Often called the “Miracle Tree,” Moringa oleifera is native to South Asia but can now be found throughout the tropics. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans widely used this plant at least 4,000 years ago to treat a vast array of health issues. (1)
Today, this wonder plant is said to cure or prevent close to 300 diseases. Moringa is chock-full of antioxidants that are known to protect against free radicals, reducing the effects of, and preventing such diseases as cancer, heart disease, and other chronic illness. (2) In all, it has over 92 nutrients and 46 natural antioxidants, as well as anti-inflammatory compounds. (3)
Although the leaves on this tree are small, they pack a large amount of nutrition including protein, calcium, vitamins A, B, C, D, E and k and iron among countless other valuable nutrients such as the amino acids isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. (4)
While the pods are typically slightly lower in nutritional value, they are rich in vitamin C. In fact, one cup of the pods (100 grams) alone contains 157 percent of your daily requirement for vitamin C. (5)
The leaves taste somewhat like a radish but they have a spinach-like texture that makes them perfect for salads. People also dry them or use a powdered form that can be sprinkled on food. When young, the long pods are often eaten like green beans or even okra and the seeds, which resemble peas, can be eaten as such or crushed into a nutritious oil. In fact every part of this tree is edible, including the flowers and roots, making it an invaluable healing plant.
While the tree was not well known in the Western world until recently, researchers today are quickly learning about the many health benefits of moringa oleifera. In fact, The National Science Foundation and National Geographic Society now support a variety of studies on the plant and it was even recognized as the 2007 Botanical of the Year by the National Institutes of Health. (6)
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One of the reasons this tree is so popular is because it grows so quickly and can be harvested year-round, making it a prefect option for supplementing nutrition in places such as Malawi, Senegal, and India where nutrition is often hard to come by.
For those of us in the Western world, moringa is also being used for its potent anti-fungal, anti-diabetic, anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory effects.
Health Benefits of Moringa Oleifera
The key anti-cancer agent in moringa is antioxidants, which are well-known and studied compounds that attack free radicals in our bodies, which can lead to damaging oxidative stress. Among these antioxidants is vitamin C and beta-carotene found in the leaves and pods. (7)
Other powerful antioxidants include zeatin, quercetin (known to help lower blood pressure) (8) and chlorogenic acid (a substance also found in coffee) that is further known to help regulate blood sugar levels, making it a wonderful anti-diabetic as well as anti-cancer agent. (9) It also contains kaempferol (a key nutrient that promotes healthy body cellular function). (10)