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)
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)
The antioxidant powers of moringa have been widely studied. One study published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology shows that taking seven grams or 1.5 teaspoons of powdered moringa leaf for 3 months can significantly increase your blood antioxidant levels. (11)
Another 2015 study published in the journal PLoS One revealed that moringa acts as an anti-cancer agent by “decreasing cell motility and colony formation in colorectal and breast cancer cell lines.” The researchers concluded that moringa “… may represent a valuable therapeutic tool for use as part of a therapy for the treatment of aggressive breast and colorectal carcinoma.”(12)
Another study published in the journal Oncology Letters, further revealed the therapeutic potential of moringa leaf in treating various types of cancers, including lung, breast, and skin cancers.
Moringa also contains many non-essential amino acids such as alanine, arginine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glycine, histidine, serine, proline, tyrosine, and glutamic acid, which promote numerous healing properties such as wound healing, immune boosting, cancer tumor suppression, as well as muscle and tissue growth.
As well as its powerful anti-oxidant/anti-cancer properties, moringa is known for its ability to reduce inflammation. The leaves, pods and seeds contains isothiocyanates, flavonoids, and phenolic acids, which, among other things, are helpful for stomach ulcers.
Oil, made from the leaves (sometimes called Ben Oil) is also shown to protect the liver from chronic inflammation. As an added bonus, this oil can also be used to treat fungal issues, arthritis and is even a wonderful skin moisturizer. (13)
3. Cholesterol Regulator
Moringa is also unique in that it can also be used to help lower your cholesterol levels according to one study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology. In fact, it is so effective, (and with no side effects) researchers say it is comparable to simvastatin, a known pharmaceutical used to lower cholesterol levels. (14)
Authors of the study state,”… The results indicate that this plant possesses antioxidant, hypolipidaemic, and antiatherosclerotic activities, and has therapeutic potential for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases.”
4. Other health benefits of moringa oleifera
Moringa is a significant source of fiber and as such, is helpful for removing waste and toxins from your intestines. A protein in the seeds of this plant have been shown to bind to impurities in water thus helping to purify it. In fact, according to studies, moringa seeds work better for water purification than many of the conventional synthetic materials on the market. (15)
The leaves are also used as a food preservative since they can increase the shelf life of meat by reducing oxidation. (16)
If you are breastfeeding, a study published in The Philippine Journal of Pediatrics showed that taking 250 mg of the dried moringa leaf capsules twice daily, increased milk production by a staggering 152 to 176 percent in just 5 days. (17)
And more specifically, some studies show that moringa leaves and seeds may protect against the effects of arsenic poisoning, which is helpful since many of the foods we eat, such as rice, are now shown to contain high levels of this toxin. (18)
How to Take Moringa
You can eat the leaves raw, cooked or even juiced. You can also use the powdered form and add it to your juice, tea, or sprinkle some in your salad and soup. This is especially good for people who don’t eat enough greens. And of course, you can purchase it in supplement form.