Moringa for Traditional and Modern Uses

Moringa for Traditional and Modern Uses

It’s been thousands of years since history’s first known record of the use of the Moringa for medicinal purposes. However, in our modern world, it is only comparatively been recently rediscovered and is now in widespread use among holistic herbal market aficionados.

To demonstrate the popularity of this plant and its benefits, the National Institute of Health acknowledged it as the 2008 plant of the year. This recognition is well-placed because this plant is capable of lessening harsh climates. It also provides nutrition among other essential human needs for those regions in the world where poverty is at its worst.

The many benefits of this plant include the ability to fight infection and inflammation. It also has a reputation as a treatment for aging and malnutrition. Of course, this is why many refer to the Moringa as the miracle plant.

History & Background of Moringa

The first written history of this tree in use for traditional Ayurveda medicine dates back 4,000 years. The region of origin is India and the Himalayan mountains. However today, there are many scientific studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of this plant. You will find some of those studies later in this article.

Egypt was the next region to use this herb as a sunscreen against the harshness of life in a desert environment. From there, it spread to Rome and Greece where it was a popular ingredient in high-end perfumes and ointments.

Next, it spread to Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands, including the Philippines where it became a common food in the islander’s diet. Interestingly, in some cultures, the young seed pod of the Moringa is referred to as the “drum stick.”

Over time, it came into use for the treatment of hundreds of illnesses, only a few of which are listed below:

  1. Allergies
  2. Anemia
  3. Arthritis
  4. Asthma
  5. Blood pressure
  6. Cancer
  7. Constipation
  8. Diabetes
  9. Diarrhea
  10. Epilepsy
  11. Fatigue
  12. Fluid retention
  13. Headaches
  14. Heart disease
  15. Heart health
  16. Infection illnesses
  17. Inflammation illnesses
  18. Kidney stones
  19. Rheumatism
  20. Sex drive
  21. Skin blemishes
  22. Stomach pains
  23. Thyroid disorders
  24. Tuberculosis
  25. Ulcers

Fast forward to today where over one thousand studies, abstracts, and reports show the intense interest in the proven benefits of Moringa. In fact, the research shows practical and beneficial usage for nearly every part of the plant.

Interesting Facts About the Moringa Tree

This is a tropical species plant that is native to some regions of Africa, the Himalayan mountains, and India. This plant boasts an abundance of more than 90 protective compounds that include flavonoids, isothiocyanates, and phenolic acids.

This is a deciduous tree whose height and trunk thickness vary between varieties. There are three categories that the 13 species of Moringa fall under. These three categories are defined by shape, size, and geography. It begins with bottle trees that are thick and bloated with water. Next, are the slender trees, and finally, the trees, shrubs, and herbs of NE Africa.

The tree tops off with a billowing combination of slender branches and tripinnate leaves. Its five petal flowers are hermaphroditic while giving a wonderful fragrance and grow off feathery stalks in a drooping willowy fashion. The fruit of the flower is a three-sided brown encapsulation of the dark brown seeds that have delicate papery wings to carry them away with the wind and rain.

There are 13 known varieties of the Moringa tree. However, the species Moringa oleifera (M. oleifera) is the most popular for many reasons. Moreover, you will find research done or underway on all varieties of this plant, but current research proves that the oleifera species exceeds in many categories, some of which are as follows:

  1. Antibacterial qualities
  2. Antioxidant activity
  3. Glucose regulatory activity
  4. Growth rate
  5. Leaf and fruit yield
  6. Leaf nutritional yield and quality
  7. Oil edibility and quality

The Nutritional Benefits of Moringa

The Moringa tree is a truly green and sustainable plant for several reasons but especially because almost every part of this plant is useable. That includes the flowers, leaves, seed pods, stems, and roots of the plant.

The most popular and traditional way of using this plant is to dry and grind down the leaves for their abundant antioxidant qualities. Moreover, these leaves contain some very important nutrients including beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and potassium.

