The Benefits of Moringa

Is moringa a miracle food?

Moringa oleifera
Westend61/Getty Images

Over the past few years, a tree called moringa (Moringa oleifera) has drawn major attention as a nutrient-packed superfood. Native to India, the moringa tree produces leaves and seeds rich in antioxidants, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.

In addition, moringa leaf powder is often touted as a top source of vegetable protein since it contains all nine essential amino acids. The edible seeds contain a high amount of oleic acid (a fatty acid also found in olive oil).

Frequently referred to as a “miracle tree,” moringa has a long history of use in systems of traditional medicine throughout South Asia.

In recent years, people around the world have begun consuming moringa in various forms. Visiting a specialty food show, like one organized by the Specialty Food Association, for example, reveals multiple creative uses for the leaf powder, including nutritional bars, energy shots, smoothies, various teas, and even dietary supplements.

While the leaves and seeds of the moringa tree are most commonly prized for their possible health benefits, several other parts of the plant may also contain compounds with medicinal properties. The fruit (also called the seed pods) are rich in vitamin C.

Uses of Moringa

Like many popular superfoods, moringa is said to help with a wide variety of health problems. Since the plant is high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, it’s thought to protect against a host of health issues linked to oxidative stress and chronic inflammation (including heart disease and some forms of cancer).

It’s also claimed that moringa can help treat and/or prevent several chronic conditions, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, arthritis, asthma, and high blood pressure.

Additionally, some proponents state that moringa can alleviate headaches, ease constipation, stimulate the immune system, promote weight loss, and increase libido.

The oil is used topically for hair and skin care.

The Benefits of Moringa 

Scientific studies have found that moringa contains a number of compounds with health-promoting effects, including quercetin, beta-sitosterol, and beta-carotene.

What’s more, findings from animal-based research, laboratory experiments, and small clinical studies indicate that moringa shows promise in the treatment of several health conditions. More research is needed to confirm these findings, but there’s some preliminary evidence that moringa may protect against the following health problems:

  • Diabetes: Moringa pod extract may help fight diabetes, according to a study published in the Journal of Diabetes in 2012. In tests on diabetic rats, scientists observed that progression of the disease was significantly reduced after treatment with moringa.
  • Asthma: For a study published in the Indian Journal of Pharmacology in 2008, 20 patients with mild-to-moderate asthma were given finely powdered seed kernels of moringa for three weeks. By the study’s end, participants showed significant improvement in their symptoms and in the severity of asthma attacks.
  • Cardiovascular disease: Extracts of the moringa leaf may help treat dyslipidemia, a condition marked by elevated levels of cholesterol, triglycerides (a type of blood fat), or both. That’s the finding of a research review published in Frontiers in Pharmacology in 2012, which focused on current scientific data on the health effects of moringa leaf extract. The review also found some preliminary evidence that moringa leaf extract may help control diabetes.

    Side Effects and Safety Concerns

    Because human-based research on moringa’s health effects is so scarce, little is known about the safety of long-term use of moringa products. However, there’s some concern that consuming moringa may trigger such side effects as nausea, diarrhea, and heartburn.

    Additionally, the root and its extract should be avoided, as there’s evidence that the root of the moringa plant may contain toxic substances.

    If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you shouldn't take moringa extract.

    Before you take any kind of dietary supplement, it’s important to brush up on supplement safety.

    You can learn more about smart use of dietary supplements here.

    Should You Use Moringa to Enhance Your Health?

    Although it’s too soon to recommend moringa for any health-related purpose, adding moringa extract to smoothies or sipping the plant’s extract in tea form may boost the nutritional power of your diet.

    Go here to learn more about other great food sources of antioxidants. You can also read up on how to follow an anti-inflammatory diet here.

    If you’re thinking of using moringa to manage a chronic health problem, make sure to consult your physician first.

    Sources:

    Abdull Razis AF, Ibrahim MD, Kntayya SB. Health benefits of Moringa oleifera. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2014;15(20):8571-6.

    Agrawal B, Mehta A. Antiasthmatic activity of Moringa oleifera Lam: A clinical study. Indian J Pharmacol. 2008 Jan;40(1):28-31.

    Anwar F, Latif S, Ashraf M, Gilani AH. Moringa oleifera: a food plant with multiple medicinal uses. Phytother Res. 2007 Jan;21(1):17-25.

    Gupta R, Mathur M, Bajaj VK, Katariya P, Yadav S, Kamal R, Gupta RS. Evaluation of antidiabetic and antioxidant activity of Moringa oleifera in experimental diabetes. J Diabetes. 2012 Jun;4(2):164-71.

    Mbikay M. Therapeutic Potential of Moringa oleifera Leaves in Chronic Hyperglycemia and Dyslipidemia: A Review. Front Pharmacol. 2012 Mar 1;3:24.

    Stohs SJ, Hartman MJ1. Review of the Safety and Efficacy of Moringa oleifera. Phytother Res. 2015 Jun;29(6):796-804.

    Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

    Continue Reading