The world is experiencing a shift in people’s attitudes towards medicines and more and more people are opting for natural or nature-derived medicines. This comes along with the search for novel chemicals that can help provide treatment for a wide range of diseases. Welcome to Moringa.Works – a website dedicated to the Moringa tree and maintained by O. M. Jonathan. Continue reading…
Most of this knowledge comes from traditional medicine, which makes use of a lot of plant-based remedies. Plant-based medicines or phytomedicines are thought to be more beneficial in comparison to conventional drugs. One of these upcoming phytomedicines is Moringa. It has been known to researchers as having numerous potential health benefits, both nutritionally and medicinally. It has been in use as a food source as well as natural medicine, and almost all parts of the plant are considered beneficial to health in some way.
What is Moringa?
Moringa oleifera is a plant that is native to the Indian subcontinent and is often used as a vegetable in cooking. It is commonly known as horseradish tree, drumstick tree, sajna, kelor and sheoga.
It is a tall tree that bears white flowers in bunches that mature into long, green seed pods that have winged seeds inside them. It belongs to the family Moringaceae and is closely related to the mustard family. It originated in the foothills of the Himalayas in North India and has now spread to Africa, Arabia, South East Asia, Pacific and Caribbean regions
What is it traditionally known for?
Besides being used as a vegetable by the locals, in some regions it is also known as the miracle tree. This is because of the belief that it can cure a wide range of ailments including chronic diseases. For centuries, many cultures around the world have been using Moringa.
Its nutritional content is so high that it is used in poor countries to fight malnutrition. The immature green pods are prepared like green beans. Once the seeds are dried, they can be cooked like peas or roasted like nuts. Leaves are cooked like spinach and can be dried and powdered to use as a condiment.
It is used to treat skin problems, anxiety, anemia, asthma, blackheads, blood impurities, bronchitis, catarrh, chest congestion, cholera and other problems.
During the Egyptian period, it was used to make skin ointments. Of recent, it has also received attention for its potential use in cosmetics.
These uses drew attention to the plant, which was found to have numerous bioactive compounds. It has a lot of medicinal properties including being anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, anti-hypertensive, anti-tumor, anti-oxidant, anti-pyretic, anti-ulcer, anti-epileptic, diuretic, cholesterol lowering, renal, anti-diabetic and hepatoprotective.
Traditional uses of the leaves
- Rubbed against either of the temples to relieve headaches.
- Applied to insect bites or wounds to reduce swelling and prevent infection.
- A poultice of fresh leaves used to stop bleeding from grazes and small cuts.
- A concoction of leaves used against diarrhea and gastric ulcers.
- Against bronchitis, fevers, ear and eye infections, and painful mucus membrane inflammation.
Traditional uses of the flowers
- Sap used to improve the flow and quality of the milk of a breastfeeding mother.
- Sap used to remedy urinary problems.
- Floral tea used in as cold remedy by Haitian villagers
Traditional uses of the pods
- High fiber content helps treat diarrhea and malnutrition.
- Eaten raw as a de-wormer if eaten them raw
- Used to cure pain and spleen problems.
Traditional uses of the seeds
- To cure rheumatism, arthritis, gout, sexually transmitted diseases and cramps. Seeds are roasted and pounded properly and applied to the affected area after mixing with coconut oil. For similar ailments, many people use seed oil.
- Oil from roasted seeds encourages urination.
Traditional uses of the barks, roots and gum
- The bark and roots used for circulatory and cardiac problems, for inflammation and as a tonic. The bark is used as a digestive and an appetizer as well.
- In India and Senegal, roots are pounded and properly mixed with normal salt for making a poultice for the treatment of articular and rheumatism pains. This type of poultice is also used for relieving kidney or lower back pain in Senegal.
- The gum is abortifacient, astringent and diuretic, which is used against asthma.
Traditional uses of the oil
- To treat scurvy, hysteria, bladder troubles and prostate problems.
- To treat stomach disorders by the villagers of Oman. They also use it in hair oils and perfumes.
Nutritional composition of Moringa
The reason for Moringa’s usage is based on its nutrient content. The nutrient content of a plant gives it its medicinal, nutritional and therapeutic properties. It contains many essential nutrients, especially beta-carotene, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory agents and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. Moringa leaves have a high content of vitamin C, calcium, beta-carotene, potassium and protein. These natural antioxidants in Moringa along with flavonoids, carotenoids and phenolics enable it to extend the shelf-life of fat-containing foods.
The nutrient content varies slightly based on the harvest season, preparation method and leaf age. The incredible thing, however, is that unlike other vegetables, Moringa does not lose nutritional content over time. In fact, boiling it can increase the bio-available iron in the raw leaves by three times.
Additionally, Moringa contains a unique group of compounds that contain sugar and rhamnose, which are capable of chemoprotection through inducing apoptosis.
What are the medicinal properties of Moringa?
Liver fibrosis is usually treated by natural drugs that prevent or protect against it. Moringa has hepatoprotective properties that help prevent hepatocellular injury. It inhibits the secretion of aspartate aminotransferase and alanine aminotransferase that indicate liver health.
Additionally, leaf-extracts of the plant have been found to help reduce stress and chemical induced gastric ulcers. The extract decreases peptic acid in the stomach as well as protects against ulceration in the future.
Several chronic diseases show inflammation as a symptom. Through the anti-inflammatory properties, Moringa can treat inflammation, hyperlipidemia and hyperglycemia. The property is attributed to the flavonoids and phenolic acids.
Leaf-extracts of Moringa also reduces serum globulin, myeloperoxidase activity in the liver and decrease inflammatory cell infiltrations.
