Moringa: A Healing and Sustainable Superfood
The Moringa tree (Moringa oleifera) does not just produce what is arguably the most healing nutrition of any plant. It produces a whole lot more.
Moringa and Hunger
If there’s anything that Covid-19 has helped many people see, it’s that a country’s means of sustaining itself can quickly run into major trouble when the food supply is too delicate.
So while most Americans still don’t know the ugliness of malnutrition in its most raw form, people struggle with illnesses that would baffle Hippocrates, who knew too well the value of nutrient dense food.
But in some places what was once a precarious food web has now been replaced by a mighty network of nutrient rich trees that last for dozens of years. The moringa tree, or moringa oleifera, does not just produce what is arguably the most healing nutrition of any plant. It does much more, and does so sustainably, with this entirely edible plant growing as much as 7 meters in one year.
Its edibility may be its biggest claim to fame, with its millions of tiny leaves being its most coveted byproduct. This tree also has the ability to multiply its benefits, producing 400-600 edible pods annually within 3 years of its initial planting.
These edible pods have 20 seeds each, which not only can be eaten, but can also produce new trees so that a mature moringa tree can be the source of 10s of thousands of new trees within a handful of years.
Although every part of the tree is edible, the commonly used parts are the seeds, leaves, and flowers. Due to its nutritional benefits, people are encouraged to use moringa to curb hunger and malnutrition, especially in regions where crops typically struggle due to periods of dryness and drought.
While pregnant mothers are typically hardest hit by famine, moringa has been a godsend for mothers to augment breastmilk production needed so badly by preterm infants (Estrella et al. 2000).
The moringa tree is a life-saving organism in many ways. Not only is the whole tree edible, it also grows very well with little water and soil.
Antioxidants and Moringa
While the coconut has gained the reputation as the “Tree of Life”, it is difficult to dispute the life-giving properties of what is now called the “miracle tree.”
These “miracles” of people recovering from disease while enjoying the medicinal effect of moringa, are thought to come from the dense nutrients found especially in moringa oleifera leaves.
Much of this is said to come from its various antioxidants—not just its vitamin C and beta-carotene—but also from its having quercetin, chlorogenic acid, and even chlorophyll.
Evidence that these antioxidants are making a practical difference come from a study (Kushwaha et al. 2014) of women taking 1.5 teaspoons (7 grams) of moringa leaf powder every day for three months. In the end they showed significantly increased blood antioxidant levels.
Taking advantage of moringa extracts is not limited to people living in disadvantaged regions. It is a medicinal plant that benefits people in all corners of the planet.
So while monocultural crops and processed foods have lead first world countries down the path of sickness, moringa and its 18 antioxidants and full range of essential amino acids have restored the health of a wide array of people.
The leaves are rich in Vitamin A, B, and C, minerals, and protein. You can eat them dried, fresh, or cooked. The leaves have similar quantities of vitamin C as oranges and more potassium than bananas.
The seeds are usually roasted, fermented, cooked, or ground into flour. They are rich in proteins, lipids, and fiber. Moringa seeds have twice the amount of vitamin A as carrots, and the calcium amount is nine times that of milk.
Even the flowers are rich in minerals and vitamins.
Moringa as Medicine
Moringa has shown promise to help in the fight against every major disease.
A 2016 study published in the Journal of Experimental Therapeutics and Oncology (Randriamboavonjy et al.) showed that a molecule found in moringa killed ovarian cancer cells cultivated in a lab.
Moringa was found to have an antihypertrophic and antifibrotic effect associated with increased expression of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR)-α and δ, reducing cardiac triglyceride level, and enhancing plasmatic prostacyclins, all indications of increase heart health.
In 2015, Waterman and colleagues published a study showing that feeding mice moringa extract could delay the start of diabetes. Mice eating a high-fat diet supplemented with 5% moringa concentrate improved glucose tolerance and insulin signaling and didn’t develop fatty liver disease.
In terms of arthritis and joint pain and inflammation, moringa has also shown effectiveness in giving relief (Martínez-González et al. 2017).
In a study on its analgesic effects, it was found to reduction in thermal hyperalgesia. Comparing single and combination therapies of root and leaf extracts showed a synergistic effect on pain reduction (Manaheji et al. 2011).
Moringa’s properties, including high vitamin B content, have shown it also helpful for digestive disorders, and its antibiotic and antibacterial properties of moringa may help inhibit the growth of various pathogens.
Moringa’s anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and even antidepressant qualities, are making a difference today. Used as a nutritional dietary supplement it can be much more effective than the average multivitamin.
In addition to its medicine growth factors, the plant has meant a blossoming of subsistence economies with its ability to produce animal feed, dyes, and tannins (for commercial and industrial use), natural pesticides, and even water purification.
In fact, to help preserve food in times of plenty, moringa leaf extract may also be used as a food preservative. It increases the shelf life of meat by reducing oxidation (Ahmad et al. 2015).
The moringa tree isn’t just about food. It also provides medicine. Its aficionados claim it cures 300 diseases. As the research continues to unfold, this is looking more and more likely.
Moringa and Water Purification
Other than the nutritional benefits, moringa is making a difference where poor infrastructure has challenged the sustainability of various societies.
This starts with the plant’s ability – through its seeds – to purify water. The seeds have flocculating and coagulating properties that make organic matter present in water to form sediments and settle at the bottom of the filter.
After sedimentation, the water can be purified, further making it suitable for human and animal consumption. The seed pods of the tree are also used to remove organic pollutants and pesticides from contaminated wastewater.
