What is Moringa and What are Health Benefits of Moringa?
Moringa oleifera, also known as drumstick tree or the “miracle tree”, is a highly valued and versatile plant which belongs to the Moringaceae family. It is a fast-growing, deciduous tree that is native to India and is widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical areas all over Asia, Africa, and South America. It is widely known by many other names, including tree and Ben oil tree.
Although modern science has recently discovered its value, moringa has been imparting a multitude of benefits across various cultures since ancient times. It was valued by the Romans, Egyptians, and Greeks for its medicinal impact on a range of ailments. Today, its usage has been encouraged by various humanitarian organizations to combat malnutrition and its effects in poverty-stricken regions, mainly due to its economic viability and rapid growth. Due to its extraordinary and unmatched range of medicinal benefits, it was named the “miracle tree” during the food crisis in Africa.
Its tree has a thick, whitish bark with droopy, fragile branches and long, green, oval-shaped leaflets. In Ayurvedic therapy, it is valued for its impressive range of therapeutic uses, commonly attributed to its antifungal, antiviral,antidepressant, and anti-inflammatory properties. In some areas, it is simply known as ‘shigru’.
Health Benefits of Moringa
The moringa plant offers a rich blend of powerful antioxidants such as kaempferol, caffeoylquinic acid, zeatin, quercetin, rutin, chlorogenic acid, and beta-sitosterol. These powerful antioxidants found in moringa possess free radical scavenging capacity and have shown its therapeutic value in curing the damage caused by oxidative stress.
Treats Blood Sugar Levels
Research studies have demonstrated that treatment with moringa works positively towards the reduction of blood glucose, urine sugar, and urine proteins in diabetic test subjects. Intake of its extract has shown a remarkable improvement in the hemoglobin levels and total protein content of the diabetic subjects. A study by Dr. Majambu Mbikay, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Canada, confirms that its leaves can be used to prevent chronic hyperglycemia and dyslipidemia (high blood lipid levels).
Moringa is effective in maintaining optimal levels of blood pressure and cholesterol levels in the body. Bioactive components such as isothiocyanate and niaziminin present in it prevent the thickening of arteries and reduce the development of pulmonary hypertension. Studies have confirmed its hypocholesterolemic effects help in reducing a high-fat rise in the liver, kidney, and serum cholesterol levels.
Moringa extracts are beneficial in the treatment of edema. Research studies have confirmed that treatment with drumstick root extract, which possesses anti-inflammatory qualities, has been significantly effective in inhibiting the development of edema. Moreover, these studies suggest that the efficacy of this herb stands equal with the potent anti-inflammatory medicine indomethacin in the treatment of such painful conditions.
Moringa extracts exert a hepatoprotective effect on the liver. A research study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food has validated the effectiveness of its leaves against the liver damage caused by anti-tubercular drugs as well as its stimulating effects in speeding up the recovery process. It helps to restore the levels of glutathione content in the body and prevents radiation-induced hepatic lipid peroxidation. This protective effect is attributed to the presence of phytochemicals such as catechin, epicatechin, ferulic acid, and vitamin C found in drumstick.
Treats Stomach Disorders
The isothiocyanates present in moringa are effective in the treatment of abdominal disorders such as constipation, gastritis, and ulcerative colitis. Researches have shown that its extracts can be considered as an effective herbal alternative to a range of commercially available antacids and antihistamines.
According to a study published in the Phytomedicine journal, treatment with moringa leads to reduced ulceration and its efficacy in curing ulcerative colitis is comparable with the commercially available drug prednisolone. It contains antibiotic and antibacterial properties and exerts inhibitory effects on the growth of various pathogens. This includes helicobacter pylori bacteria and coliform bacteria, which can trigger diarrhea. It also helps in combating obesity thanks to its high nutritional and low-fat properties. The impressive content of vitamin B in its leaves aids in digestion and converts the food into energy rather than storing it as fat.
Skin Care & Hair Care
Moringa seed oil is beneficial for the skin and hair and is effective against the infection caused by the herpes simplex virus. The healing effects of this herb prevent the development of skin lesions and inhibit the formation of plaque caused by the infecting virus. The hydrating and detoxifying effects of moringa extracts help in neutralizing the effects of harmful pollutants, prevent wrinkles and slowdowns aging. The high protein content of drumstick aids in protecting the dermal cells from damage caused by heavy metals such as mercury and cadmium. For the same reason, it is used in the production of cosmetics and skin care products as well.
The favorable effects of moringa seed oil for hair care have been appreciated since ancient times. It is highly beneficial in protecting the hair from environmental damage, including ultraviolet radiation. It serves as a valuable conditioner for the scalp, strengthens the roots, and stimulates hair growth too.
Acts as Antibacterial Agent
It possesses antibacterial, antifungal, and antimicrobial properties, and is effective against the growth of disease-causing microbes. Scientific research has proven that moringa extracts exert a wide spectrum of protective activity against food-borne microorganisms such as Salmonella, Rhizopus species, E. Coli, Enterobacter aerogenes, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus. This defensive activity makes its extracts perfect for sanitation and preservation purposes. Leaves of this plant possess anti-fungal qualities. The inhibitory effects of moringa help in preventing the growth of diseases causing contaminant fungi such as Aspergillus spp. and Penicillium spp.