Next, one of the most significant modern day usages of this amazing plant is that it provides an abundant concentration of Vitamin A. In fact, it’s given to thousands of children in third-world countries to avoid Vitamin A deficiency which leads to impairment of the human body’s immune function.

In addition, the benefits of this plant also include phytonutrients that include beta-sitosterol, caffeoylquinic acid, flavonoids, glucosides, glucosinolates, kaempferol, quercetin, and zeatin. The importance of phytonutrients lies not only in their benefits as antioxidants but also in their abundance of carotenoids for eye and immune health.

Furthermore, when you compare it to other foods, the results are remarkable. For instance, when comparing gram for gram, this plant has twice the protein content in yogurt. Additionally, the same comparison shows quadruple the amount of vitamin A in carrots and quadruple the amount of calcium in cow’s milk. Some other gram by gram comparisons show the plant to have triple the amount of potassium in bananas and an incredible seven times the amount of vitamin C in oranges.

Dried Moringa Seeds
Dried Moringa Seeds

Moringa Studies

If you search the PubMed website for Moringa, you will get 1,215 results. If you search for Moringa oleifera, you will get 1,056 results. So, that tells us that the benefits of this plant are as documented as they are enjoyed by millions around the world.

What’s more, when you use this plant instead of taking a pharmaceutical drug, you get a much lower level of risk for side effects. That alone is a good reason for continuing your research into this supplement.

The following list shows studies along with the results and some of the benefits you might expect to derive from the supplemental use of Moringa.

Antioxidant & Anti-Inflammatory Benefits

From an abstract in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, we learn that the M. oleifera is an excellent source for a wide spectrum of important nutrients that include both minerals and vitamins. Moreover, it is in use worldwide.

According to the report, this plant contains essential amino acids, leaves high in carotenoids, and other effective nutraceutical qualities.

The report goes on to state that this is an herbal plant with many uses, both as human food and as alternative medicinal plant. It is also in use as a constituent in commercial food preparation in addition to its many medicinal and nutritional qualities.

Antioxidant & Hormonal Balance

Another report looks at antioxidant and oxidative effects of postmenopausal women when the take a combination of M. oleifera and amaranth leaves powder.

Also in this report are the before and after results of the levels of the following antioxidants:

  1. Glutathione peroxidase
  2. Malondialdehyde
  3. Serum ascorbic acid
  4. Serum retinol
  5. Superoxide dismutase

The study shows results that a combination of amaranth and moringa supplementation significantly decreases markers of oxidative stress and antioxidant levels.

The study also includes measuring the blood glucose after fasting along with hemoglobin levels. The result show better control with blood glucose levels along with hemoglobin increases.

Healthier Sexual or Reproductive Functions

This study involving mice and M. oleifera centers around stress induced sexual dysfunction. The results suggest a boosting of libido, and the ability to minimize rates of conception (birth control).

Pregnancy and Lactating Benefits

M. oleifera is commonly in use in Asia as a galactogogue while in the Philippines the term used is malunggay. These two terms refer to the effects of increasing breast milk production when women take M. oleifera supplementation. Even though no data exists on the results of infants whose mothers take M. oleifera, one study shows that the lactating mothers experience no bad side effects when taking this supplement. In fact, it shows a higher volume of breast milk when taking this supplement.

Improvements to Healthy Digestion

First, for thousands of years, ancient medicinal systems have been using Moringa for a wide range of illnesses of the human digestive system. Some of those include the ability to help with the following:

  1. Digestive discomfort
  2. Fungal or yeast infections
  3. Infections of the digestive system
  4. Kidney damage
  5. Liver disease
  6. Stomach ulcers

However, one current study about the anti-inflammatory effect of M. oleifera seeds involving rats with induced colitis shows promising results. Those results show a lowering inflammation of the colon and tissue edema. Other positive results include reducing the size and inflammation of ulcers.

