moringa

Moringa or drumstick is a fast growing drought resistant tree of Indian origin. The name moringa (1) is derived from its Tamil name Murungai. It produces long hanging fruits growing up to two feet and bunch of white flowers with yellow buds at the top.

About the tree

It is widely grown in most of the households as a garden tree for the use of its flowers (2), leaves and young seed pods as vegetables. It is a deciduous tree growing up to 40 feet in height with wide branches with leaves, fruits and flower all over.

Besides the culinary use, it is also used for the preparation of certain herbal medicines. Oil prepared from the seed is also used as a medicine.

India is the top grower of the tree. Recently other countries like United States have also started growing the tree for commercial purposes. You can grow the tree by sowing the seeds and by planting the branch cuttings. It is a fragile tree with softer branches not taking deep roots in the soil.  The branches of the tree generally breaks down by wild wind blows.

The leaves and tender fruit are widely used as vegetables in all regions of India. It is the flavor and the abundant availability make it a much sought after food. You can see many varieties of recipes in the internet to prepare dishes and soups from leaves and fruits from moringa.

Nutrition facts – Leaves

The leaves and seed pods have rich nutrient value but not similar. The leaves are considered far superior in their nutrient value than the seed pod or flower. A cursory glance at the nutrition present in them will throw more light on their usefulness and confirm that the leaves are far more beneficial to the health than the pods.

I00gm raw leaves provide 64 calories of energy, 8.28gm carbohydrates, 2gm dietary fiber (3), 9.40gm protein and 1.40gm fat.

Vitamins present in the same amount (100gm) of leaves are

  • Vitamin B6 at 1.200mg (92% of Recommended Daily Amount- RDA)
  • Vitamin C at 51.7mg (62% RDA)
  • Riboflavin B2 at 0.660mg (55% RDA)
  • Vitamin A 378 microgram (47% RDA)
  • Thiamine B1 at 0.257mg (22% RDA)
  • Niacin 2.220mg (15% RDA)
  • Folate B9 at 40 micro gram (10% RDA)
  • Pantothenic acid(4)  B5 at 0.125 (3% RDA)

Minerals present are

  • Magnesium 147mg (41% RDA)
  • Iron 4.00mg (31%RDA)
  • Calcium 185mg (19% RDA)
  • Manganese 0.36mg (17% RDA)
  • Phosphorous 112mg (16% RDA)
  • Potassium 337mg (7% RDA)
  • Zinc 0.6mg (6% RDA)
  • Sodium 9mg (1% RDA)

Nutrition facts – Raw pods

100gm raw pod provides 37 calories of energy, 8.53gm carbohydrates, 3.2gm dietary fiber, 2.1gm protein and 0.20gm fat.

Vitamins present are

  • Vitamin C 141mg (170% RDA)
  • Pantothenic acid B5 at 0.794 mg (16% RDA)
  • Folate BB9 44 microgram (11% RDA)
  • Vitamin BB6 at 0.120mg (9% RDA)
  • Smaller amounts of riboflavin, thiamine, niacin and vitamin A.

Minerals present are

  • Magnesium 45mg (13% RDA)
  • Manganese 0.259mg (12% RDA)
  • Potassium 461mg (10% RDA)
  • Small quantities of calcium, iron, phosphorous, sodium and zinc.

In culinary both the leaves and the drumstick are liberally used in all the region. They are used for the preparation of curries and soups.

Health benefits of Moringa

Uses of Moringa

Besides being used as vegetables, both the leaves and tender fruit are well known for their health benefits. In Ayurveda system of Indian medicine, there is a saying that “food is the medicine and medicine is the food”. Meaning that all ailments can be cured by appropriate diet system. It is by including beneficial food items and excluding harmful food items as may be suitable for the particular person. It is based on the overall health condition and particular disorder, if any.

Consumption of various food preparation using the parts of Moringa has the potential to cure many health issues like, asthma, arthritis, constipation, stomachache,  diarrhea, high blood pressure, intestinal ulcers (5), inflammations, diabetes  heart disorders, disorders of the immune system, anemia, gum disease, skin infections etc. The list is not exhaustive.

Benefits provided by the leaves and the pods of Moringa are far too many which can be perceived easily from the nutrient table mentioned above. The leaves and pods contain almost similar nutrients but in varied quantities. Hence the discussion here is based on both and even other products like the extracts of the plant parts in general.

Some of the significant benefits are:

Protects the liver

Moringa is a super food primarily because it protects the liver. Phytochemicals such as ferulic acid (6), epicatechin and catechin together with good amount of vitamin C present in it has the potential to prevent hepatic lipid peroxidation. This is by restoring the levels of glutathione in the body. Liver damage caused is speedily recovered by regular consumption of moringa as vegetable or as extract. Normally all parts of the fruits are cooked and consumed.

