The health benefits of moringa include relief from stomach disorders, allergies and edema. The antioxidant power of moringa aids in liver protection, diabetes, eye protection, cardiovascular health, bone health, uroliathiasis, wound healing, healthy hair and skin. It is rich in antibacterial and antifungal properties that help to fight various infections, including herpes.
It is rich in phytonutrients, which are effective for preventing various medical conditions such as cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, bronchial asthma, sickle cell disease, nephrotoxicity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, anemia, and obesity, as well as helping to build a strong immune system.
Moringa – The “Miracle Tree”
Moringa oleifera, also known as drumstick tree, is a highly valued and versatile plant which belongs to the Moringaceae family. It is a fast growing, deciduous tree that is native to India and is widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical areas all over Asia, Africa and South America. It is widely known with many other names, including Horseradish tree and Ben oil tree.
Although modern science has only recently discovered its value, moringa has been imparting a multitude of benefits across various cultures since ancient times. It was valued by the Romans, Egyptians and Greeks for its medicinal impact on a range of ailments. Today, its usage has been encouraged by various humanitarian organizations to combat malnutrition and its effects in poverty-stricken regions, mainly due to its economic viability and rapid growth.
The moringa tree has thick, whitish bark with droopy, fragile branches and long, green, oval-shaped leaflets. In Ayurvedic therapy, it is valued for its impressive range of therapeutic uses, commonly attributed to its antifungal, antiviral, antidepressant and anti-inflammatory properties. In some areas, it is simply known as ‘shigru’.
Nutritional Value of Moringa
Moringa leaves and pods are a nutritional powerhouse and provide a great range and amount of essential proteins, vitamins and minerals. It is a rich source of essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. It also contains a significant amount of vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B-6, folate and ascorbic acid (vitamin C). The mineral wealth of moringa includes calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous and zinc. It contains very low amount of fats and offers no harmful cholesterol.
Health Benefits of Moringa
Moringa contains an immense wealth of healthy components and phytonutrients. Due to its extraordinary and unmatched range of medicinal benefits, it was named the “miracle tree” during the food crisis in Africa. In the Philippines, it is revered as mother’s best friend because of its galactogogic properties. The benefits of moringa for medical conditions include the following:
Antioxidants: Moringa plant offers a rich blend of powerful antioxidants such as kaempferol, caffeoylquinic acid, zeatin, quercetin, rutin, chlorogenic acid, and beta-sitosterol. These powerful antioxidants found in moringa possess high free radical scavenging capacity and have shown its therapeutic value in curing the damage caused by oxidative stress.
Edema: Moringa extracts are beneficial in the treatment of edema. Research studies have confirmed that treatment with moringa oleifera root extract, which possesess anti-inflammatory qualities, has been significantly effective in inhibiting the development of edema. Moreover, the studies suggest that the efficacy of moringa herb stands equal with the potent anti-inflammatory medicine indomethacin in the treatment of such painful conditions.
Liver Protection: Moringa extracts exert a hepatoprotective effect on the liver. Research studies have validated the effectiveness of moringa leaves against the liver damage caused by anti-tubercular drugs as well as its stimulating effects in speeding up the recovery process. It helps to restore the levels of glutathione content in the body and prevents radiation-induced hepatic lipid peroxidation. This protective effect is attributed to the presence of phytochemicals such as catechin, epicatechin, ferulic acid and vitamin C found in moringa.
Stomach Disorders: The isothiocyanates present in moringa are effective in the treatment of abdominal disorders such as constipation, gastritis and ulcerative colitis. Studies have shown that moringa extracts can be considered as an effective herbal alternative to a range of commercially available antacids and antihistamines. Research studies have shown that treatment with moringa oleifera leads to reduced ulceration and its efficacy in curing ulcerative colitis is comparable with the commercially available drug prednisolone.
It contains antibiotic and antibacterial properties, and it exerts inhibitory effects on the growth of various pathogens. This includes helicobacter pylori bacteria and coliform bacteria, which can trigger conditions like diarrhea.
Healthy Skin: Moringa seed oil is beneficial for the skin. The hydrating and detoxifying effects of moringa extracts help in neutralizing the effects of harmful pollutants, prevents wrinkles, and slows premature aging. The high protein content of moringa aids in protecting the dermal cells from damage caused by heavy metals such as mercury and cadmium. For the same reason, it is used in the production of cosmetics and skin care products.
