The word “superfood” gets tossed around a lot these days but, for some foods, it is an accurate description. Moringa, the name given to the usable parts of the Moringa oleifera tree, is worthy of this designation because it is positively packed with nutrition and health benefits.
Various parts of this tree have been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries, but have recently become popular in the Western world as well. Keep reading to learn more about the leaves, seeds, and flowers of the Moringa tree and the benefits they provide.
What Is Moringa?
Also known as the drumstick tree and the horseradish tree, the Moringa is a deciduous tree native to India and cultivated in various tropical and subtropical regions around the world. Moringa oleifera is the most widely cultivated species belonging to the genus Moringa and it is a fast-growing, drought-resistant species. The tree itself grows up to 40 feet (12m) tall with whitish-gray bark surrounded by a thick cork. The tree has fragile branches that droop under the weight of large pod-like capsules holding dark brown seeds and it produces fragrant, pale yellow flowers between the months of April and June.
The leaves and pods are the most nutrient-rich parts of the plant – loaded with essential amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Immature seed pods, sometimes called “drumsticks,” are rich in dietary fiber, magnesium, potassium, and manganeseare, and quite popular for consumption throughout South Asia. The seeds themselves are loaded with vitamin C and can be eaten fresh or roasted like nuts. An edible oil extracted from the mature seed, called: ben oil, has a high concentration of behenic acid and offers potential benefits as a biofuel.
What Health Benefits Do It Provide?
In traditional medicine, the leaves, seeds, flowers, bark, sap, and roots of the Moringa oleifera are valued for their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-cancer, and cardio-protective benefits. Here is an overview of the top ten benefits of Moringa:
- Helps treat constipation, ulcerative colitis, and gastritis
- Oil extracted from seeds benefits skin and hair health
- Antibacterial and antimicrobial properties protect against disease
- Anti-cancer effects may reduce the side effects of chemotherapy
- Immunosuppressant effects may help autoimmune disease patients
- Antioxidants reduce inflammation and blood sugar in diabetics
- May help to reduce cholesterol levels at a rate similar to statin drugs
- Provides a natural boost of energy due to amino acid content
- Bioactive compounds prevent atherosclerosis and hypertension
- Provides relief from bronchial asthma and airway inflammation
In addition to these health benefits, Moringa has twice the protein of yogurt per gram and four times the Vitamin A content of carrots. Its potassium content is three times higher than that of bananas and it has four times as much calcium as milk. Most impressive, however, is its Vitamin C content which is seven times higher than that of an orange.
How Do You Incorporate Moringa into Your Diet?
There are a number of ways to incorporate Moringa into your diet depending which part of the plant you use. Perhaps the easiest way to consume Moringa is in the form of a powdered supplement. Moringa powder is produced from the dried and ground leaves of the plant and it has a delightful spinach-like flavor. This powder contains 24% dietary fiber and 25% protein which includes all nine of the essential amino acids. It is rich in antioxidants, calcium, and iron as well as vitamins A, K, and E. It is one of the most bioavailable forms of the supplement and can be taken in doses ranging from ½ to 4 teaspoons per day.
In addition to taking Moringa powder as a supplement, you can use the pressed seed oil for cooking or cook the immature seed pods into soups and stews as well as vegetable and meat dishes. The fresh leaves of the Moringa tree can be enjoyed in salads or cooked into soups and sauces and the flowers can be dried and mixed with flour and spices to make flavorful desserts.
Though the leaves and seeds of the Moringa plant are generally regarded as safe, use caution when consuming the roots or stems. These parts of the plant may not be safe for women and even the leaves may have a laxative effect when consumed in high doses. Enjoy Moringa with the approval of your doctor and only take high-quality, natural supplements.