Moringa oleifera is a small to medium-sized tropical tree native to the Indian subcontinent. The tree is easily recognizable from its light colored knotty trunk and highly branched compound leaves. The fruit of the Moringa tree are thin, 1 ½ -2 ft. long pods. Moringa is commonly known as drumstick tree because of these pods that hang from it during the major part of the year.
Although the sparse crown of the drumstick tree offers little shade from the hot sun of the tropics, it is a common fixture in almost every yard and by the wayside. The Moringa tree is known to have innumerable health benefits, but the natives value it as a great food source. The leaves, flowers and the green pods of Moringa are all edible; and are widely used in Indian cuisine.
Moringa tree is drought tolerant and easily adapts to tropical and subtropical climate, enjoying wide distribution in Asia, Africa and parts of North America. It has been promoted as the Miracle Tree of Africa, thanks to its contribution to fighting malnutrition, checking water pollution and offering seemingly magical cures for a plethora of disease conditions.
1. Moringa offers excellent nutritional support
Having a Moringa tree in the garden is sufficient to meet the nutritional requirements of the entire household. The leaves have the highest score in this regard. Moringa leaves are an excellent calcium source and a storehouse of many other minerals and vitamins. 100 grams of dry Moringa leaves contain 17 times more of calcium than milk and 25 times more iron than spinach. Their beta-carotene content is 10 times more than carrots. They are rich in minerals like potassium, iron and zinc and in Vitamin C and B-complex vitamins.
Moringa leaves are surprisingly rich in protein too, containing 4 times of what eggs provide. There are 2 grams of protein in every cup of fresh Moringa leaves. Although most vegetable sources of protein are considered inferior to animal sources, Moringa has the advantage of containing all the essential amino acids, making it a complete protein.
2. Moringa extract lowers serum cholesterol
Mainstream medicine is starting to recognize some of the health benefits of Moringa, one among them being its capacity to reduce cholesterol. Many traditional medicine systems of Asia have been using the extract of Moringa leaves and root as heart tonics. These herbal preparations have been shown to reduce serum cholesterol and the formation of atherosclerotic plaques.
Laboratory studies in rabbits have shown 50% reduction of serum cholesterol and 86% reduction of atherosclerotic plaque formation in 12 weeks of administering Moringa extract.
3. Moringa leaves help to control blood sugar
Eating a tablespoon of lightly toasted Moringa leaves early in the morning is a traditional herbal remedy for hyperglycemia. Recent laboratory studies using leaf powder on diabetic animals show that this is indeed helpful in regulating blood sugar. The beneficial effect is partially attributed to the fiber content, but the quercetin-3-glucoside in Moringa as well the isothiocyanates and chlorogenic acid could be playing an important role.
Small-scale studies on diabetic people have shown promise with just 7 grams of Moringa leaves in powder form taken for a period of 3 months. 50 grams of fresh leaves as part of normal diet has been found to significantly reduce blood sugar spikes after the meal.
Read More: 10 Secrets To Balance Blood Sugar
4. Moringa may help fight various types of cancers
The anti-cancer arsenal of moringa is impressive. Besides antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E, it contains kaempferol, quercetin, and rhamnetin. Since cancerous growths are triggered by free radical damage at the cellular level, it is not surprising that Moringa should have an anti-cancer effect. Lab tests have proven that it has a beneficial action against liver, lung, ovarian and skin cancers. While more studies are being done to assess the clinical significance of these findings, it doesn’t hurt to include more Moringa in our diet or use just 7 grams of leaf powder (1 ½ teaspoons) (available to buy from this page on Amazon) as a nutritional supplement.
5. Moringa reduces inflammation in the body
The inflammatory response to injuries is an integral part of the natural healing mechanism of the body, but chronic inflammation, probably resulting from the damage inflicted by free radicals, can have an adverse effect on our metabolic system. Heart disease and metabolic disorders like insulin resistance and diabetes are thought to be the result of chronic inflammation.
