Moringa Oleifera, or the drumstick tree, is making waves in the health and fitness community. Prized in ancient cultures for its nutritional and healing properties, this humble tree is finally winning over the western world. That's because of what's in moringa: 25 vitamins & minerals, 46 active antioxidants, 18 amino acids and 36 anti-inflamatories.
Despite modern research proving what Ayurvedic Medicine practitioners have known for centuries (they claim it cures 300 ailments), moringa is still unknown to most. And there are plenty of questions around its benefits, usage and side affects.
After some digging, we've put together the top 5 questions people ask about moringa, along with unbiased, factual answers.
1. What exactly is moringa?
Moringa Oleifera is a fast growing, drought resistant tree native to northern India. These days it can be found growing throughout tropical, sub-tropical regions and beyond. Moringa's leaves and seed pods are traditionally eaten in India, the Philippines and many African countries. There is also evidence that ancient Romans, Egyptians and Greeks utilized moringa trees.
Besides nutrition, moringa trees are used in a variety of ways. In Senegal for example, trees serve double duty as living, edible fences around villages. Moringa seeds are used in Sudan to purify water (seeds contain natural flocculents). It shows great potential as a food security crop and as solution to global malnutrition in our age of climatic uncertainty. Moringa is also useful as livestock fodder and is increasingly used in cosmetics and hair products. The Western world is now finally catching on to moringa's potency as a cornucopia of bio-available nutrition.
Ways to use moringa:
- eat raw leaves in salads or add to any dish (cooking reduces nutritional value)
- add leaf powder to smoothies, soups, sauces etc.
- drink moringa leaf tea
- take moringa leaf capsules (most convenient)
- or if moringa seed pods are available, try these Indian dishes
2. What are moringa's benefits?
Sometimes it almost seems too good to be true. Claims around moringa's benefits go on and on. In fact, there are too many reported benefits to list. Here we'll break down the most common claims and cut fact from fiction. But remember, moringa is called "The Miracle Tree" for a reason.
Increased energy and mental clarity- This is simply explained by moringa's wealth of nutrients and micro-nutrients. By adding a spoonful of moringa leaf powder to a smoothie, for example, you're literally supercharging your body. High levels of B vitamins increase the absorption of potassium and magnesium, which moringa also contains in abundance. In addition, vitamin B1 assists in converting sugar into energy. You won't be hyper and anxious, but rather calm, focused and balanced.
Faster recovery- Moringa has a complete amino profile, meaning it is a complete plant protein (18 aminos and 28% protein). This makes it perfect for post workout recovery. In fact, moringa leaf powder is an ideal protein powder for vegetarians and vegans. Exercise also drastically increases oxygen utilization, which in turn increases free radicals. Moringa's 46 active antioxidants reduce this oxidative stress. The presence of multiple minerals and vitamins also support quicker recovery following depletion. There are reports that boxer Manny Pacquaio eats moringa on a daily basis.
Regulates blood sugar levels- The rare and complex combination of nutrients present in moringa help promote blood circulation, balance blood sugar levels and help maintain healthy blood pressure. This May 2007 study in the Journal of Biochemistry and Nutrition, documented a noticeable increase in glucose tolerance among a group of rats fed moringa leaf powder.
A more recent study on humans, published in the International Journal of Health and Nutrition showed similar positive results. Participants took two moringa leaf tablets per day for 90 days. By the third month the study group experienced a "significant impact" in lowering blood glucose levels.
Reduces joint pain- Joint pain and arthritis can have serious negative impact on quality of life. Many of us suffer from some form of it. Whether from genetic disposition or mechanical overuse, joint pain is no joke. Due to high levels of vitamins D and E, as well as calcium and omega fatty acids, moringa supplementation is an effective treatment against painful joints. This report from the Huffington Post acknowledges moringa's power in fighting inflammation.
There are numerous other reported benefits credited to moringa, including:
- a boosted immune system
- anti-ulcer properties
- quicker wound healing
- anti ageing properties
- anti bacterial properties
As you can see, moringa oleifera is simply overflowing with beneficial compounds. For this reason alone, it's clear that moringa can boost overall health. One only has to observe moringa's use in multiple geographically distinct cultures as proof of its high value.
3. How does moringa taste?
We're not going to lie. Moringa has a fairly strong, earthy flavor. Some liken it to arugula; it's a bit peppery and nutty. The good thing is that the flavor is quite easy to mask and you don't need much to experience the benefits. One tablespoon in 32 ounces of smoothie is enough. You can add this amount to sauces, seasonings, soups and just about any dish without an overwhelming taste. As you continue supplementing with moringa, you'll likely begin to enjoy the flavor (at least I did).
4. Can moringa help me lose weight?
In short ... not really. Some moringa companies would have you believe that moringa is some kind of magic bullet and will have you dropping pounds in no time. This is simply not true. Losing weight is about using more calories than you consume---that's it. Of course eating a balanced diet rich in leafy greens (like moringa) will keep you on the road to good health and optimal weight (you will feel satiated from proper nutrition). But claiming that moringa will directly help you lose weight is wrong. I would be wary of any company making these claims. Avoiding processed foods full of sugar, fat and empty carbs, along with consistent exercise is a much faster track to weight loss.
5. Are there any side effects to supplementing my diet with moringa?
Some experience a laxative effect when ingesting too much moringa too soon. It's important to build up your intake over time. Moringa roots, flowers and bark supposedly contain a chemical that can possibly induce miscarriage in pregnant women. We only manufacture and sell moringa leaf products. According to this UNESCO study involving moringa leaf powder, "Absolutely no adverse side effects from even the most concentrated Moringa diet were observed."
Because of the debate around this issue, we decided to add in one more Q & A.
6. Does moringa help promote breast milk production?
This is a difficult question to answer. In Africa and the Phillippines, moringa oleifera is called "mother's best friend" for its ability in boosting breast milk production. Have a look at this forum thread from whattoexpect.com and you'll see some women have had success with moringa, while others have not. This study from the Phillippines claims to support traditional claims that moringa does indeed increase milk production. If pregnant, I would suggest consulting your doctor before adding any supplement to your diet, including moringa.
Curious about integrating moringa's benefits into your life?
For additional moringa documentation:
Moringa oleifera: A Review of the Medical Evidence for Its Nutritional, Therapeutic, and Prophylactic Properties. Part 1.
Experimental Assessment of Moringa oleifera Leaf and Fruit for Its Antistress, Antioxidant, and Scavenging Potential by Suaib Luqman