)

  • Cardiometabolic health (blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose)

  • Lowering inflammation

  • Energy

  • Menopausal symptoms (hot flashes, insomnia) 



An important conclusion from the research on maca is that not all colors have the same function, nutritional composition, or physiological responses in the body. However, in alignment with the research not specifying the color(s) of maca studied, most maca supplements available to the average consumer do not delineate these colors either. Clinically, this is problematic since both clinicians and consumers are not easily able to make an informed decision about the best choice in maca supplementation to address their specific needs or concerns. 


A compilation of the published literature on maca shows that distinct health benefits are observed when a specific color of maca is administered, as summarized on this website.  The research makes it very clear that not all maca is created equal.

Learn more about the clinical application the colors of maca can provide. 

Written by Mona Fahoum, ND

Reviewed by Kim Ross, DCN

Last Updated March 15, 2024




1. Minich DM, Ross K, Frame J, Fahoum M, Warner W, Meissner HO. Not All Maca Is Created Equal: A Review of Colors, Nutrition, Phytochemicals, and Clinical Uses. Nutrients. 2024 Feb 14;16(4):530.

2. Clément C, Diazgrados DA, Avula B, Khan IA, Mayer AC, Aguirre DDP, et al. Influence of colour type and previous cultivation on secondary metabolites in hypocotyls and leaves of maca (Lepidium meyenii Walpers). J Sci Food Agric. 2010;90(5).

3. Meissner HO, Mscisz A, Baraniak M, Piatkowska E, Pisulewski P, Mrozikiewicz M, et al. Peruvian Maca (Lepidium peruvianum) - III: The Effects of Cultivation Altitude on Phytochemical and Genetic Differences in the Four Prime Maca Phenotypes. Int J Biomed Sci. 2017 Jun;13(2):58–73.

4. Obregon L. “Maca” Planta Medicinal y Nutritiva del Peru. 1st ed. Lima: Instituto de Fitoterapia Americano; 2001. 1–182 p.

5. Sun Y, Dai C, Shi S, Zheng Y, Wei W, Cai D. Composition analysis and antioxidant activity of essential oils, lipids and polysaccharides in different phenotypes of Lepidium meyenii. J Chromatogr B Analyt Technol Biomed Life Sci. 2018;1099.

6. Wang Y, Wang Y, McNeil B, Harvey LM. Maca: An Andean crop with multi-pharmacological functions. Vol. 40, Food Research International. 2007.

7. Tarabasz D, Szczeblewski P, Laskowski T, Płaziński W, Baranowska-Wójcik E, Szwajgier D, et al. The Distribution of Glucosinolates in Different Phenotypes of Lepidium peruvianum and Their Role as Acetyl- and Butyrylcholinesterase Inhibitors—In Silico and In Vitro Studies. Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Apr 27;23(9):4858.

8. Meissner HO, Mscisz A, Piatkowska E, Baraniak M, Mielcarek S, Kedzia B, et al. Peruvian maca (Lepidium peruvianum): (II) phytochemical profiles of four prime maca phenotypes grown in two geographically-distant locations. International Journal of Biomedical Science. 2016;

9. Geng P, Sun J, Chen P, Brand E, Frame J, Meissner H, et al. Characterization of Maca (Lepidium meyenii/Lepidium peruvianum) Using a Mass Spectral Fingerprinting, Metabolomic Analysis, and Genetic Sequencing Approach. Planta Med. 2020 Jul 20;86(10):674–85.

10. Meissner HO, Mscisz A, Mrozikiewicz M, Baraniak M, Mielcarek S, Kedzia B, et al. Peruvian Maca (Lepidium peruvianum): (I) Phytochemical and Genetic Differences in Three Maca Phenotypes. Int J Biomed Sci. 2015 Sep;11(3):131–45.

11. Gonzales GF, Gonzales C, Gonzales-Castañeda C. Lepidium meyenii (Maca): A Plant from the Highlands of Peru – from Tradition to Science. Forschende Komplementärmedizin / Research in Complementary Medicine. 2009;16(6):373–80.

12. Meissner, HO Mscisz, A Bilinska-Reich, H, Kapczynski, W, Mrozikiewicz, P Bobkiewicz-Kozlowska, T Kedzia, B Lowicka, A Barchia I. Hormone-Balancing Effect of Pre-Gelatinized Organic Maca (Lepidium peruvianum Chacon): (II) Physiological and Symptomatic Responses of Early-Postmenopausal Women to Standardized doses of Maca in Double Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Multi-Centre C. Int J Biomed Sci. 2006;2(4):360–74.

13. Meissner HO, Kapczynski W, Mscisz A, Lutomski J. Use of gelatinized maca (lepidium peruvianum) in early postmenopausal women. Int J Biomed Sci. 2005;

14. Meissner HO, Kedzia B, Mrozikiewicz PM, Mscisz A. Short and long-term physiological responses of male and female rats to two dietary levels of pre-gelatinized maca (lepidium peruvianum chacon). Int J Biomed Sci. 2006;

15. Meissner HO, Reich-Bilinska H, Mscisz A, Kedzia B. Therapeutic Effects of Pre-Gelatinized Maca (Lepidium Peruvianum Chacon) used as a Non-Hormonal Alternative to HRT in Perimenopausal Women - Clinical Pilot Study. Int J Biomed Sci. 2006;

16. Meissner HO, Mscisz A, Reich-Bilinska H, Mrozikiewicz P, Bobkiewicz-Kozlowska T, Kedzia B, et al. Hormone-Balancing Effect of Pre-Gelatinized Organic Maca (Lepidium peruvianum Chacon): (III) Clinical responses of early-postmenopausal women to Maca in double blind, randomized, Placebo-controlled, crossover configuration, outpatient study. Int J Biomed Sci. 2006;

17. Meissner HO, Mrozikiewicz P, Bobkiewicz-Kozlowska T, Mscisz A, Kedzia B, Lowicka A, et al. Hormone-Balancing Effect of Pre-Gelatinized Organic Maca (Lepidium peruvianum Chacon): (I) Biochemical and Pharmacodynamic Study on Maca using Clinical Laboratory Model on Ovariectomized Rats. Int J Biomed Sci. 2006;

18. Ohta Y, Yoshida K, Kamiya S, Kawate N, Takahashi M, Inaba T, et al. Feeding hydroalcoholic extract powder of Lepidium meyenii (maca) increases serum testosterone concentration and enhances steroidogenic ability of Leydig cells in male rats. Andrologia. 2016;48(3).

19. Bower-Cargill C, Yarandi N, Petróczi A. A systematic review of the versatile effects of the Peruvian Maca Root (Lepidium meyenii) on sexual dysfunction, menopausal symptoms and related conditions. Vol. 2, Phytomedicine Plus. 2022.

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