Moringa oleifera is a drought-resistant tree native to India, but it also thrives in subtropical areas across the world. It goes by a few common names: horseradish tree, drumstick tree, ben oil tree and miracle tree. Some say it’s a medicinal marvel due to its many traditional medicinal applications.
For centuries, people have used the roots, seeds, flowers and leaves of moringa as a natural remedy. In traditional use, moringa (or Sajana) can treat inflammation, joint pain, heart health and various kinds of infections (bacterial, viral and fungal), according to the California College of Ayurveda. The black variety of the drumstick tree is the most common one, and it has many properties in Vedic medicine, including:
What are some of the uses of moringa that we can find in the world today? Below, we’ll discuss five health benefits of moringa backed by scientific research.
Nearly all parts of the drumstick tree can be eaten or processed for use in traditional herbal medicines. Moringa is rich in many essential vitamins and minerals. According to the USDA, moringa leaves are a good source of protein, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, iron, riboflavin and magnesium. Protein, calcium and iron all help your body build and maintain muscle. The leaves have more vitamin C than oranges, but the pods (though less nutritious) contain even more vitamin C. While moringa supplements are available, the nutritional value is far less than you can naturally obtain by introducing the plant into your diet with the guidance of a registered dietitian.
Despite its rich nutritional content, moringa leaves could also contain significant levels of antinutrients that prevent the absorption of important minerals and protein.
Moringa plant matter also possesses antioxidant properties that protect cells from oxidative stress and damage from free radicals. Oxidative stress contributes to high risk factors for hypertension and other heart-related chronic conditions. Some research suggests that antioxidants also reduce blood pressure levels and fat in the blood.
The antioxidant, hypolipidaemic and antiatherosclerotic effects of moringa present therapeutic potential in preventing cardiovascular disease, according to a 2008 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology. Additional antioxidants found in moringa are quercetin (can lower blood pressure) and chlorogenic acid (may moderate blood sugar following meals).
A 2012 study published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology analyzed the effects of a formulation of moringa leaf powder and amaranth in postmenopausal women. The study found that women who took 1.5 teaspoons of moringa leaf powder each day for three months had increased blood antioxidant levels.
High blood sugar can put one at risk of serious health concerns, such as diabetes and heart disease. A compound found in moringa called isothiocyanates may present a key to lowering blood sugar. The 2012 study featured in the Journal of Food Science and Technology also found that moringa leaf powder reduced fasting blood sugar levels in women by 13.5%.
A limited 2009 study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition followed six people with diabetes. Researchers discovered that introducing 50 grams of moringa leaves to one’s plate reduced the increase in blood sugar by 21%.
Inflammation is a natural protective mechanism that the body uses to respond to injury or infection. However, it can get out of hand if triggered too frequently in the long term. Sustained inflammation in the body is linked to several chronic health concerns, such as cardiovascular disease.
A varied diet with whole vegetables and fruits with helpful herbs and spices can help combat excess inflammation in the body with anti-inflammatory effects. Isothiocyanates are the primary anti-inflammatory compounds found in moringa leaves, seeds and pods that may aid in reducing inflammation in a similar way. However, studies have been limited to animal and test-tube research, and further studies on humans are needed to provide conclusive evidence.
High cholesterol has also been linked to an increased risk of developing heart disease. Certain plant foods have shown potential in reducing cholesterol, including nuts and seeds.
Moringa has also shown beneficial effects in reducing cholesterol in a similar way. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that rabbits treated with a water extract of moringa leaves for 12 weeks had lowered cholesterol levels by around 50%. Atherosclerotic plaque formation decreased by around 86%. Researchers found that moringa also holds therapeutic potential for the prevention of cardiovascular disease.
Yes, it’s generally considered safe to consume moringa plant matter and supplements. No adverse effects have been reported in human studies, according to a 2015 review published in Phytotherapy Research. However, researchers warn that pregnant women should not consume moringa bark or plant pulp as chemicals in either may lead to uterine contractions resulting in miscarriage.
According to the review, moringa leaf extracts show the greatest antioxidant activity, and moringa’s immature seed pods and leaves are widely used as food products in human nutrition.
Moringa supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA, and there are no established recommendations for dosage. Speak with your doctor or registered dietitian before consuming moringa.
Tiffany Chaney is an environmental and wellness writer dedicated to advocacy, ethics, and transparency. Chaney holds a BA in creative writing from Salem College and completed an apprenticeship in western herbalism and Traditional Chinese Medicine at the Tree of Life Wellness Center and Piedmont Herb School in Winston-Salem, NC. She is also a published creative writer and artist, currently living in Virginia.