Have you heard of moringa? Despite centuries of acclaim in ancient eastern medicine, we are only just beginning to learn more about the overwhelming potential of the moringa tree. Moringa Oleifera is a highly powerful adaptogen, and one of the most nutrient-dense plants, giving natural support to numerous health issues, as well as providing help with environmental problems in developing countries.
Some Facts about the Moringa Tree
Table of Contents
In Northern India and Nepal where the moringa tree originated, the health-giving and nutritional properties of this tree have been prized for thousands of years. Moringa oleifera has now spread its areas of growth to Africa, Asia, and Latin America and thanks to clinical trials and studies, modern science has been able to back-up the ancient wisdom. Research and studies have found that the leaves, pods, seeds, stems and roots of this highly valued tree do have many medicinal and nutritional uses and health benefits. There are more reputed benefits which so far remain unstudied, but the following information is based on those properties that have been scientifically verified.
Moringa is known by a variety of nicknames, some of which are:
- Drumstick tree
- Miracle tree
- Tree of life
- Horseradish tree
- Ben oil tree
In the region of 1,300 studies, articles and reports have centred on the benefits and healing powers of the moringa plant. These advantages are vitally important in the parts of the world that are particularly vulnerable to disease outbreaks and nutritional deficiency.
Jed Fahey, a nutritional biochemist at the School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, has published widely on moringa. His field of study is particularly slanted towards the phytonutrient value of moringa to protect against inflammatory disease, including cancer. He also discusses its usefulness in warding off malnutrition in those areas of the world where it grows, and where its natural medicinal support is much needed. Fahey recalls that he first tasted the cooked leaves of moringa when he visited a Ghanaian village in 2006. He was given crushed moringa leaves made into in a soup which tasted of a spicy, astringent, horseradish-like green vegetable.
Almost every part of the plant can be used for nutritional, medicinal, and environmental purposes, but the most popular medicinal use involves the drying and grinding of the leaves to unlock the many benefits. Because it is so loaded with nutrients, and with beta carotin, moringa is given to thousands of children in third-word countries who suffer with vitamin A deficiency. This is a very serious condition linked with impaired immune function, so vitamin A from the beta carotin is a seriously important supplement for them.
The plant also contains a unique blend of disease-preventing phytonutrients including zeatin, quercetin, beta-sitosterol, caffeoylquinic acid and kaempferol. These are all anti-inflammatories with powerful medicinal values. Studies have found that these compounds give protection to the cardiovascular system, and they also have anti-tumor, anti-ulcer, anti-epileptic, antispasmodic, antihypertensive and antidiabetic properties.
The potency of moringa can be released by using the leaves to brew a tea. The dried leaves are steeped in hot water which releases their chemical compounds.
Commercially, the dried, ground leaves are used to make concentrated moringa capsule supplements. Moringa supplements contain an extremely high level of vital nutrients.
The pods of the moringa tree are about 2 ft long and contain seeds that are rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids. When mature, the seeds can be pressed to harvest oil which can be used for cooking or may be applied topically to the skin. Moringa oil helps skin retain moisture, accelerates wound healing, and soothes dry or burnt skin.
The powdered moringa seeds are used for the purification of water. Proteins in the seeds cause bacteria to clump and fall to the bottom of the vessel where they can then be removed. This makes the water much safer and lower in dangerous toxins. Studies have found that 0.2 grams of ground moringa seed can convert one litre of contaminated water into safe drinking water. This makes moringa seed a valuable commodity in countries where clean water is not readily available.
Some very exciting lab and animal research has found the leaves and seeds have powerful anti-inflammatory cardio-protective, anti-asthmatic antibiotic, and anti-diabetic properties owing to phytochemicals which also inhibit tumour spread, giving moringa potential in protection against cancer. Further human trials are being carried out to explore these findings.
How Can Moringa Help Your Health?
Moringa leaf is rich in antioxidants and bioactive plant compounds which make it exceptionally valuable as a source of nutritional support. It is a good source of plant protein, but additionally contains amino acids, including essential amino acids, vitamins B and C, calcium, riboflavin, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.
Moringa also gives anti-inflammatory support so is helpful to sufferers of arthritis, bursitis, and other repetitive strain types of injury. Its power as an anti-inflammatory also has great potential in managing many health conditions.