Diabetes: Moringa extracts exert anti-diabetic effects in the treatment of diabetes mellitus. Research studies have demonstrated that treatment with moringa works positively towards the reduction of blood glucose, urine sugar and urine proteins in diabetic test subjects. According to the studies, it has also shown marked improvement in hemoglobin levels and total protein content of the diabetic subjects.
Antibacterial Properties: It possesses antibacterial and antimicrobial properties and is effective against the growth of disease-causing microbes. Scientific research has proven that moringa extracts exert a wide spectrum of protective activity against food-borne microorganisms such as Salmonella, Rhizopus species, E. Coli, Enterobacter aerogenus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus. This defensive activity makes moringa extracts perfect for sanitation and preservation purposes.
Cancer: Moringa is an anticancer agent and is highly valued in tumor therapy. Scientific research has demonstrated that moringa extracts possess chemopreventive properties attributed to the presence of the phenolic components quercetin and kaempferol. Another study has demonstrated the role of the bioactive compound niazimicin in restraining the development of cancer cells. Moringa extracts impart chemomodulatory effects towards curing various types of cancers such as ovarian cancer, hepatic carcinogenesis and skin papillomagenesis by inhibiting the proliferation of malignant cancer cells and inducing apoptosis, also known as programmed cell death.
Neurodegenerative Diseases: The effectiveness of moringa has been very valuable in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. Research studies have shown that treatment with moringa extracts have the potential to alter brain monoamines like norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine, and it even extends its protection against monoaminergic deficiencies related to Alzheimer’s disease.
Bone Health: Moringa extracts are beneficial for maintaining healthy bones, which is attributed to the presence of essential minerals like calcium and phosphorous. Its extracts possess anti-inflammatory properties and are effective in the treatment of painful conditions such as arthritis, while also helping to heal various bone ailments such as mandibular or jaw bone fracture.
Immunosuppressive Effects: The seeds of moringa oleifera possess immunosuppressive properties. Deliberate immunosuppression is required to inhibit the activation of body’s immune system in order to prevent the rejection of certain treatments, particularly organ transplants and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. Research studies have demonstrated that the immunosuppressive action of moringa seeds helps in ameliorating the production of antibodies to allow for the new organs and transplanted material to settle safely in the body.
Herpes: It is effective against the infection caused by herpes simplex virus. The healing effects of moringa herb prevent the development of skin lesions and inhibit the formation of plaque caused by the infecting virus.
Cardiovascular Protection: Moringa extracts are helpful in the prevention of myocardial or cardiac damage, due to the presence of powerful antioxidants. Research studies conducted on this subject have provided supporting evidence that proves the antiperoxidative and cardio-protective effects of moringa therapy. Treatment with it helps in inhibiting the increase in lipid perioxidation in the myocardial tissue and aids in maintaining a healthy heart.
Anti-allergenic Behavior: Extracts of moringa seeds possess anti-allergenic qualities. Scientific research has validated the inhibitory action of moringa on the hypersensitive reactions involved in various allergic diseases, including allergic rhinitis and anaphylaxis.
Asthma: The benefits of moringa plant extracts also include relief from bronchial asthma and inflammation caused in the airways. According to research, treatment with moringa helps to reduce the severity of asthmatic attacks and various symptoms such as wheezing, cough, dyspnea and tightness of the chest. It extends its protective effects against bronchial constrictions and encourages better lung function and respiration.
Anti-fungal Properties: Leaves of moringa oleifera possess anti-fungal qualities. The inhibitory effects of moringa help in preventing the growth of diseases causing contaminant fungi such as Aspergillus spp. and Penicillium spp.
Hair Care: The favorable effects of moringa seed oil for healthy hair have been appreciated since ancient times. It is highly effectual in cleansing and purifying the hair and protects it from environmental damage, including ultra violet radiation. It serves as a valuable conditioner for the scalp, strengthens the roots, and stimulates hair growth.
Wound Healing: Aqueous leaves extract of moringa oleifera possess significant wound healing properties. Research studies have provided supporting evidence regarding the healing effects of moringa in the treatment of wounds with respect to skin-breaking strength, wound closure rate and reduction in the scar area.
Hypertension: Moringa is effective in maintaining optimal levels of blood pressure in the body. Bioactive components such as isothiocyanate and niaziminin that are present in it prevent the thickening of arteries and reduce the development of pulmonary hypertension.