Improvements to Liver Function

One of the more common uses of the oil derived from this plant is for boosting liver functions. In fact, many believe that it acts as a detoxifying agent to clear the body of hurtful substances such as metal toxins. Along these same lines, it is also helpful with removing toxins that affect other illnesses such as constipation, diarrhea, edema, kidney stones, and urinary tract infections.

A separate study done with rats demonstrates when taken in low doses of 50 – 100mg per kilogram of body weight, it helps to increase the production of enzymes and improves the status of antioxidants within the kidneys, liver, and pancreas.

Diabetes and Blood Sugar Level Balancing

Moringa also contains chlorogenic acid. The significance of this acid is that it shows in studies to be of great assistance in controlling blood sugar levels for a natural antidiabetic effect. However, at the same time, it allows the cells to intake or release glucose effectively. This is how it helps with hormone balancing. It is worth noting that it also contains isothiocyanate compounds which have natural diabetes fighting qualities.

Another study from the International Journal of Food Science Technology shows results that when rats are given a meal that is high in carbohydrates along with low doses of Moringa seed powder, it helps to prevent damage and increases enzymes and antioxidants in rats.

Uses for Skin Protection and Nourishment

The skin also benefits from the use of this plant. In fact, many use it for the purpose of retaining their skin’s moisture, soothing dry or burned skin, and for healing wounds. Moreover, Moringa naturally contains antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial compounds for superb infection control for the skin.

One study looks at the enhancement effects of moringa leaf extract cream on skin revitalization after damaging solar ultraviolet exposure. Using a cream with 3% of extract of moringa leaves, this study was performed over a 3 month period. The anti-aging results suggest that this cream enhances the revitalization of skin.

However, these skin revitalizing qualities are useful for more than anti-aging effects. They are rich in vitamins A, B, and C, and are also in use for relief of the following:

  1. Abscesses
  2. Acne reduction
  3. Athlete’s foot
  4. Bites
  5. Bronchitis
  6. Burns
  7. Catarrh
  8. Dandruff
  9. Ear and eye infections
  10. Gingivitis
  11. Headaches
  12. Odor elimination
  13. Scurvy
  14. Skin infections
  15. Viral warts
  16. Wounds

The essential oil of the Moringa applies directly to the skin as an astringent that kills bacteria. At the same time, it acts as a hydrating lubricant by reviving the moisture barrier of the skin. Incidentally, this oil is also in commercial perfumes and some food manufacturing processes. This inclusion is because of its inherent qualities of reducing odor and fighting bacteria, along with its lovely scent.

Mood Stabilization and Balance

Interestingly, this plant is also abundant in both proteins and tryptophan which is an amino acid. This serves to strengthen neurotransmitters that produce the serotonin hormone. In fact, higher levels of the serotonin hormone are also a welcome effect of taking this supplement.

If you have thyroid issues, this might be an effective treatment for you to consider. By balancing the thyroid, Moringa helps maintain higher energy levels, fights fatigue and depression, and therefore helps stave off mood swings.

Environmental Benefits for Topsoil and Water

One of the most impressive earthly qualities of the Moringa tree is its ability to grow in adverse conditions including soil that is nutritionally depleted or dry. Interestingly, it will grow under harsh conditions that most plants are unable to survive. This has been a life saver for people living in countries during times of famine.

Not only does it provide nourishment, it also works to restore nutrients to make the soil more fertile. That makes this tree an excellent choice in reforestation efforts.

Another common use of the Moringa is in the purification of water. This happens when seeds are added to the water wherein impurities are drawn to the seeds. Then, after seed removal takes place, the water is cleaner and lower in toxins.

Another earth-friendly use is to change salt water into drinkable water by adding the seeds. Apparently, the salt clings to the seeds and after the seeds are removed, the water is fresh and ready for drinking.

This interesting study shows the results of using different seeds, including M. oleifera seeds, to remove heavy metal toxins from local drinking water. This is especially useful for regions that have no effective water purification systems in place for their citizens.

It is worth noting that this same study also shows that only 0.2 grams of moringa seed purifies one liter of toxic water with its bacteria absorbing abilities.