Several parts of the plant including the seed, stem, bark, leaves and root bark are known to possess antimicrobial properties. A water-based concoction of the pods can inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria and yeast strains. It appears to be stronger against gram-positive species like Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia faecalis rather than gram0negative bacteria like Salmonella and Pseudomonas.
Quite often, Moringa is prescribed for diabetic patients. It has the property of lowering blood glucose. Especially a powder made from its dried fruits has N-benzyl thiocarbamate, N-benzyl carbamate and benzyl nitrile, all of which have been proven to trigger insulin release from pancreatic cells. They also contain terpenoids which stimulate the beta cells and secrete the precursor to insulin.
As mentioned earlier, Moringa has several antioxidant compounds. These scavenge free radicals and prevent oxidative damage. The antioxidant capacity of the leaves varies and mature leaves have a higher content of antioxidants.
Studies have found that the property is due to the presence of phenolics, flavonoids and trace alkaloids in the leaves. The content varies seasonally and based on other agronomic cultivation practices.
Philippine-grown Moringa has antitumor agents that prevent the formation of tumors. It contains a chemical called niazimicin which helps the body produce antitumor promoters that protect against chemical-induced cancers. Some studies show that the ingestion of the seed extracts can help prevent tumor formation.
Moringa has been shown to help in treating or preventing cancer. It has fatty acids that modulate apoptosis in some kinds of cancer including that of the colon. It has been shown to be effective against several cancerous cell lines including lung, liver, colon and neuroblastoma. The seed extract selectively inhibits the growth of tumors and slow them. The most effective dose was found to be 500mg/kg body weight.
Neurological effects Moringa enhances brain health and cognition because of its antioxidant and neuroenhancing properties. It has also shown to help in cases of Alzheimer’s disease. It
can normalize the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline in the brain, which enables the proper functioning of memory, mood, organ function, responses to stimulus such as stress and pleasure, and mental health.
Moringa has blood-clotting agents in its leaves, roots, and seeds that benefit wound healing. These reduce the clotting time and therefore, cuts, wounds and scratches stop bleeding faster and are less prone to bacterial infections and festering.
What can Moringa be used for?
Skin and hair care
Moringa oil can protect against oxidative damage and therefore help in maintaining skin and hair health. It also contains hydrating and detoxifying elements that add shine and bounce to the hair. Because of its wound-healing and antimicrobial properties, it can be used to heal wounds, cuts and sores.
Inflammation is a symptom of many diseases and is often painful. In the condition, fluid builds up in specific tissues. Moringa can help prevent and treat this swelling.
Treating stomach complaints
Constipation, colitis and ulcers are very common disorders. Moringa can treat these due to its antimicrobial and antibiotic properties which help fight off pathogens. The high vitamin content can help optimize digestion.
Moringa also contains plenty of calcium and phosphorous which are essential bone-building elements. Along with this, the anti-inflammatory properties can help treat arthritis and heal damaged bones.
As mentioned earlier, Moringa can help lower blood sugar by promoting insulin secretion. It also improves hemoglobin levels and overall protein content.
Reducing blood pressure
The isothiocyanate and niazimin in Moringa help reduce arterial thickening and blockages, thereby ensuring that the blood pressure is maintained at a healthy level.
Improving eye health
It is well known that eyesight is improved with the help of antioxidants. These antioxidants are in plenty in Moringa, which help stop the dilation of retinal vessels, prevent capillary membrane thickening and reduce the chances of retinal dysfunction.
Moringa can reduce and control weight gain because of its high vitamin B content. However, these studies have been mainly carried out on animal models. It can help reduce weight gain, regulate cholesterol and convert fat to energy, improving overall energy levels.
Other conditions that Moringa may be able to treat
When consumed orally
- Increasing breast milk production
- Birth control
- Stomach pain (gastritis)
- Heart problems
- Kidney stones
- Swelling (inflammation)
- Thyroid disorders
- Stimulating immunity
- Increasing sex drive
- Other conditions
When applied topically (to skin)
- Athlete’s foot
- Skin infections
- Gum disease (gingivitis)
What forms of supplements are available?
Moringa is most commonly consumed as a vegetable locally. However, of late it has also been produced as supplements. These supplements are available in the powdered form of dried leaves. The powder can be mixed into food, made into smoothies or tea and consumed as such. Moringa oil is also available, and can be used as hair oil, in perfumes and to apply topically to help reduce swelling and symptoms of arthritis.
Moringa is generally safe to take orally and topically. It is commonly used as a vegetable where its leaves, fruits and seeds are used. However, avoid consuming the root or its extracts. If improperly administered, these can cause paralysis and death. It has however been used safely in doses of 6 grams daily for 3 months.
There are some reports that suggest that Moringa can have antifertility effects, hence pregnant women and couples attempting to conceive should avoid the consumption of Moringa.
Moringa also contains thyroid-regulating compounds that can have interactions with conventional thyroid medicines like levothyroxine. It can also drastically reduce blood sugar if used in combination with other diabetes medicines.
Therefore, consuming these together must be avoided or blood sugar levels must be rigorously monitored to ensure that complications do not occur. The same can be said for blood pressure regulating drugs.
Remember never to start or stop medicating yourself. Always consult a trained medical professional before taking health decisions.
Moringa is rightly marketed as a superfood, due to its high content of nutrients that can prevent and cure health problems. Its bioactivity has been carefully studied and is backed by scientific research. Most of the traditional uses match with the properties of its chemical composition. It has several uses and is a great supplement to promote your health.