Moringa is an anticancer agent and is highly valued in tumor therapy. A review on the nutritive importance and medicinal application of Moringa oleifera emphasis the various medicinal properties of moringa, including its anti- cancer property. A research has demonstrated that its extracts possess chemopreventive properties attributed to the presence of the phenolic components quercetin and kaempferol. Another study has demonstrated the role of the bioactive compound niazimicin in restraining the development of cancer cells. Drumstick extracts impart chemo-modulatory effects towards curing various types of cancers such as ovarian cancer, hepatic carcinogenesis, and skin papillomagenesis by inhibiting the proliferation of malignant cancer cells and inducing apoptosis, also known as programmed cell death.
Treats Neurodegenerative Diseases
The effectiveness of moringa has been very valuable in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. Research studies have shown that treatment with its extracts has the potential to alter brain monoamines like norepinephrine serotonin, and dopamine, and it extends its protection against monoaminergic deficiencies related to Alzheimer’s disease.
Improves Bone Health
Moringa extracts are beneficial for maintaining healthy bones, which is attributed to the presence of essential minerals like calcium and phosphorous. Its extracts possess anti-inflammatory properties and are effective in the treatment of painful conditions such as arthritis, while also helping to heal various bone ailments such as mandibular or jaw bone fracture.
The ethanolic extracts of moringa leaf help in stimulating the immune system of the body. It also helps in enhancing the cellular immune response and exerts positive effects on various other immune system values such as total leucocyte count, antibodies, and hypersensitivity reaction.
Has Immunosuppressive Properties
The seeds of moringa possess immunosuppressive properties. Deliberate immunosuppression is required to inhibit the activation of the body’s immune system in order to prevent the rejection of certain treatments, particularly organ transplants and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. A research published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology demonstrated that the immunosuppressive action of drumstick seeds helps in ameliorating the production of antibodies to allow new organs and transplanted material to settle safely in the body.
Protects Cardiovascular System
Moringa extracts are helpful in the prevention of myocardial or cardiac damage, due to the presence of powerful antioxidants. They exert antidiabetic effects in the treatment of diabetes mellitus. Research studies conducted on this subject have provided supporting evidence that proves the antiperoxidative and cardioprotective effects of moringa therapy. Treatment with it helps in inhibiting the increase in lipid peroxidation in the myocardial tissue and aids in maintaining a healthy heart.
The benefits of moringa plant extracts include relief from bronchial asthma and inflammation caused in the airways. The extracts of moringa seeds possess anti-allergenic qualities. Scientific research has validated the inhibitory action of moringa on the hypersensitive reactions involved in various allergic diseases, including allergic rhinitis and anaphylaxis. According to research, treatment with the vegetable helps reduce the severity of asthmatic attacks and various symptoms such as wheezing, cough, dyspnea, and contraction of the chest. It extends its protective effects against bronchial constrictions and encourages better lung function and respiration.
Prevents Stone Formation
Moringa extracts are effective against the formation of stones in the kidney, bladder, and uterus. According to research studies, the administration of its root exerted anti-urolithiatic activity and resulted in a noteworthy reduction in the urinary oxalate levels. The curative effect of moringa has also shown a reduction in the formation of stone deposits and aids in regulating endogenous oxalate synthesis.
Protects against Kidney Problems
Moringa extracts exert a protective effect against nephrotoxicity, which refers to the kidney problems caused as a consequence of exposure to certain drugs or toxins. Studies have revealed that the nephroprotective effect of moringa helps in attenuating renal injuries due to its high antioxidant content. It serves as an effective bio-absorbent and helps in the removal of heavy metals and harmful toxins.
Has Anti-fertility Effects
Moringa possesses anti-fertility qualities as well. Aqueous extracts of moringa exert estrogenic activity and are beneficial in the prevention of sexual implantation in the body.
Aqueous extract of moringa possesses significant wound healing properties. Research studies have provided supporting evidence regarding the healing effects of moringa in the treatment of wounds with respect to skin-breaking strength, wound closure rate, and reduction in the scar area.
Improves Eye Health
Antioxidant-rich moringa is beneficial for providing protection against retinal damage. Scientific studies have provided supporting evidence regarding the retino-protective effects of moringa in test subjects. Treatment with it helps in preventing the dilatation of retinal vessels and keeps the retinal vasculature intact. It also inhibits the thickening of capillary membranes and prevents retinal dysfunction.
Treats Anemia & Sickle Cell Disease
Moringa extracts are beneficial in the treatment of anemia and sickle cell diseases. Studies have provided supporting evidence regarding the fact that treatment with moringa aids in facilitating the absorption of iron, increasing the red blood cell count and helping to maintain normal blood parameters. Recent studies have also validated the anti-sickling potential of moringa plant extracts, which is attributed to the presence of zinc and flavonols such as kaempferol, quercetin, and acacetin, as well as phenolic acids such as melilotic acid and vanillic acid.
Moringa helps in improving sensory perception and memory. It possesses anti-epileptic properties and helps in combating depression,anxiety, and fatigue. The anti-inflammatory properties and high vitamin content of moringa are valuable for treating scurvy and catarrhal conditions. It is useful for the regulation of thyroid hormones and is effective in curing skin infections and sores. In the Philippines, it is referred to a mother’s best friend because of its galactagogic properties.
Word of Caution
It is a highly nutritious plant and is generally safe for consumption. However, its usage for therapeutic relief should only be considered after consultation with a medical professional. Also, the roots and bark of moringa have an abortive effect and are not recommended during pregnancy.