To give you an idea of the amounts of nutrients in 21 grams (one standard cup measure) of fresh, chopped leaves (21 grams):
- Protein: 2 grams
- Vitamin B6: 19% of the RDA
- Vitamin C: 12% of the RDA
- Iron: 11% of the RDA
- Riboflavin (B2): 11% of the RDA
- Vitamin A (from beta-carotene): 9% of the RDA
- Magnesium: 8% of the RDA
Although moringa leaves and pods are regularly used in traditional cuisine, it is mainly from the leaves that health benefits are derived. The pods are less nutrient dense, but they do contain high levels of vitamin C. Scientific studies have concluded that there are no safety issues with any parts of the moringa plant.
Specific areas of health where moringa has been found to be beneficial:
- Lowering blood pressure
- Helping to reduce blood-sugar levels
- Fighting inflammation
- Preventing and easing pain of arthritis and rheumatism
- Reducing LDL (bad) cholesterol levels
- Helping to balance hormones
- Mood-lifting properties
- Improving health of skin and hair
- Providing antibiotic, antiviral, and antifungal support
Moringa’s Antioxidant Properties
The antioxidants present in moringa oleifera are:
- Vitamin C
- Quercetin – helps lower blood pressure
- Chlorogenic acid – can help lower blood sugar levels after eating
Moringa May Lower Blood Sugar Levels
When blood sugar has been too high for too long the body can no longer find anywhere to store the glucose and type 2 diabetes is the eventual result. Diabetes brings a whole set of associated serious health conditions, including heart disease, neuropathy, and vision disruption.
Laboratory studies have found evidence that moringa oleifera may help lower blood glucose levels. Scientists believe that plant compounds such as isothiocyanates are the reason why moringa may have a beneficial effect on lowering blood glucose.
Moringa contains an acid called chlorogenic acid and this has been found to help control blood sugar levels by allowing cells to take up or release glucose as needed by the body. This gives moringa antidiabetic and hormone balancing properties. A further compound called isothiocyanates that is also present in moringa, is associated with protection against diabetes.
The International Journal of Food Science Technology published a study on how moringa had a positive effect on blood glucose control and insulin levels in patients with diabetes, when eaten as part of a high-carb meal. The findings showed that blood insulin responses were significantly lower when moringa was one of the ingredients included in the meal.
In cases where your body is struggling with infection or injury, inflammation is the natural protective response, but if inflammation is present for too long it can cause health issues. Many serious conditions, including heart disease and cancer are linked to chronic inflammation.
Including plenty of vegetables, fruits and wholefoods in your diet gives anti-inflammatory protection but researchers have found that isothiocyanates (such as those compounds found in moringa leaves, seeds, and pods) have very specific anti-inflammatory properties.
Positive findings have been widely reported on the effectiveness of moringa’s anti-inflammatory action in managing the pain of arthritis.
These encouraging findings are now leading to further clinical trials and studies.
Laboratory trials into moringa for helping to prevent and treat arthritis are very encouraging and further human trials are recommended.
Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, moringa is a popular choice for easing digestive discomfort, preventing, or treating stomach ulcers, liver disease, kidney damage, and fungal or yeast infections. There is reason to believe that moringa may be capable of helping fight kidney stones, urinary tract infections, constipation, fluid retention/oedema and diarrhoea.
Lower Cholesterol Levels
High levels of LDL cholesterol can increase the risk of heart disease. There are various foods known to be helpful in reducing cholesterol levels in the blood and these include oats, almonds, and flaxseeds. Studies, both laboratory and human, have now verified that moringa oleifera also has cholesterol-lowering properties.
A study published in 2014 in the Journal of Food Science and Technology reported on the effects of moringa on levels of oxidative stress in menopausal women. Because levels of antioxidant enzymes are affected during post-menopause, mainly due to a lack of oestrogen, researchers investigated the possibility of moringa helping to balance hormones naturally.
The study comprised ninety postmenopausal women between ages 45-60 who were divided into three groups and given various levels of supplements. Findings showed that supplementing with moringa and amaranth gave significant increases in antioxidant status and decreases in markers of oxidative stress.