Sickle Cell Disease: Moringa oleifera is effective in the treatment of sickle cell disease. Recent studies have validated the anti-sickling potential of moringa plant extracts, which is attributed to the presence of zinc and flavonols such as kaempferol, quercitin, and acacetin as well as phenolic acids such as melilotic acid and vanillic acid.
Eye Health: Antioxidant-rich moringa oleifera is beneficial for providing protection against retinal damage. Scientific studies have provided supporting evidence regarding the retinoprotective effects of moringa in test subjects. Treatment with it helps in preventing the dilatation of retinal vessels and keeps the retinal vasculature intact. It also inhibits the thickening of capillary membranes and prevents any retinal dysfunction.
Immune Stimulator: The ethanolic extracts of moringa leaf helps in stimulating the immune system of the body. It also helps in enhancing the cellular immune response and exerts positive effects on various other immune system values such as total leucocyte count, antibodies and hypersensitivity reaction.
Nephrotoxicity: Moringa extracts exert a protective effect against nephrotoxicity, which refers to the kidney problems caused as a consequence of exposure to certain drugs or toxins. Studies have revealed that the nephroprotective effect of moringa helps in attenuating renal injuries due to its high antioxidant content. It serves as an effective bio-absorbent and helps in the removal of heavy metals and harmful toxins.
Cholesterol: Moringa extracts serve as an effective remedy for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels in the body. Studies have confirmed the hypocholesterolemic effects of moringa, which helps in reducing high-fat diet-induced rise the liver, kidney and serum cholesterol levels.
Anemia: Moringa extracts are beneficial in the treatment of anemia. Studies have provided supporting evidence regarding the fact that treatment with moringa oleifera aids in facilitating the absorption of iron, increasing the red blood cell count and helping to maintaining normal blood parameters.
Abortifacient: Moringa oleifera possesses anti-fertility qualities. Aqueous extracts of moringa exert estrogenic activity and are beneficial in the prevention of sexual implantation in the body.
Obesity: Moringa helps in combating obesity thanks to its highly nutritional and low-fat qualities. The impressive content of vitamin B in its leaves aids in digestion and converts the food into energy rather than storing it as fat.
Culinary Use: Moringa is a “miracle tree” and most of its parts, including the leaves, bark, fruits and roots are used as food items. Leaves of its tree can be added to salads and are also used in the preparation of sauces and soups. Cold pressed moringa oil is used for cooking and is appreciated for its long shelf life. The immature seed pods of the moringa tree, popularly known as drumsticks in India, are used in various dishes.
Moringa leaves are a great alternative to meat, because of the high protein content, especially for vegetarians. It contains the amino acids aregenine and histidine which are essential for infants and it is also a boon to combat malnutrition in the under-privileged regions of the world.
Other Uses of Moringa
Water Purification: Moringa olefeira extracts possess anti-cyanobacterial qualities and have been praised for their use in primitive water filtration systems. Its seeds work as a coagulant and exert flocculating effects on the clay and microorganisms present in water, thereby aiding in the removal of harmful pollutants and algae. It is a natural way of purifying and treating water, in contrast to other industrial coagulants such as alumina.
Seed Oil: Moringa seed oil has a low tendency to become rancid and is effectively used as a lubricant for fine apparatus such as watches.
Feed for Farm Animals: Leaves of moringa trees possess excellent nutritional characteristics and are beneficial for cattle feed, both economically and nutritionally. It promotes better milk production and helps to improve the quality of the meat.
Plant Growth Stimulator: Extracts from moringa leaves contain growth-enhancing properties and promote a better yield of the crop. Use of moringa growth hormone helps in improving the resistance of plants towards pests and diseases.
Its extracts have been extensively used in the manufacturing of creams, ointments, oils and moisturizers. Moringa seed cake remaining after the extraction of the oil is commonly used as a fertilizer.
Moringa oleifera: A Few Words of Caution
The roots and bark of moringa have an abortive effect and are not recommended for ingestion during pregnancy.
It is a highly nutritious plant and is generally safe for consumption. However, its usage for therapeutic relief should only be considered after consultation with a medical professional.
Moringa oleifera also helps in improving sensory perception and memory. It possesses anti-epileptic properties and helps in combating depression, anxiety and fatigue. Anti-inflammatory properties and the high vitamin content of moringa are valuable for treating scurvy and catarrhal conditions. It is useful for the regulation of thyroid hormones and is effective in curing skin infections and sores.