These important facts are important to disseminate as civilization is at a crossroads during the current crisis.
Water. Consider this: Over a billion people lack clean drinking water access: more than 1 of every 10 people on the planet.
Women and girls spend an estimated 200 million hours carrying water every day. The average woman in rural Africa walks almost 5 miles each day to haul 40 pounds of water.
But fresh water is an essential ingredient for all human life. And now over 2.7 billion experience water scarcity at least one month a year. By 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population may be facing water shortages based on current projections.
We need the sustainability and versatility of moringa as a water purifier more than ever.
Moringa as a Sustainable Food Source
Moringa grows in little to no rainfall areas, making it a reliable food source for people living in areas prone to drought. It can thrive in areas where other crops develop stunted growth due to extreme heat, poor soil, and lack of adequate water supply.
Individuals living in semi-arid and arid areas are encouraged to plant Moringa trees to take advantage of its relentless food source. The crop boasts nutritional and medicinal qualities, making it useful to people
who do not have access to enough food supply throughout the year.
Of course this means the plant can be used to fight hunger and help the most vulnerable, like poor pregnant women, give abundant, healthy life to another generation through strong communities.
Moringa Tree Reforestation
The great news is that moringa grows fast and can reach almost 10 feet within the first year, and up to 30 feet when it’s fully mature. People living in areas without enough tree cover are encouraged to plant this miracle tree to promote reforestation.
Planting Moringa trees can benefit the soil, making it healthier for farming in the future.
Many regions of the world are experiencing deforestation, including South America (Brazil), Southeast Asia (Indonesia), Eastern Europe, and Central Africa (Congo). These areas can significantly benefit from planting Moringa trees to increase their food security, income, and replenish the nutrients lost in the soil.
Imagine spreading this secret knowledge to combat the depletion of our tropical forests!
Moringa can Help Eliminate Poverty
Moringa is considered to be a high-value export product. In fact, several companies are investing in educating their customers on the benefits of growing Moringa as an export product that can help generate income.
Instead of relying on aid, farmers are getting empowered to earn from planting Moringa. They can sell the tree they harvest and use the proceeds to improve their lives.
How to Add Moringa to Your Diet
Besides eating from the tree itself, there are many moringa products available in health food stores that you can incorporate in your diet. You will mostly find Moringa in powder form, although there are other
products like tea, wellness shots, and energy bars. You can add the powder to soups, salads, drinks, and smoothies.
You can also roast the seeds or cook them with the leaves, or mix the seeds with other cereals to increase the nutrient value of your meal. Besides, Moringa oil is one of the best cooking oil in the market.
The Bottom Line
Moringa is a high nutrient plant that has more benefits than many other plants.
Often described as the new kale, it’s rich in essential minerals, vitamins, phytochemicals, and highly- digestible proteins. Unlike leafy greens like spinach, almost all the parts of this plant can be used for different purposes, can purify water, and grows where most vegetables simply can’t.
Moringa, unlike other greens, is low in soluble oxalates, so one can quickly restore one’s body with maximum nutrition, as one takes advantage of the body’s built-in immune system and ability to heal.
Finally, compared to other superfoods, moringa is very affordable. You are really missing out if you aren’t making it part of your diet.
Would you like to learn more about moringa or even see if it’s right to incorporate into your diet? Michael DiSalvo provides additional information on moringa, hacks, and recipes, so you can enjoy your moringa in everything from yogurt, to chocolate to muffins, so support sustainable agriculture and give your body what it needs to express its full vitality and function.
Kushwaha, S., Chawla, P. & Kochhar, A. Effect of supplementation of drumstick (Moringa oleifera) and amaranth (Amaranthus tricolor) leaves powder on antioxidant profile and oxidative status among postmenopausal women. J Food Sci Technol 51, 3464–3469 (2014).
Martínez-González CL, Martínez L, Martínez-Ortiz EJ, González-Trujano ME, Déciga-Campos M, Ventura-Martínez R, Díaz-Reval I. Moringa oleifera, a species with potential analgesic and anti-inflammatory activities. Biomed Pharmacother. 2017 Mar;87:482-488. doi: 10.1016/j.biopha.2016.12.107.
Estrella M, Mantaring J, David G, Taup M. A double blind, randomised controlled trial on the use of malunggay (Moringa oleifera) for augmentation of the volume of breastmilk among non-nursing mothers of preterm infants. Philipp J Pediatr 2000;49:3-6.
Joseph I. Randriamboavonjy, Gervaise Loirand, Nathalie Vaillant, Benjamin Lauzier, Sévérine Derbré, Serge Michalet, Pierre Pacaud, Angela Tesse
Cardiac Protective Effects of Moringa oleifera Seeds in Spontaneous Hypertensive Rats. American Journal of Hypertension, Volume 29, Issue 7, July 2016, Pages 873–881, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajh/hpw001
Manaheji H, Jafari S, Zaringhalam J, Rezazadeh S, Taghizadfarid R. Analgesic effects of methanolic extracts of the leaf or root of Moringa oleifera on complete Freund’s adjuvant-induced arthritis in rats. Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Xue Bao. 2011 Feb;9(2):216-22. doi: 10.3736/jcim20110216. PMID: 21288459.
Manzoor Ahmad, Shah Sowriappan, John Don Bosco, Shabir Ahmad Mir. Effect of Moringa oleifera leaf extract on the physicochemical properties of modified atmosphere packaged raw beef. Food Pkg. 2015; March.