Prevents and treats stomach disorders

Most of the disorders relating to the stomach and abdomen are prevented and cured by including moringa leaves and tender fruits in the regular diet. Consuming antacids or antihistamines can be avoided by consuming this food. Stomach ulcers, constipation and gastritis (7) are cured. Anti-biotic and anti-bacterial properties of moringa inhibits pylori and coliform bacteria. Since these two bacteria are also responsible for the condition of diarrhea which is averted by consuming moringa based foods. Click here to know how to use moringa to treat stomach ulcer.

Treats diabetes

Antioxidants called quercetin and chlorogenic acid present lowers the blood sugar levels. It prevents escalation of blood sugar level immediately after meals intake. More than supplements, protein from plants are known to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Removes kidney stones

Since moringa is a powerful source of antioxidants, it has the ability to dissolve kidney stones and prevent retinal dysfunction (8).

Improves bone health

It helps in strengthening the bones by the presence of calcium (9) and phosphorous. Its anti-inflammatory property helps in reducing pain due to arthritis and in healing the damaged bones. Fracture in the jaw bones is cured by regular consumption of the leaf or pod extract.

Cures Edema

Edema (10) can be cured with the anti-inflammatory property of this vegetable. Edema is such a painful condition warranting continuous treatment due to accumulation of fluids in the tissues. Moringa reduces inflammation significantly and cures edema within a reasonable time. On continuous consumption it protects such disorders caused due to inflammation in the body.

Treats respiratory issues

Consuming continuously for about a month cooked moringa leaves or young fruit gives total relief from asthma and bronchitis (11). Taking 3 grams of the pod powder twice daily reduces asthma in adults, as prescribed by Ayurveda.

Treats rheumatoid arthritis

Autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis are cured by moringa consumption. It also alleviates pain caused by inflammation.

Boosts lactation

Oral consumption of the products derived from the vegetable increases production of milk in lactating mothers. A moringa supplement at 250mg twice per day can also be consumed for this particular benefit.

Improves cardiovascular health

Isothiocyanates present in the leaves lower the blood sugar level. It also reduces sugar and protein in the urine resulting in enhanced hemoglobin level. This particular compound together with niaziminin present in the leaves prevents thickening of the walls of the arteries. Due to this, risk of high blood pressure and consequent heart attacks are also avoided. Moreover antioxidants in it helps maintaining a healthy cardiovascular (12) system.

Eliminates free radicals

Flavanoids, polyphenol and ascorbic acid present in the leaves have the potential to eliminate harmful free radicals produced during metabolism from the body. Since free radicals cause cancer cells, moringa prevents cancer with rich antioxidants present in it.

Prevents anemia

It enhances absorption of iron in the body. As iron is vital to carry oxygen to blood and to improve red blood cells and hemoglobin count, occurrence of anemia is prevented. An inherited form of anemia called sickle cell disease is cured by moringa intake. It also removes fatigue and tiredness from the body.

Other significant benefits are

  • Some studies have come out in confirmation of the potential of moringa extracts in curing cancer and neuro-degenerative disorders. This has to be established through further study and research.
  • Many studies show that moringa seeds can be used to treat erectile dysfunction. Click here to know how.
  • Moringa contains adaptogen which help in reducing stress and anxiety. It is also helpful in curing depression.
  • It is used to treat fever and flu also. Know how to use moringa to treat flu and how to use moringa to treat fever.

Benefits from moringa flowers

  • Like the flowers and young pods, moringa flowers also contain many nutrients. It is used as an herbal tea for breast feeding mothers to increase the production of milk. This is because of the presence of important amino acids with good amount of calcium and potassium.
  • In addition to this, consumption of the herbal tea boosts the immune system and provide relief for cold and sore throat.
  • Ayurveda system of medicine has been using the flowers to treat inflammations, disorders of the muscles, enlargement of the spleen. Tumors are also treated with the flowers.
  • Herbal tea is used as a tonic for men to enhance the stamina.
  • In women it is helpful in relieving menstrual cramps and bloating which are associated with the menstrual cycles. Hence, it is an ideal food during menstruation.

Other notable uses are:

Extracts of the tree parts are useful in protecting and nourishing the skin and hair. Particularly the oil extracted from the pods, are very helpful in strengthening the hair, besides cleaning impurities. They are also used in healing wounds and removing the scars in the skin.

Much of the benefits attributed to the plant and its parts are yet to be confirmed by scientific research. However they are traditionally recommended to cure various disorders.

Moringa can be consumed as a vegetable by cooking the leaves or the tender pods. They can also be added to other dishes for their flavor and to enrich the dishes.

Caution

Consumption of the extracts or other products of moringa is not recommended for pregnant ladies as it has the potential to terminate the pregnancy. Therefore, please take doctor’s advice before you consume it during pregnancy.

Ramya Srinivasan, PDGBA, earned her Master’s degree in Business. As a result of her passion in native medicine, she got her Diploma in Traditional Siddha Medicine from Bharat Sevak Samaj registered under the Indian Planning Commission. She is certified by Stanford University School of Medicine in Introduction to Food and Health.