Standardized: horseradish tree
Other: moringa, drumsticktree, West Indian ben, muringa (Tamil) 1 jacinto (Spanish)2 sahijan or munaga, (Hindi)3 shigru or shobhanjana (Ayurvedic)
Moringa oleifera Lam.1
Plant Family: Moringaceae
Moringa pterygosperma Gaertn.1
Leaves, seeds for pressing oil.
Moringa is a tree that has been used for thousands of years in India for everything from food, to building materials, to medicine. This 'wonder tree' truly is wondrous in that each part of the tree is useful. The roots, stems, leaves, seed pods, resin and flowers are considered to be healing herbs in Ayurvedic (traditional Indian healing system) and Unani (traditional Middle Eastern healing system) folk medicine. In modern times, the leaves and seed pods are utilized extensively due to their nutrient content2,4,5 and modern studies are investigating their healing potential.12-19
Moringa is native to the sub Himalayan mountain region particularly in India1,6,7 and has been introduced to southwest Asia, southwest and northeast Africa, Madagascar, the Philippines, and in the United States in California, Arizona, Hawaii and Florida.6 This tree is in the Moringaceae, or horseradish tree, family which is closely related to the papaya containing Caricaceae family.6 It is the sole genus, containing 13 species4,6,7 one such species being M. stenopetala, a species native to and cultivated in Africa.1
The generic name is derived from the Tamil (language spoken in southern India and northeast Sri Lanka) word 'murungai' meaning twisted pod.6 And 'oleifera' is Latin meaning 'oil-bearing' due to the seeds high oil content. There are several terms for the tree in Ayurveda (traditional healing system in India) such as 'shobhanjana' meaning 'very auspicious tree' or 'mochaka' which translates to the tree that 'helps to cure diseases.'3
Cultivation And Harvesting
Moringa is drought tolerant and thrives in semi-arid, tropical, and subtropical climates6 and is one of the most commonly cultivated food plants in the world.8 It is grown in India, Pakistan, Africa, the Philippines, and the Caribbean.8 Further, it is cultivated in various countries in Central and South America because it is easy to grow and has high market potential, therefore potentially providing an alternative to deforestation.9 It is also cultivated extensively in African countries to feed their own malnourished populations.10
History And Folklore
It is believed that the moringa tree originated in northern India and was being used in Indian medicine around 5,000 years ago, and there are also accounts of it being utilized by the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians.7 This tree was, and still is, considered a panacea, and is referred to as the 'The Wonder Tree', 'The Divine Tree', and 'The Miracle Tree' amongst many others.10 Moringa was used extensively in Ayurveda, where virtually all parts were considered useful with a plethora of healing attributes.3 It was employed to support digestion, spleen and eye health, as a cooking additive, and in many other ways.3 Its taste was considered bitter and pungent; its energetics, heating; and its effect upon the dosha (Ayurvedic constitutional type) are balancing to Kapha (dosha ruled by earth and water) and Vata (dosha ruled by air and ether).3
The whole tree has been used for erosion control and for building materials to provide shelter.1 The seed is high in oil, and the fibers remaining after oil extraction are one of the best plant-derived flocculants (clarifying agents) for clarifying water.6 Further, the roots are believed to taste like horseradish and are thus used as a condiment.6 Additionally, the flowers are eaten in omelets.10 The leaves have an extremely high nutrient value2,4,5 and are dried and powdered and put in sauces and baby formula.9 A beverage is made from the leaf, either as a standard tea or as a type of reconstituted dried leaf juice. In India, the immature seed pods (known as drumsticks) are eaten like asparagus. Further, a nutrient dense formula made from the leaves is sprayed on plants in South America in order to boost corn yeilds.9
Moringa grows in countries where 5% to 35% of the population is suffering from malnutrition.10 According to one organization working towards feeding malnourished populations called Trees for Life "Amazingly, moringa grows in subtropical areas, where malnutrition is most prevalent. It was as if people had a goldmine in their backyard and simply didn’t know it."10 Many groups are supporting the cultivation of moringa for personal use in developing countries, suggesting that each person grows 2 or 3 trees in their backyard thus providing a sustainable solution to malnutrition and reducing reliance upon imported foods.10 Another such group, called Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization or ECHO states: "Malnutrition is a leading cause of high infant mortality throughout the tropics. Moringa has helped in bringing nutrition to these hungry children (and)….it is considered one of the most nutritious vegetables in the world. It is an important nutrient source for nursing mothers as well as developing children."11
Flavor Notes And Energetics
Flavor notes and energetics: bitter, pungent, heating3
The leaves are nutritive2,4,5 and spasmolytic18
Uses And Preparations
Dried leaf as an additive to foods to increase nutritional value, or as a tea or juice.
