Moringa has been used for centuries due to its medicinal properties and health benefits. It has antifungal, antiviral, antidepressant, and anti-inflammatory properties.
What is Moringa
Moringa oleifera is a plant that is often called the drumstick tree, the miracle tree, the ben oil tree, or the horseradish tree.
History of Moringa
It is believed that the moringa tree originated in northern India and was being used in Indian medicine around 5,000 years ago, and there are also accounts of it being utilized by the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians.
This tree was, and still is, considered a panacea, and is referred to as the 'The Wonder Tree', 'The Divine Tree', and 'The Miracle Tree' amongst many others.
Moringa was used extensively in Ayurveda, where virtually all parts were considered useful with a plethora of beneficial attributes. It was employed to support digestion, spleen and eye health, as a cooking additive, and in many other ways.
Its taste was considered bitter and pungent; its energetics, heating; and its effect upon the dosha (Ayurvedic constitutional type) are balancing to Kapha (dosha ruled by earth and water) and Vata (dosha ruled by air and ether).
Seasonality and availability
Moringa is drought tolerant and thrives in semi-arid, tropical, and subtropical climates and is one of the most commonly cultivated food plants in the world.
It is grown in India, Pakistan, Africa, the Philippines, and the Caribbean. Further, it is cultivated in various countries in Central and South America because it is easy to grow and has high market potential, therefore potentially providing an alternative to deforestation.
It is also cultivated extensively in African countries to feed their own malnourished populations.
The whole tree has been used for erosion control and for building materials to provide shelter. The seed is high in oil, and the fibers remaining after oil extraction are one of the best plant-derived flocculants (clarifying agents) for clarifying water.
Further, the roots are believed to taste like horseradish and are thus used as a condiment. Additionally, the flowers are eaten in omelets. The leaves have an extremely high nutrient value and are dried and powdered and put in sauces and baby formula.
A beverage is made from the leaf, either as a standard tea or as a type of reconstituted dried leaf juice. In India, the immature seed pods (known as drumsticks) are eaten like asparagus. Further, a nutrient dense formula made from the leaves is sprayed on plants in South America in order to boost corn yields.
Moringa grows in countries where 5% to 35% of the population is suffering from malnutrition. According to one organization working towards feeding malnourished populations called Trees for Life "Amazingly, moringa grows in subtropical areas, where malnutrition is most prevalent. It was as if people had a goldmine in their backyard and simply didn’t know it."
Many groups are supporting the cultivation of moringa for personal use in developing countries, suggesting that each person grows two or three trees in their backyard thus providing a sustainable solution to malnutrition and reducing reliance upon imported foods.
Another such group, called Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization or ECHO states: "Malnutrition is a leading cause of high infant mortality throughout the tropics. Moringa has helped in bringing nutrition to these hungry children (and)….it is considered one of the most nutritious vegetables in the world. It is an important nutrient source for nursing mothers as well as developing children."
Moringa contains many healthful compounds such as:
- vitamin A
- vitamin B1 (thiamine)
- B2 (riboflavin)
- B3 (niacin), B-6
- folate and ascorbic acid (vitamin C)
It is also extremely low in fats and contains no harmful cholesterol.
Moringa is believed to have many benefits and its uses range from health and beauty to helping prevent and cure diseases. Some of the benefits include:
Protecting and nourishing skin and hair
Moringa seed oil is beneficial for protecting hair against free radicals and keeps it clean and healthy. Moringa also contains protein, which means it is helpful in protecting skin cells from damage. It also contains hydrating and detoxifying elements, which also boost the skin and hair.
It can be successful in curing skin infections and sores.
Makes bones healthier
Moringa also contains calcium and phosphorous, which help keep bones healthy and strong. Along with its anti-inflammatory properties moringa extract might help to treat conditions such as arthritis and may also heal damaged bones.
Protecting the cardiovascular system
The powerful antioxidants found in Moringa extract might help prevent cardiac damage and has also been shown to maintain a healthy heart.
Moringa helps to reduce the amount of glucose in the blood, as well as sugar and protein in the urine. This improved the hemoglobin levels and overall protein content in those tested.
Improving eye health
Moringa contains eyesight-improving properties thanks to its high antioxidant levels. Moringa may stop the dilation of retinal vessels, prevent the thickening of capillary membranes, and inhibit retinal dysfunction.
How to prepare and cook with moringa
Moringa powder is widely available and can be added to healthy cakes, smoothies, pancakes and cookies.
Fresh leaf is more difficult to get, it is only available in certain regions around the world.
My favourite moringa recipes
Try out this healthy moringa smoothie recipe
Perhaps moringa really is a miracle tree..?
Not only has it provided food, shelter, water filtration, and medicine, but it may also be a source for fuel in the future. Moringa is being considered as potential source for biodiesel (plant based fuel that diesel engines can run off of).
This plant grows easily in tropical areas and can easily produce high quantities of biomass for fuel. This can be done without compromising leaf harvest, thus the same moringa plant can be cultivated for both fuel and as a nutritional supplement for the natural marketplace simultaneously.
It is therefore considered a superior feedstock to jatropha (Jatropha sp.) which is commonly grown for biofuel.
Where to buy
Available from good health food stores or various online sources