During the study, researchers found that moringa has therapeutic potential for helping to alleviate issues relating to ageing and natural hormonal fluctuations.
Erectile Dysfunction and Boosting Libido
For thousands of years Moringa has been used as an aphrodisiac to heighten libido and improve sexual performance.
It is also reputed to be helpful in cases of erectile dysfunction, and laboratory studies have been carried out into whether moringa can be effective as a natural form of the drug Viagra, which is not suited to everyone due to its side effects.
Mood Lifting Properties of Moringa
Because it is a high protein food, and a rich source of the amino acid tryptophan, moringa helps neurotransmitter function by boosting the hormone serotonin which is known as the ‘feel good’ hormone.
Health of the thyroid gland benefits from the high levels of antioxidants in moringa. It is also known to boost energy levels as well as fighting depression, low mood, low libido, and insomnia.
Moringa Gives Health Support to Skin
Moringa’s natural antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral compounds provide help in managing conditions such as acne, athlete’s foot, abscesses, gum disease, bites, burns, viral warts, as well as in the fight against scalp conditions such as dandruff. In addition, moringa oil applied directly onto the skin will kill bacteria. It also acts as a lubricant, hydrating the skin and helping restore its natural moisture barrier.
Because of moringa’s natural bacteria-killing power, it is often used by the perfume industry. It is also used by the processed food industry in the manufacture of certain edible products.
Uses of Moringa
In the West, moringa is most often found in powder form to preserve its shelf life. It takes approximately seven pounds of moringa leaves to make one pound of dried powder and the leaves are the most potent part of the plant. Most of the antioxidants and macronutrients are stored in the leaves. You will find them available as powder or tea or as supplements in capsule form.
The stems and roots of the plant have the least bioactive nutrients. The pods and flowers have a high phenolic content. They are also rich in proteins and fatty acids so can add protein to low-nutrient diets.
The green, unripe pods are often known as ‘drumsticks’ and may be prepared in a similar way to green beans. The seeds inside the pods are usually removed and dried.
Moringa seeds are used for the extraction of oil, sometimes known as ben oil. It can be found in creams or lotions. The oil needs to be stored in a cool, dark place away from high temperatures.
When drinking moringa as a tea, steep the dried leaves as you would any herbal tea. When taking as a supplement, it’s best to take with a meal rather than on an empty stomach. The most nutrient-dense leaves are those which are organic and dried by low temperature methods to preserve the nutrients.
Possible Side Effects and Cautions
If you are careful to buy completely natural, chemical additive free moringa it is very unlikely to cause side effects. All parts of the tree have been taken by mouth or used on the skin for thousands of years. However, today there are various forms of moringa sold and all brands may not be pure so it’s a good idea to find a source that you trust.
Check ingredient labels to ensure that the supplements are not combined with synthetic fillers or toxins. It is also important to follow dosage instruction carefully.
When pregnant or breast-feeding it is best to avoid taking high doses of moringa as it is possible that chemicals naturally occurring within the root, bark and flowers could lead to contractions of the uterus.
Moringa can affect the speed at which the liver breaks down certain medications and it can also interfere with the effectiveness of some prescribed drugs.
Because moringa may lower blood sugar levels, caution is advised if taking it alongside medication for hyperglycaemia. Medication may need to be adjusted to take account of the effect on blood glucose of moringa.
If you have an under-active thyroid and take Levothyroxine, be aware that moringa extract may reduce the amount of Levothyroxine your body absorbs so may decrease its effectiveness.
Blood pressure may be lowered when taking moringa, so care is advised if you are taking antihypertensive medication.
Taking Moringa as a Supplement
Moringa is an amazing supplement. As a complete protein source, it is highly nutritious and its anti-inflammatory properties put it on a par with the much heralded and researched spice, turmeric. If considering buying moringa as a supplement, look for pure extract with no added fillers, or chemicals.
Our Moringa Leaf Extract Capsules contain 500mg of a 10:1 extract, which is the concentrated equivalent of 5,000mg of raw leaf. In other words, they contain just pure moringa leaf extract.
When it comes to keeping you informed on health and nutrition, we’re here for you and aim to help where we can.
If you would like to discuss any aspect of using natural supplements, or would find advice helpful, please feel free to contact us on 01297 553932.