Unfortunately, most of the current studies come from laboratories. Therefore, more field studies must take place for the rural communities that need this type of service the most.

Moringa Side Effects and Cautions

The wonderful thing about Moringa is that it is entirely natural. However, you must do your research and purchase only high-quality brands, to ensure there are no chemical additives. Overall, either orally or topically, it is highly tolerable.

There are some side effects that are possible under certain conditions. Of course, it is always wise to consult with your physician before starting any supplement regimen and the Moringa is no different. Your doctor will be able to compare the effects of this supplement with any other supplements or medication you might be taking. Some of the side effects that are possible are as follows:

  1. Laxative effect
  2. Low blood pressure
  3. Lowers fertility
  4. Slow heart rate
  5. Uterine contractions

Again, this plant has been in safe use in traditional medicines for thousands of years. However, one caution lies in taking too high a quantity of seeds which causes cell mutation. The other caution is to look for the best quality possible. In today’s world, there are many forms of oil extracts and supplements available to consumers. You, as the consumer, must read the ingredient labels carefully before purchasing and using.

If you are pregnant or lactating, only use under your doctor’s direction. Although we’ve presented a study in this article that shows an increase in breast milk with the use of Moringa, please consult with your physician before starting this or any other supplement routine. Additionally, it is possible that unwanted contractions will take place with the use of the Moringa bark, flowers, and root. So, hold off on this one in lieu of first talking to your doctor.

Dosages and Ways to Take Moringa

This is an herb so there are currently no FDA recommendations for dosage. However, some like to calculate it at 29mg per kg of body weight.

One recommendation is to start with one half teaspoon per day for three to five days, while slowly increasing over two weeks.

However, because of its laxative effect on some people’s system, most people don’t take it every day. Instead, they take it every few days. Interesting! So, this takes us to the next topic which are the forms in which this supplement is available. The following is a list of the common ways people use Moringa for the best benefits:

  1. Oil – You will find this oil in lotions and creams as an anti-aging agent. You will also find reference to this as Ben oil.
  2. Powder – Interestingly, seven lbs. of Moringa leaves makes one pound of powder. Look for powder that is organic and slow-dried for the best macronutrients and antioxidants possible. Again, follow the manufacturer’s dosage guidelines carefully.
  3. Seeds – The flowers and pods of this plant contain a high quantity of fatty acids, proteins, and phenolics. Additionally, the immature green pods – often referred to as “drumsticks” are as delicious as green beans. You can also dry or roast the pods the same as nuts. As mentioned above, the seeds might also work to purify water.
  4. Tea – The dried Moringa leaves also make a wonderful herbal tea. Simply steep your leaves in hot water just like you do any other herbal tea. Again, look for powder that is organic and slow-dried for the best preservation of the beneficial compounds.
  5. Tablets & Capsules – Most tablet and capsule supplements derive from drying and crushing the leaves of this plant. According to Consumer Reviews, you must look for a pure, organic supplement with no additional ingredients. Unfortunately, with so many substandard products available, it’s hard for consumers to know which one is best for them. To begin, look for a brand that offers guarantees and third party testing. Also, read the ingredients list carefully and screen for synthetic variations.

In Summary

This amazing herb is in use all around the world for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. However, its benefits also include hormone balancing and anti-aging. Furthermore, use of this supplement helps maintain good digestive health. It also helps keep healthy sugar levels while it stabilizes moods. Additionally, it’s a reliable source of nutrients that include amino acids,  antioxidants, vitamins A and C, calcium, and potassium.

Because of this plant’s numerous benefits, in 2008 it received the honor of the plant of the year. This is no surprise when you look at how this plant has helped thousands receive adequate nutrition in many third world countries.

While there are about 13 varieties of Moringa, the best results come from the Moringa oleifera tree. We recommend that you continue to do your research and look only for the purest and organic form of Moringa supplement.

Article Resources:

Dr Axe

Consumer Reviews

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products discussed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.