The moringa tree is one of the most nutrient-rich plants in the world. Native to the sub-Himalayan regions of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, this tree has been used for centuries thanks to its medicinal properties.
This tree is highly beneficial is its bark, leaves, flowers, fruit, seeds and even roots are used to make medicine. It has antiviral, antifungal, anti-inflammatory and even anti-depressant properties.
What is moringa?
The moringa tree is known by different names like the drumstick tree, the miracle tree, the ben oil tree and the horseradish tree.
Moringa oleifera, as it is scientifically known, is used in traditional medicines for a variety of ailments. Its leaves and pods are commonly eaten in India and Africa.
It is also used topically for treating infections, dandruff, gum disease, snakebites, warts, and wounds. The moringa seed oil is also used in food, perfume, hair care products and as a machine lubricant.
Even the seed cake, which remains after the oil is extracted, is used as a fertilizer. It is also used to purify well water and to remove salt from seawater.
Nutritional facts of Moringa
Moringa is a rich source of many vitamins and minerals. Since we can grow it cheaply and it has many rich nutritional qualities, moringa is used in India and Africa in feeding programmes to fight malnutrition.
Moringa leaf provides antioxidants, proteins, vitamins, amino acids, flavonoids, fibers, minerals, chlorophyll, and phenols. It has more than 90 essential nutrition compounds.
One cup of fresh chopped leaves of moringa plant contains (1):
- Proteins: 2 grams
- Vitamin B6: 19 % of RDA
- Vitamin C: 12 % of RDA
- Iron: 11% of RDA
- Riboflavin: 11% of RDA
- Vitamin A: 9% of RDA
- Magnesium: 8% of RDA
It is also low in fats and contains no cholesterol.
Health benefits of moringa
Moringa is known as the miracle plant as it provides many health benefits for our body. Here are some health benefits of moringa that are backed by scientific research.
1. Rich in antioxidants
Moringa contains several antioxidant plant compounds that act against free radicals in our body. These help in reducing the risk of chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, hypertension and age-related macular degeneration.
According to a recent report published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, Moringa oleifera contains essential amino acids, carotenoids in leaves and components with nutraceutical properties, which make this plant an excellent choice for a nutritional supplement (2).
Moringa contains antioxidants like vitamin C, beta-carotene, quercetin and chlorogenic acid (3). Quercetin plays a vital role in reducing blood pressure (4). Chlorogenic acid is effective in lowering blood sugar levels after meals (5).
In one study, when postmenopausal women were given 1.5 teaspoons of moringa leaf powder every day for three months, they noticed an increase in their antioxidant levels (6).
Moringa supports healthy blood sugar and helps fight diabetes. It contains chlorogenic acid, which helps control sugar levels (5). Moringa also contains plant compounds known as isothiocyanates which provide natural protection against diabetes (7).
A 2009 study checked the effects of moringa, curry leaves and bitter gourd in lowering the levels of blood glucose when eaten as a part of a high-carbohydrate meal.
The results showed that the plasma insulin levels were much lower when these three foods were included in the diets as compared to when they weren’t (8).
During one study at the University of Egypt, when researchers gave rats low doses of moringa seed powder, it helped increase their enzyme production and antioxidant levels.
When researchers gave moringa to diabetic rats, they noticed an improvement in their liver and pancreatic health. Moringa also helped reduce the complication of diabetes in these rats (9).
3. Helps balance hormones
Moringa leaves are a rich source of plant protein, and they also contain vital hormone-balancing nutrients.
During menopause, the levels of antioxidant enzymes get affected due to the due to the deficiency in hormones like estrogen. In 2014, a study was done to check the effects of moringa on the levels of oxidative stress in postmenopausal women.
The results showed that supplementing with moringa and amaranth improved the antioxidant status and decreased the markers of oxidative stress in these women.
These results helped the researchers to conclude that moringa and amaranth can help prevent complications that result from hormonal changes (6).
Moringa powder also helps to balance insulin levels, increases hemoglobin and controls stress hormones. It promotes thyroid health which helps prevent fatigue and keeps the energy levels high.
Since moringa helps maintain the levels of estrogen in the body, it also helps address infertility.
4. Improves digestion
Moringa contains isothiocyanates that help treat digestive issues like gastritis, constipation, and ulcers. The antibacterial and antibiotic properties of moringa help control the growth of pathogens like coliform bacteria and Helicobacter pylori, which can cause diarrhea.
Moringa is used in traditional medicines like Ayurveda for treating digestive issues and ulcers. Its anti-inflammatory and anti-ulcerative properties are helpful in treating inflammatory bowel disease and preventing its reoccurrence (10).
Moringa is a rich source of vitamin B, which aids proper digestion and promotes weight management.
