Moringa Oleifera: India’s ‘Miracle Tree’
In a world where alternative therapies, naturalistic medications and previously unheard-of superfoods are, quite rightly, getting the recognition they deserve, Moringa oleifera may just trump them all.
Dubbed ‘The Miracle Tree’, Moringa is a rapidly growing, incredibly hardy plant native to the rolling Himalayan foothills of Northwest India. A staple of the ancient Ayurvedic medicine of India (one of the oldest healing medicine systems in the world), Moringa has now been ‘discovered’ by Western culture.
It’s not hard to see why; the robust plant is incredibly nutritious, requires minimal attention – it grows as fast as any weed – and boasts a dazzlingly wide array of identifiable health benefits.
A study in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention examined the nutritional qualities of the Moringa Tree. It found that the tree is packed with as much natural goodness as could ever be hoped for from a single source.
In terms of essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals, it just can’t be beat. Compared to the same quantity of other vegetables and dairy products, it found that just 100 grams of dry leaf from the tree contains:
- 25 times the iron of spinach
- 15 times the potassium of bananas
- 17 times the calcium of milk
- 10 times the vitamin A of carrots
- 9 times the protein of yogurt
- 12 times the vitamin C of oranges
Those are the kinds of figures you might expect from a carefully constructed smoothie, not from just one source. But there’s more. The study goes on to discuss the leaves’ antioxidant properties:
“The leaves of the Moringa oleifera tree have been reported to demonstrate antioxidant activity due to its high amount of polyphenols. Moringa oleifera extracts of both mature and tender leaves exhibit strong antioxidant activity against free radicals, prevent oxidative damage to major biomolecules, and give significant protection against oxidative damage.”
As if the out-and-out nutritional value of Moringa weren’t enough, it turns out that the tree has, for thousands of years, been used as a medication for various ailments. Now, modern scrutiny and testing is showing that these ancient remedies have the potential to be highly effective.
The Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that Moringa significantly lowered cholesterol levels in rabbits, comparable in effectiveness to some prescription medications. Maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that the tree’s leaves have been used as cardiotonic in traditional Eastern medicine.
What’s more, Moringa oil (which can be harvested from the tree’s leaves, seeds and seedpods) has been used as an anti-inflammatory in treating stomach ulcers, lower blood-sugar levels (interesting news for any diabetics out there) and could even help protect animals from dangerous toxins that can find their way into the food chain. It has even been shown to bind to impurities in water, stripping out unwanted particles and contaminants.
Moringa and Me: Consuming Moringa
The leaves, seeds and seedpods of the tree are packed full of all of the afore-mentioned goodness. Even the bark can be used as a spice, tasting similar to horseradish. The leaves can be eaten fresh however you like them: in a salad, in a smoothie or just to nibble on as a snack.
You can also find Moringa powder out there, which is a concentrated version of the leaves ground up and easy to add to any meal and/or drink. Moringa oil (sometimes called “Ben oil”) is also available, and can be used much like olive oil. Any good health food store should have one or all of these options available to you, but the price will likely be steep. If you can afford to wait, Amazon (as always) has the highest selection and best prices, but shop carefully! Many of the benefits written about in this article can be lost through poor quality or profit-focused processing.
So, if you want to reap the true rewards of this insanely nutritious, cholesterol-lowering antioxidant, make sure you get some quality guarantees with the product, and watch for company transparency. If you get your hands of some of the good stuff, your body will definitely thank you for it.