Seed for producing oil
Perhaps moringa really is a miracle tree..? Not only has it provided food, shelter, water filtration, and medicine, but it may also be a source for fuel in the future.9 Moringa is being considered as potential source for biodiesel (plant based fuel that diesel engines can run off of). This plant grows easily in tropical areas and can easily produce high quantities of biomass for fuel. This can be done without compromising leaf harvest, thus the same moringa plant can be cultivated for both fuel and as a nutritional supplement for the natural marketplace simultaneously. It is therefore considered a superior feedstock to jatropha (Jatropha sp.) which is commonly grown for biofuel.9
Specific: No known precautions.
General: We recommend that you consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner before using herbal products, particularly if you are pregnant, nursing, or on any medications.
- United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville Area Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Accessed at http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?40944#syn on July 31, 2014.
- Duke J. A. Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases. Accessed at http://www.ars-grin.gov/duke/ on July 29, 2014.
- Hebbar JV, Moringa Benefits, Medicinal Usage and Complete Ayurveda Details, Accessed at: http://easyayurveda.com/2012/12/06/moringa-benefits-medicinal-usage-complete-ayurveda-details/ on July 29, 2014.
- Janick, J., & Paull, R. E. (Eds.). (2008). The encyclopedia of fruit and nuts. CABI.
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Barbara Stadlmayr, U Ruth Charrondiere, et. al, West African Food Composition Table. Accessed at: http://www.fao.org/docrep/015/i2698b/i2698b00.pdf on July 29, 2014.
- Olson, Mark (2010). "Moringaceae Martinov. Drumstick Tree Family". Flora of North America. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 7: 167–169.
- Fahey J. Trees for Life Journal 2005, 1:5 Accessed at: http://www.tfljournal.org/article.php/20051201124931586 on July 31, 2005. Trees For Life International. Wichita, KS.
- Anwar F, Latif S, Ashraf M, Gilani AH. Moringa oleifera: a food plant with multiple medicinal uses Phytother Res. Jan 2007;21(1):17-25.
- S. Schill. Multidimensional Moringa. May 14, 2008 Accessed at: http://biodieselmagazine.com/articles/2380/multidimensional-moringa on July 28, 2014.
- Trees For Life International. Wichita, KS. Accessed at: http://www.treesforlife.org/sites/default/files/documents/Moringa%20Presentation%20(General)%20screen.pdf on July 30, 2014.
- Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization Accessed at: http://echonet.org/moringa/ on July 30, 2014.
- Ara N, Rashid M, Amran MS (2008). Comparison of Moringa oleifera Leaves Extract with Atenolol on Serum triglyceride, Serum Cholesterol, Blood glucose, heart weight, body weight in Adrenaline Induced Rats. Saudi J. Biol. Sci. 15:253-258.
- Pari L, Kumar NA (2002). Hepatoprotective activity of Moringa oleifera on antitubercular drug-induced liver damage in rats. J. Med. Food 5:171-177.
- Singh BN, Singh BR, Singh RL, Prakash D, Dhakarey R, Upadhyay G, Singh HB (2009). Oxidative DNA damage protective activity, antioxidant and anti-quorum sensing potentials of Moringa oleifera. Food Chem. Toxicol. 47:1109-1116.
- Lalas S, Tsaknis J (2002). Extraction and identification of natural antioxidant from the seeds of the Moringa oleifera tree variety of Malawi. JAOSC 79:677-683.
- Siddhuraju, P., & Becker, K. (2003). Antioxidant properties of various solvent extracts of total phenolic constituents from three different agroclimatic origins of drumstick tree (Moringa oleifera Lam.) leaves. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 51(8), 2144-2155.
- Nwosu MO, Okafor JL (1995). Preliminary studies of the antifungal activities of some medicinal plants against Basidiobolus and some other pathogenic fungi. Mycoses 38:191-195.
- Gilani AH, Aftab K, Suria A, Siddiqui A, Salem R, Siddiqui BS, Faizi S (1994). Pharmacological studies on hypotensive and spasmolytic activities of pure compounds from Moringa oleifera. Phytother. Res. 8:87-91.
- Mittal, M., Mittal, P., & Agarwal, A. C. (2007). Pharmacognostical and phytochemical investigation of antidiabetic activity of Moringa oleifera Lam. leaf. The Indian Pharmacist, 6(59), 70-72.
Discovery Channel Documentary - Moringa Oleifera "Miracle Tree" by Moringa for Life at http://www.zijamoringaforlife.com
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.