Have you heard of moringa? The moringa tree is native to northern India, but today it is common throughout the tropical and sub-tropical regions of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. This fast-growing, drought-resistant tropical tree has edible leaves that are one of the world’s most nutrient-dense foods. Other edible parts of the tree include the green seed pods and mature seeds. Additionally, a rich oil can be produced from pressing moringa seeds, which contains powerful antioxidants and a unique blend of beneficial fatty acids, making it a coveted ingredient in cosmetic products.
Nutritional qualities of moringa
Before moringa’s effects were demonstrated in scientific studies, it was used extensively in traditional medicine practices like Ayurvedic medicine for over 4,000 years. Moringa has gained a reputation for fighting inflammation and combating various effects of malnutrition, disease, and aging, earning the nickname “the miracle plant.”
Moringa leaves are incredibly nutrient-dense, loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. They are so nutritious that they are considered a life-saver in developing countries where food availability is an issue. However, people in western countries can benefit from their properties just as much. The leafy greens are made up of almost 10 percent protein and contain 18 amino acids, including all 9 essential amino acids. On a gram for gram basis, fresh Moringa leaves contain:
- 4x more calcium than milk
- 3x more vitamin C than oranges
- 2x more iron than spinach
- 5x more protein than yogurt
- The same level of potassium as bananas
- The same level of vitamin A as carrots
This comparison is based on the lowest estimates available – other sources have measured many times these nutrient levels.
The plant contains a rare and unique combination of disease-preventing phytonutrients, including flavonoids, glucosides, glucosinolates, zeatin, quercetin, beta-sitosterol, caffeoylquinic acid, and kaempferol.
The head to toe benefits of moringa
Moringa is antiviral
Multiple studies have verified the antiviral activities of moringa seeds, leaves, resin, and extracts. Moringa has been found to be effective against Newcastle disease virus – which can cause flu-like symptoms, conjunctivitis, or laryngitis – and Herpes simplex virus. This is notable since the available drugs used against Herpex simplex virus infections have limited efficacy with frequent development of drug-resistant viruses.
Moringa fights bacteria & yeast
Moringa fights cancer and tumors
One study which tested moringa compounds against cancerous tumors found that at least three of its constituents have “very significant activities” against tumor growth, with one called niazimicin, in particular, holding the most promise against cancer.
Moringa supports brain health
Research has found that moringa contains neuroprotective factors that can prevent and even reverse the oxidative stress and cognitive impairments in brain diseases like Alzheimer’s. Moringa leaves could also possess nootropic properties, meaning that they enhance intellectual performance, learning, and memory.
Moringa fights obesity & diabetes
Moringa appears to have dramatic effects on the underlying mechanisms which lead to metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and obesity. A 2017 study highlighted how moringa extract can balance gene expression to reduce body weight, improve blood sugar levels, and reverse insulin resistance, without adverse effects on liver or kidney function.
Moringa protects heart health
Moringa has been shown to protect against heart problems, such as arterial plaque and high blood pressure, through its ability to improve the levels of cardiac markers in the blood and act as an antioxidant against damaging free radicals.
Moringa is anti-aging
Moringa extracts are rich in antioxidants, which means that they can help reduce the effects of aging. This has been shown in topical applications such as face cream, which improved skin revitalization, smoothness, and wrinkle parameters after three months of use. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects gained by consuming moringa also serve to protect against aging from the inside out.
How to use moringa for good health
There are several different ways to consume moringa, as it has been made commercially available in a variety of convenient products such as powders and capsules.
Moringa powder: Moringa leaves are dried and ground, sold as a powder, or as a supplement. You can add moringa powder to your smoothies or soups, or use it as a tea. Many compare it to matcha green tea in its texture and usage. It does have a mild grassy or asparagus-like flavor, so expect it to taste “healthy.”
Moringa refresher: For a fresh, potent, and incredibly nutritious drink, mix moringa powder (or fresh leaves), lemon, honey, mint leaves, ginger, and ice cubes in a blender and add water or coconut milk to your preference.
Moringa dosage: Start out with 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of moringa powder daily, or follow the recommendations on capsule supplements.
In high doses, moringa can have a laxative effect. If you take medications or have known health issues, always consult with your doctor, as side effects are possible. Pregnant women should avoid moringa as it may cause contractions of the uterus.
Moringa oil: For cosmetic uses, creams or oils containing moringa can be great additions to your beauty routine. If you’re after pure moringa oil, look for organic and cold-pressed. Fortunately, moringa oil is highly resistant to oxidation, so you don’t need to worry about it going rancid before you finish the bottle.
How to grow moringa in your garden
The Moringa tree is native to northern India, but today it is common throughout many tropical and sub-tropical areas. It grows best between 77 to 95 F, so it could be grown outdoors year-round in places like Florida, Arizona, California, and Texas. However, people in cooler climates can grow it indoors, outdoors as an annual, or in greenhouses.
Moringa trees grow easily from seeds or cuttings. They grow quickly, even in poor soil and bloom about eight months after planting. The trees generally grow to about 6 feet tall and can be brought inside until the next summer. Prune any straggly branches when putting the tree out for the summer.
Moringa is a traditional remedy from the tropics which holds promise against many chronic diseases and conditions and is thus becoming more popular in the mainstream health food market. For a daily nutrient boost, try adding moringa to your superfood roster.