Not only the leaves of Moringa, but its fruits and flowers used as a vegetable as well as the extract of its seeds, have anti-inflammatory action. Including them in your diet or in the form supplements may help ward off these disease conditions.
6. Moringa leaves and drumsticks provide energy boost
Our body is in constant need of energy just to function normally. The energy requirements of our body for the growth and repair of tissues are met by the food we eat, but as we age, our body faces more cellular damage and becomes less efficient in the regenerative process. This makes us tired and listless. We often depend on energy boosters like caffeine, but they only provide temporary spurts. Besides, we tend to need ever increasing doses to get the same effect.
Moringa has a heavy load of antioxidants to reduce cell damage. It also contains high amounts of vitamin, minerals, and most importantly, all the essential amino acids required for the repair and regeneration of tissues. This highly nutritious, wholesome food can provide lasting energy boost.
7. Moringa improves immune function
Including Moringa leaves and fruit in the diet helps increase immunity and offers protection against seasonal ailments. In India, Moringa leaves are usually added to lentil soups during the cold and flu season to increase disease resistance. This practice is a lifesaver in poor communities where people live in crowded, unsanitary conditions with little or no access to medical facilities. Moringa leaves are part of the herbal supplement given to HIV+ve patients as an adjuvant to anti-retroviral therapy.
8. Moringa leaves promote weight loss
People taking Moringa leaf extract and leaf powder often report weight loss. This beneficial effect could be due to many factors. The anti-inflammatory and diuretic effect helps reduce water retention. The high fiber content reduces fat absorption in the gut. The reduction in insulin resistance may prevent excess fat accumulation.
9. Moringa is useful for treating gastrointestinal problems
Adding a handful of Moringa leaves to soups and vegetable dishes is the best way to keep things moving. Moringa leaves have a mild laxative effect. The high fiber content facilitates easy movement of stomach contents along the digestive tract and relieves constipation. Moringa can take care of minor digestive problems caused by gastrointestinal worms and microbes. The root extract is an herbal remedy for helminth worms.
10. Moringa leaves increase breast milk in lactating mothers
Of all the health benefits of Moringa, this is one of the most appreciated in Indian communities, especially in economically weaker sections, because breast milk is the mainstay of infants in the first year of life. Moringa leaves toasted in a spoonful of butter would be given every day to lactating mothers as part of traditional postpartum care. If any ailments or general fatigue causes a decrease in breast milk production in the following months, Moringa leaves are added to the diet again. This ensures not only plenty of milk supply but good weight gain and robust health for the infant.
The high calcium content of Moringa leaves could be an obvious reason for the increased breast milk production, but there could be more to it than that. For instance, the effect of calcium supplements comes nowhere near the copious milk production resulting from the use of Moringa leaves.
11. Moringa root can improve kidney function
The Moringa tree is also known as horseradish tree because a spicy condiment similar to horseradish sauce can be prepared from its root. However, the active compounds found in the leaves occur in the root at much higher concentrations; hence, it is mainly used for medicinal purposes. The diuretic and detoxifying properties of Moringa root extract help improve kidney function and resolve urinary tract infections.
Moringa root extract is used to treat kidney stones since it helps flush out excess calcium from the kidneys. While helping to expel the stones, it can reduce the associated pain and inflammation too.
12. Moringa regulates thyroid function
Moringa seems to be having a regulatory action on the thyroid gland. For example, people with Grave’s disease or overactive thyroid find significant improvement in their symptoms on regular use of Moringa supplements. Inflammatory conditions of the thyroid such as Hashimoto’s disease could be resolved without medication if Moringa is consumed regularly.
13. Provides relief from rheumatoid arthritis
Moringa has immune-modulating properties that are particularly useful in treating autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, and psoriasis. Many herbal preparations for arthritis include Moringa leaves. The anti-inflammatory effect reduces the pain and swelling of the joints.
