Moringa Oleifera is the most widely cultivated species in the genus Moringa. It is also known as Moringa, drumstick tree, horseradish tree, benzoil tree, kelor, marango or ben oil tree (1, 2).
Moringa Oleifrea is a perennial softwood tree. It is native to the southern foothills of the Himalayas in north western India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan (3), and recently around the tropics. All parts of the tree are edible, and have long been consumed by humans and animals (3). It is a heat and sun loving plant and the roots need good drainage – it grows best in subtropical and tropical climates.
Some of the many uses for this incredibly versatile tree include: alley cropping (biomass production), animal forage (leaves and treated seed-cake), biogas (from leaves), domestic cleaning agent (crushed leaves), blue dye (wood), fencing (living trees), fertilizer (seed-cake), foliar nutrient (juice expressed from the leaves), green manure (from leaves), gum (from tree trunks), honey- and sugar cane juice-clarifier (powdered seeds), honey (flower nectar), medicine (all plant parts), ornamental plantings, bio pesticide (soil incorporation of leaves to prevent seedling damping off), pulp (wood), rope (bark), tannin for tanning hides (bark and gum). Powdered seeds are used for water purification, many different parts of the tree are used in herbal medicine, and the oil can be extracted to make an efficient biodiesel.
This plant is claimed to be a rich source of Vitamins A, B, C, D, E, K and minerals, Calcium, Copper, Iron, Potassium, Magnesium Manganese and Zinc (see table below). It has been used to relieve mineral and vitamin deficiencies, support the cardiovascular system, normalise blood glucose levels, neutralise free radicals, and reduce inflammation, thereby improving the immune system (1, 2).
Leaves can be eaten fresh, cooked, or stored as dried powder for many months without refrigeration, and reportedly without loss of nutritional value. The young seed pods and leaves are eaten as vegetables, the pods can be eaten as fruit, and the kernels for oil extraction (for food supplement for hair and skin cosmetics) or eaten green, roasted or steeped for tea or used in curries, in addition to water purification (the oil extracted acts as a flocculant) (1 -4). The amazing nutritional properties of this tree make it a perfect food to treat malnutrition in developing countries.
Two billion people in the world rely on untreated water sources for their daily water needs, and millions die from water-borne diseases from contaminated water. The powdered seed of Moringa acts as a natural flocculent, which when added to untreated water binds to solids and sinks to the bottom. Powdered Moringa can replace chemicals (typically aluminium sulphate) used to treat water. The process of preparing the water (adding the powdered Moringa, stirring vigorously, allow to settle, straining, then boiling the water) can be done by anyone. This is a great natural solution for people who only have access to untreated water sources (4).
Different parts of the tree are used to treat several ailments, including use as nutritional supplement (failing to thrive), antimicrobial, bacterial, malaria, typhoid fever, parasitic diseases, arthritis, swellings, cuts, diseases of the skin, genito-urinary ailments, digestive disorders (diarrhoea), inflammation, hypertension, diabetes, cancer (2 - 4). However as with most traditional medicines, more research is required to make sound scientific judgments of the efficacy of these traditional cures (5, 6) due to a lack of strong randomized control trials versus western medicinal treatments.
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1. Mishra, S. P., Singh, P., & Singh, S. (2012). Processing of Moringa oleifera leaves for human consumption. Bulletin of Environment, Pharmacology and life sciences, 2(1), 28-31.
2. Leone, A., Spada, A., Battezzati, A., Schiraldi, A., Aristil, J., & Bertoli, S. (2015). Cultivation, genetic, ethnopharmacology, phytochemistry and pharmacology of Moringa oleifera leaves: an overview. International journal of molecular sciences, 16(6), 12791-12835.
3. Fahey, J. W. (2005). Moringa oleifera: a review of the medical evidence for its nutritional, therapeutic, and prophylactic properties. Part 1. Trees for life Journal, 1(5), 1-15.
4. Mahmood, K. T., Mugal, T., & Haq, I. U. (2010). Moringa oleifera: a natural gift-A review. Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research, 2(11), 775.
5. Sampson W (2005) Studying herbal remedies. New England Journal of Medicine 353(4):337-339.
6. Talalay P, and P Talalay (2001) The importance of using scientific principles in the development of medicinal agents from plants. Academic Medicine 76(3): 238-247.
7. Witt K. The Nutrient Content of Moringa Oleifera leaves. Moringatrees.org https://miracletrees.org/moringa-doc/nutrient-content-of-moringa-oleifera-leaves.pdf