Deep in the foothills of the Himalayas, a tree native to India has made its way West over the past century. Moringa oleifera, also known as the horseradish tree (because the roots have a similar taste) can be found from the Philippines to Africa and as I most recently discovered, Florida.
While I was growing up, my step mom always pushed my brothers and I towards a more natural and organic diet, so it was no surprise to see that she planted a moringa tree in her backyard upon my last visit. The dried leaves were perfect for making tea which has become a daily ritual for my diet, but nearly every part of this plant is edible from the roots to the fruits and the health benefits moringa provides are truly incredible.
What is Moringa Oleifera?
Moringa is a drought-tolerant, fast-growing tree that hosts a multitude of benefits. Those benefits include water purification, human consumption, medicine, fuel wood, dye, livestock forage and green manure. That’s right, it’s even known for its environmental conservation in mitigating climate change (1). In India and many countries around the world, moringa grows like weeds and is heavily relied on for treating a multitude of medical concerns without having to resort to expensive health care. So this miracle tree holds significant economic importance, as it has vital nutritional, industrial, and medicinal applications (2). The most commonly used part of the plant are its leaves but the seeds, roots, flower and pods all have utilization for advantages.
Leaves - This part is usually the most consumed and can even be done so as is (i.e. - raw). The leaves have been known to treat asthma, flu, heart burn, malaria, syphilis, diarrhea, pneumonia, scurvy, headaches and bronchitis. They also assist in reducing blood pressure, cholesterol and neurodegeneration in addition to balancing out blood sugar levels. Acting as an anticancer, antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-atherosclerotic is another benefit from consumption. If you find moringa in your shampoo ingredients, good news, it's great for keeping hair healthy and strong, furthermore it assists keeping the skin, eyes and ears healthy too (3).
Seeds - More commonly made into powders, the seeds help those suffering from Crohn's disease and other digestive ailments, hyperthyroidism, arthritis, cramps, epilepsy, gout, and can also act as an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory agent (3).
Roots - Like many other parts of the plant, roots help with reducing inflammation and ulcers. The powerful antioxidants found during extraction lend a hand in preventing cardiac damage and has also been shown to maintain a healthy heart for those with low blood pressure (3).
Fruit (Pods) - Another highly consumed part of the tree, the moringa pods treat liver, diarrhea and spleen problems just like the seeds. They also - yup - you guessed it! Help with anti-inflammation, especially with joint pain (3). So to anybody with arthritis, I highly recommend looking deeper into this tree.
So how does this simple, subtropical tree have so many benefits? It's because of all the vitamins and minerals found in every part. In fact, moringa is said to provide 7 times more vitamin C than oranges, 10 times more vitamin A than carrots, 17 times more calcium than milk, 9 times more protein than yogurt, 15 times more potassium than bananas and 25 times more iron than spinach (4). The difference in results can be attributed to the fact that the location, climate and the environmental factors significantly influence nutrient content of the tree. Many researchers discovered that vitamin A was found abundantly in the hot-wet season, while vitamin C and iron were more in the cool-dry season (5-6). A complete list of nutrients available in leaves, pods and seeds are shown below (6).
With increasing cautions around climate change, many environmental enthusiasts are looking in every direction to mitigate the damage caused by humans to our precious earth. As mentioned earlier, the health and nutritional benefits of moringa are truly remarkable not just for humans, but for livestock too. According to a study done by Dr. Paul Makkar, an international expert on nutrition research, he discovered that farmers who included moringa in their cattle's diet showed less methane emissions which has been a growing concern to many (7). The firm roots of the moringa are drought-resistant and counteract erosion, in other words, this is a strong standing tree that can survive some pretty tough natural elements. The juice extracted from its fresh leaves can act as a powerful fertilizer used in agriculture to help increase growth and quantity. Finally, the tree’s seeds have a strong antibacterial action that can be used to purify water which is vital to developing countries and even here in the United States where much of healthcare and medicine are exploited (8).
Moringa is the one stop shop for anybody looking to live a healthier lifestyle whether that means getting a boost of energy or balancing their diet. As more research continues, doctors and other health professionals are learning all the benefits that this miracle tree provides. With its availability in so many locations and ability to grow so rapidly, it is important to remember how many people this plant can help regardless of their economic situation. From balancing blood sugar to easing ailments, moringa may be the very medicine you’re looking for!
Fuglie LJ (2003) The Moringa trees a local solution to malnutrition. Dakar, Senegal.
Ashfaq M, Basra SMA, Ashfaq U (2012) Moringa: A miracle plant of agroforestry. J Agriculture and Social Science 8: 115-122.
Mbikay M (2012) Therapeutic potential of Moringa oleifera leaves in chronic hyperglycemia and dyslipidemia: a review, Front. Pharmacol 3:1–12.
J.L. Rockwood, B.G. Anderson, D.A. Casamatta. Potential uses of Moringa oleifera and an examination of antibiotic efficacy conferred by M. oleifera seed and leaf extracts using crude extraction techniques available to underserved indigenous populations. Int. J. Phytothearpy Res., 3 (2013), pp. 61-71
Makkar HPS, Becker K (1997) Nutrients and ant quality factors in different morphological parts of Moringa oleifera tree. J Agri Sci 128: 311–322. 53. Fuglie LJ (2005) The Moringa tree: A local solution to malnutrition Church World.
L.J. Fuglie. The Moringa Tree: A local solution to malnutrition Church World Service in Senegal. (2005)
Potential blockchain applications in animal production and health sector Makkar, H.P.S., Costa, C. CAB Reviews: Perspectives in Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Nutrition and Natural Resources, 2020, 15(35), 202015035
Daba M (2016) Miracle Tree: A Review on Multi-purposes of Moringa oleifera and Its Implication for Climate Change Mitigation. J Earth Sci Clim Change 7: 366.