14. Gives relief from insomnia
Including Moringa leaves and drumsticks in the diet is known to improve sleep. Taking Moringa extract or leaf powder may be just as effective. The amino acid tryptophan found in appreciable amounts in Moringa could be a contributing factor. It is essential for the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin and the sleep cycle regulating hormone melatonin. Vitamin B6 is another necessary player in serotonin production, and Moringa is rich in that too.
15. Moringa stimulates hair growth
The abundance of Zinc, and Vitamins A, and E, as well as the amino acids required for the production of keratin, makes Moringa an excellent hair tonic.
Moringa seeds have very high fat content. The oil extracted from the seeds is known as Ben oil, and it forms 40% of the seed. This edible oil is odorless with a light texture and sweet taste. A unique feature of this oil is its stability and resistance to oxidation. The main component of Ben oil is a saturated fat called behenic acid, which does not become rancid on keeping, unlike most vegetable oils. This expensive oil is used in many high-quality skin and hair care products.
Moringa seed oil improves blood circulation in the scalp and stimulates hair growth. However, on account of it being very expensive, traditional herbal remedies employ seed powder instead. Taking Moringa supplements is very effective too, as they supply the minerals and B complex vitamins that are important for hair growth.
16. Reduces dandruff and other scalp problems
The light texture of Ben oil helps with absorption and is highly moisturizing. It promotes blood circulation and regulates the oil glands in the hair follicles, improving overall scalp health. Application of the oil as well as the seed extract is found to be effective in controlling dandruff and hair loss.
17. Controls skin wrinkles and fine lines
The Ben oil pressed from the seeds of the Moringa tree has a long history of being used as a skin detoxifier and wrinkle remover. The Egyptians used it in cosmetic preparations as an anti-aging emollient as early as 1400 BC. Rich in vitamins A, C and E, and a number of B complex vitamins as well, it is no surprise that the oil has excellent antioxidant property.
Antioxidants reduce the cell damage and aging caused by free radicals and help maintain the smoothness and youthful appearance of the skin. Apply a few drops on the face and hands and gently massage it in. The light consistency of the Moringa seed oil makes it a natural cleanser and moisturizer without making the skin oily.
18. Reduces acne and blackheads
Ben oil helps in reducing common skin complaints such as acne and blackheads that arise from imbalances in oil secretion by skin glands. They are often worsened by bacterial and fungal infections. Massage the oil on the face and allow it to be absorbed by the skin pores. The light nature of the oil unclogs the pores and lifts up the dirt and debris.
Besides the cleansing action of the oil, its antiseptic property reduces bacterial overload in the hair follicles, while the anti-inflammatory effect prevents inflammatory acne that usually require antibiotic treatments. Long-term use of topical antibiotics is known to cause acne flare-ups resulting from increased bacterial resistance, but no such adverse effect has been observed with regular use of Ben oil.
19. Moringa helps control eczema and psoriasis
Moringa oil and extracts have an ameliorating effect on skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. The oil is non-irritating and moisturizing. The anti-inflammatory substances in Moringa help control inflammation while the antiseptic effect protects the skin from secondary infections that exacerbate these conditions.
Ready to try Moringa?
The best way to get more Moringa into your diet is by buying a bag of Moringa leaf powder – such as this Kiva Organics Moringa Leaf Powder which is 100% raw and organic. The leaves are hand harvested from a single source farm and the leaves undergo minimal processing to maintain their flavor and nutrients.
Simply add a spoonful to a smoothie, shake or dip, mix a spoonful into a glass of water, juice or tea, or simply sprinkle over a salad.
Caution: Moringa leaves, flowers, and drumsticks can be freely used in cooking, but herbal preparations should be used judiciously as they are highly concentrated and very potent. Mild gastrointestinal problems are natural when new items like Moringa leaf powder are introduced into the diet, but they should resolve within a few days. If adverse reactions persist or allergies develop, it should be discontinued.
Cooking Moringa leaves in butter or another type of healthy fat and then slightly mashing them increases the bioavailability of nutrients.