Moringa: A Health Boost

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Moringa is a tree that has the ability to grow where most other plants can’t. There are 14 different species of it but the one that is used today for health benefits is the ‘Moringa Oleifera’. It grows in dry places that don’t get a lot of rain, like Ethiopia and Darfur. It also has the ability to grow in tropical climates as well. This plant has a lot of health benefits which is why it is so special. The whole tree is edible. The roots, leaves, flowers, seeds, fruits, gum, and bark can all be eaten but usually just the leaves and immature fruits are consumed. Continue reading to find out what makes moringa a superfood (1).

What’s Inside Moringa

Photo of Moringa LeavesThe leaves in the plant are where all the nutritional value is stored. In 1 tablespoon of the leaf powder there are 2 grams of protein, 10% of the recommended dietary allowance of iron, 110% RDA of vitamin A, 48% RDA of vitamin C, 28% RDA of vitamin E, 16% RDA of calcium, and 85% RDA of riboflavin. It’s basically a natural multivitamin. The powder has an earthy taste to it. The leaves, which aren’t really available in the U.S. yet, taste like spinach (2).

Take Home Note:
The leaves of the Moringa tree are very nutrient dense, making them the ideal supplement to include in your diet.

Where It’s Produced

Moringa is mostly produced in India. It is grown in West Bengal and Odisha in home gardens. It is also used as fences in Thailand and southern India and is sold in local markets there. It is mostly grown for its leaves which are consumed as food. The plants are also used to protect other crops from wind and soil erosion (3).

Take Home Note:
Moringa originates mainly from India and is consumed as a food. It also has other uses such as protecting against soil erosion.

Health Benefits

Moringa has a ton of antioxidants which can help lower your cholesterol. It can even be used to wash your hands since it has antibacterial properties. It can also protect your skin from UV radiation. So you can technically wash your hands with moringa, then eat it, and then put it on your face as sunscreen (4).

Woman on Weighing ScaleThere was a 3-month study done on mice and it showed that moringa helped reduce their weight gain, insulin levels, gluconeogenesis, hepatic obesity, cholesterol and inflammatory markers. This then lead the researchers to believe that moringa could help reduce weight gain in people and help prevent or manage heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke. This is all because moringa has anti-inflammatory properties. More research is necessary to really know if moringa can have enough of an anti-inflammatory impact to prevent type 2 diabetes (5).

Vitamin A plays a key role in brain function, vision, embryonic growth and development, reproduction, and maintenance of epithelial tissue. Vitamin A deficiency is a problem in many developing countries and may play a role in child and maternal mortality (6).

The vitamin C found in moringa leaves should be able to help lower blood cholesterol levels since it turns the cholesterol into bile acids. It also decreases ferric to ferrous state which will help increase the absorption of iron.

There has been some experimental evidence that moringa leaves contain anticancer properties by protecting DNA from oxidative damage that is usually associated with degenerative diseases and cancer. Some tests have shown that taking 500mg of the moringa leaf extract for 15 days delayed the growth of tumors and also increased life span (7).

Photo of Moringa CapsulesIn Western countries today, moringa leaves are usually dried and made into dietary supplements. Moringa may also be able to improve symptoms of asthma, anemia, arthritis, constipation, diarrhea, epilepsy, intestinal ulcers, headache, kidney stones, thyroid disorders, athletes foot, dandruff, warts, skin infections, and gingivitis. Moringa may also be able to protect against arsenic toxicity (8).

Take Home Note:
Moringa is associated with a range of health benefits from lowering cholesterol, to acting as an antibacterial, to preventing weight gain.

Other Uses

Moringa isn’t only good for people, it has a few other uses as well. It is a natural plant growth enhancer. Researchers sprayed moringa leaf extract on a few crops and saw positive results. It can also replace aluminum sulfate as a water purify, which is great since aluminum sulfate is an expensive chemical. It is used as a water purifier by crushing the seeds. Moringa can also be used for biodiesel production, which can work as an alternate fuel type. The biodiesel would be able to take the place of petroleum-derived oil. It can also help developing countries to not need to depend on imported fuels (9).

Take Home Note:
Moringa has other benefits other than its health benefits for humans. It is beneficial for plant life, producing fuel, and purifying water.

Safety

Most of the moringa plant is supposedly safe to eat, but you shouldn’t eat the root or its extract. That part of the plant possibly contains a substance so toxic it may cause paralysis and even death. There isn’t enough information to know if it is safe in medicinal doses. Moringa may also contain too much anti-nutrients, which unfortunately can decrease minerals and protein absorption.

It is known that consuming any part of the moringa plant while pregnant or nursing is not safe. It may cause the uterus to contract, which may cause a miscarriage. Therefore, a woman who is pregnant should definitely avoid it. Though more research is needed, Moringa may help increase breast milk supply (10).

Pregnant Woman Consulting DoctorA safe dose of moringa is unknown. It would depend on your current health and health history along with your age.

This is why you should speak with your doctor before adding moringa to your diet.

Take Home Note:
Moringa is generally safe to take, though more research is needed for some of its uses. If you have any concerns, it is always best to speak to your doctor.

Conclusion

As you can see, the moringa plant is an extremely powerful food. It is a cheap nutritious food option for underdeveloped countries. It also can grow in climates that do not have a lot of rainfall. With all of its health benefits, it’s no wonder that it is sold as a dietary supplement. It can apparently help lower cholesterol levels and may even be able to prevent cancer. As of now, fresh moringa isn’t sold in the U.S., but that may change in the coming years. As we mentioned earlier, please speak with a medical professional before adding any new supplements into your diet, including moringa.

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