Moringa oil also boosts liver function and helps to detoxify the body of harmful substances like heavy metal toxins. It also protects the liver from the damage caused by anti-tubercular drugs and helps speed up the repair process.
Moringa contains phytochemicals like catechins, epicatechins and vitamin C, which help restore normal glutathione levels in the body and prevent hepatic lipid peroxidation.
According to one study, moringa seed extract is effective against liver injury and fibrosis thanks to its antioxidant properties and its ability to attenuate the hepatic stellate cells activation (11).
A 2012 study also found moringa seed oil to be effective against chemically-induced hepatitis in rats (12).
6. Protects brain health
Moringa protects brain health and cognitive function thanks to its antioxidant and neuro-enhancer activities. It is a rich source of vitamin C and E, which help fight oxidation that leads to neuron degeneration.
Moringa also contains tryptophan, which benefits neurotransmitter function. Moringa helps to normalize serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline in the brain, which helps in memory, mood, and organ function. It also helps deal with depression and psychosis.
During a study published in the Annals of Neurosciences, researchers exposed a few rats to colchicine, which is a substance that mimics the action of Alzheimer’s in the brain.
When they supplemented the diets of these rats with moringa leaves, the rats retained much of their cognitive abilities as compared to the control group. They attributed the results to the antioxidant properties of moringa leaves.
During a 2018 study, when researchers treated 24 rats with nicotine-induced cerebellar degeneration with moringa for four weeks, they found that moringa was able to prevent the damage to cerebellar cortical cells and neurobehavioral deficit (13).
7. Improves heart health
Moringa leaf powder can also help improve heart health. It helps reduce cholesterol, prevents plaque formation in the arteries and also helps in blood lipid control.
According to a 2012 study, moringa leaf powder has the therapeutical potential for chronic hyperglycemia and hyperlipidemia (14).
During one study, when rabbits were fed moringa leaves for 120 days, it helped lower serum cholesterol, phospholipid, triglyceride, VLDL, LDL and increased HDL levels (15).
In another study, researchers gave rats the extracts of moringa leaves along with a high-fat diet. The researchers found that supplementing with moringa leaves decreased the serum, liver, and kidney cholesterol levels (16).
8. Protects against arsenic toxicity
Rice can also contain high levels of arsenic because of the toxic water in which it grows. Many studies have shown that long-term exposure to arsenic can increase the risk of heart disease and cancer (17, 18).
Moringa leaf powder can protect against arsenic toxicity, according to studies. According to a 2011 study, moringa seed extract provides hepato-protective and antioxidative properties that protect against oxidative stress induced by arsenic (19).
During one study, when albino mice were treated with moringa leaves (50 mg/kg body weight), it helped reduce the arsenic-induced elevation of triglyceride, glucose, urea and the activities of alkaline phosphate, aspartate, aminotransferase and alanine aminotransferase in serum (20).
9. Improves skin health
The antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties of moringa help your skin from infections. Moringa is used in many skin care products as it reduces inflammation linked to acne breakouts, dandruff, gingivitis, abscesses. It also helps heal bites, burns, warts, and wounds (21).
10. Improves eye health
Moringa contains antioxidants that help improve vision and protect the eyes from retinal damage. It provides extraordinary amounts of beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, and lutein, which help to preserve and enhance eye health.
Moringa prevents capillary membranes from solidifying, thus avoiding retinal dysfunction.
According to a study published in the Journal of Ocular Pharmacology and Therapeutics, flavonoids from moringa prevent the development of cataracts (22).
How to use moringa?
We can use moringa in numerous ways. Experts recommend that you take half a teaspoon of dried moringa per day for three to five days. You can gradually increase your intake.
You can take dried moringa leaves in a capsule, powder or tea form.
Moringa pods, also known as drumsticks, are rich in protein, fatty acids, and phenolic content. You can cook them like green beans. You can also remove the seeds inside these pods and roast them like nuts.
Moringa oil is also used in various creams and lotions. Store this oil in a cool and dark place.
Side effects of moringa
Moringa is free from any chemical additives, so it is highly unlikely to cause any side effects. The leaves, fruit, oil, and seeds from the moringa tree have been safely used for thousands of years.
However, some of the moringa supplements may be combined with synthetic ingredients. So, read the ingredients carefully and buy only pure, high-quality supplements.
It’s best to avoid moringa seed extract if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Moringa has been used to treat a variety of diseases in traditional medicine for thousands of years. Its rich anti-oxidant content helps to reduce blood sugar levels and cholesterol, improve brain and heart health and protects the liver.
Moringa is considered safe to consume and does not cause any side effects. However, pregnant and breastfeeding women must check with their doctor before they use moringa supplements.