Viewed as an “energy blaster” by Dr. Oz, moringa is rapidly becoming a popular green-food supplement. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg for this versatile plant.
A Canadian scientist who studies water purification methods calls moringa “one of the world’s most useful trees,” because it grows in inhospitably dry tropical soils and its seeds can be used to purify water, thereby reducing the spread of disease. In regions where food is scarce, moringa leaves provide lifesaving nutrition, and other parts of the tree are used as medicine. At Johns Hopkins University, researchers are examining moringa’s potential cancer-fighting properties.
Moringa: Good for Whatever Ails You?
In India, the roots, bark, seeds, and leaves of the Moringa oleifera tree have been used medicinally for about 5,000 years. And it has a similar history of use in Asia, Central and South America, Africa, and Australia. According to Trees for Life International, a nonprofit organization that helps developing areas of the world, moringa has been used in traditional medicine to treat a wide range of ailments, including:
- Chest congestion
- Diabetes (type 2)
- Ear infections
- Intestinal worms
- Joint pain
- Lactation difficulties
- Pimples and blackheads
- Semen deficiency
- Skin infections
- Sore throat
- Stomach ulcers
Moringa, So Many Ways
Fresh moringa leaves aren’t available in the United States, but there are several choices of dried forms:
Powder: Dried moringa leaves that can be added to drinks, smoothies, or any food. They can also be used in cooking. For example, if you make your own spinach pasta, try adding moringa to the dough in place of spinach.
Teas: Dried leaves in tea bags can be brewed as any other tea.
Capsules: May contain dried leaves, pods, and/or extracts. For correct dosages, follow directions on the label.
Moringa is also found in some green formulas, as well as in hair care products. In countries where moringa is grown, oil pressed from the pods is used in cooking, and the pods are a popular food. Canned moringa pods are sold in Indian and West Indian markets.
Moringa leaves are rich in easily digestible protein, with the essential amino acids. They’re also packed with vitamins and minerals, including calcium, potassium, and vitamins A and C. In undernourished developing countries, moringa can rescue people from starvation. In a culture such as ours, where food is plentiful but often full of empty calories, it’s a healthy source of concentrated nutrients.
Small human studies in India show that supplements made from dried moringa leaves can help reduce elevated blood sugar levels in diabetics and lower unhealthy forms of cholesterol without depleting beneficial HDL cholesterol. Moringa contains plenty of antioxidants and is reported to help reduce inflammation, ward off cancer, and promote heart and liver health. Plus, it’s also thought to help fight H. pylori infection, the bacterium that is responsible for many stomach ulcers.
To date, human studies on moringa haven’t been conducted in the United States or other Western countries, but Jed Fahey, PhD, a nutritional biochemist and researcher at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, has studied it extensively and is the author of several articles about the plant. Fahey, who drinks a tea made with moringa powder (see “Tea Time,” above), sees the plant as an important part of the solution to world hunger. In the United States, he says, “Moringa is a nutrient-dense, protein-rich leafy green that can be used to add variety to your diet.”
When sprayed on other plants, a solution of moringa juice, used by farmers in some of moringa’s native habitats, makes trees more resistant to pests and disease, and helps to increase yield.
If you like green tea, you may also like moringa tea. Use moringa tea bags or brew one tablespoon of moringa powder in 8–12 oz. of hot water, as you would any other tea. Adjust the amount of powder to taste. Moringa tea drinkers report improved alertess and energy, but since moringa doesn’t contain caffeine or other stimulants, it shouldn’t keep you up at night.
Amazing Wellness contributing editor Vera Tweed has been writing about nutrition, fitness, and healthy living since 1997. She specializes in covering research and expert knowledge that empowers people to lead better lives.
1. DYNAMIC HEALTH Organic Certified Moringa Juice blends moringa with suprfruit juices like açai and goji berry.
2. FUTUREBIOICS Moringa provides 5,000 mg of pure Moringa oleifera leaf per capsule.
3. ORGANIC INDIA USA Moringa Leaf Powder is an easy way to add a mega dose of nutrients to smoothies, juice, or water.