Few of nature’s gifts match the value of the moringa tree. This ancient plant grows where most plants cannot survive, and there revitalizes the soil. Just about every part of the plant contains unparalleled health benefits: the roots, pods, seeds, flowers, fruit, and bark are all edible. Eastern Asian countries have depended on this superfood for millennia to support heart, blood, liver, respiratory, skin, and digestive health.
About the Moringa Tree
Out of the 13 varieties of moringa, Moringa oleifera is the most common species. The tree is native to India and grows in tropical and subtropical climates. The tall, fast-growing plant produces abundant leaves, flowers, and pods. Moringa has been an important part of traditional medicine such as Ayurveda for at least 4,000 years and has several English nicknames that highlight different characteristics. The moniker “drumstick tree” alludes to the long, slender pods. “Horseradish tree” refers to the taste of the leaves. Another nickname, “Ben oil tree,” regards the oil extracted from the seeds.
The “Tree of Life”
The moringa tree is one of the rare plants that can grow and thrive in dry, depleted soils. Even in famine, moringa has sustained many undernourished populations. It adds essential nutrients to diets and helps revitalize the soil. Farmers plant it to restore forests, filter water, and more. Moringa trees grow year-round and help replenish nutrients in the soil. Decomposing trees further nourishes the earth for other food sources in harsh landscapes.
Although almost all parts of the moringa tree are significant sources of nutrition and medicinal benefit, the most popular components are the leaves. These tiny gems are full of antioxidants, vitamins, trace minerals, and all of the essential amino acids. Extensive studies have revealed that phytonutrients present in moringa have antidiabetic, antitumor, anti-ulcer, anti-epileptic, and antispasmodic effects.
The liver detoxifies the blood, produces bile, metabolizes fat and fructose, and helps process nutrients. Moringa’s high levels of polyphenols can help protect this vital organ. A study in Food and Chemical Toxicology reports the plant can reverse oxidation in the liver and ameliorate fibrosis and liver damage. Moringa oil can also help normalize liver enzymes and increase protein content in the liver.
A recent study in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention noted that moringa leaf extract suppresses the growth of cancer cells and induces cell death in some cancers. Researchers believe this is due to the high presence of antioxidants and essential amino acids in the plant. These nutrients can strengthen the immune system to combat the effects of chemotherapy, as well.
Inflammation contributes to chronic illnesses such as obesity, arthritis, and respiratory disorders. Research published in Inflammation indicates moringa helps lower inflammation as its bioactive compounds suppress inflammatory proteins and enzymes in the body. The plant’s roots, fruit, and leaves all contain substances that inhibit the production of nitric oxide and inflammatory cytokines.
Caffeine-Free Energy Boost
Although moringa leaves do not contain caffeine, they make a naturally energizing tea. The leaves are rich in coenzymes such as NADH that increase energy production in cells. NADH imparts cognitive benefits that improve concentration and heighten senses. Moringa tea can provide a mental boost without the potential side effects common to other stimulants, such as jitteriness and insomnia.
Moringa has potent antioxidant and neuro-enhancing properties that support cognitive function. It contains high amounts of vitamins C and E that impede neuron degeneration caused by oxidation. The plant extract also helps normalize neurotransmitters that perform integral roles in mood, memory, and mental health. The Journal of Neurosciences in Rural Practice published a study that suggests moringa has potential as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
How to Use Moringa
Virtually the entire moringa plant holds a host of health-boosting benefits. The most common parts that people have been using for centuries include
- Leaves: The leaves are thought to be the most nutritious part of the plant. Select them in powdered or dried form, as capsules or loose leaves.
- Tea: Dried or powdered moringa leaves can be steeped in hot — not boiling — water. Choose organic products that are prepared by slowly drying under low temperatures.
- Pods: Cook immature pods or “drumsticks” like green beans. Pods and blossoms can help purify water and boost protein in nutrient-deficient diets.
- Seeds: Remove the seeds of mature pods and dry or roast them like nuts. If you choose to eat them raw, consume one or two a day.
- Oil: Oil from moringa seeds is an increasingly common ingredient in skin care products. Keep it away from sunlight and high temperatures.
Pure moringa extract is not likely to cause adverse side effects in healthy individuals. However, some brands may contain synthetic fillers that could interact negatively, so seek out the highest quality product possible or grow your own. Pregnant or nursing women should proceed under the advice of a healthcare professional, as some naturally occurring chemicals within the plant can cause uterine contractions. Consult your doctor if you are currently taking any medication, especially drugs for thyroid problems, hypertension, or diabetes.