Moringa is a plant that is native to the sub-himalayan areas. It also grows in the tropics. The leaves, bark, flowers, fruit, seeds and roots are used to make medicine. Every component of the moringa tree is edible.
Common names include moringa, drumstick tree, horseradish tree, and ben oil tree or benzoil tree. It is a fast-growing, drought-resistant tree. It is widely cultivated for its young seed pods and leaves used as vegetables and for traditional herbal medicine. It is also used for water purification. Flowering begins within the first six months after planting.
In cultivation, it is often cut back annually to 1–2 m (3–6 ft) and allowed to regrow so the pods and leaves remain within arm’s reach
Moringa is used in India and Africa in feeding programs to fight malnutrition. Moringa is known to have anti-cancerous properties.
Moringa is used for anemia, arthritis, asthma, cancer, diarrhea. It improves overall gut health, helps reduce inflammation, has ability to lower blood sugar levels (diabetes type 2), can lower cholesterol, protects against tumors and cancer and can purify water. Moringa plant has the ability to bind with impurities found in water which causes them to congeal so that these clusters can be separated.
- The leaves are the most nutritious part of the plant, being a significant source of B vitamins, vitamin C, provitamin A as beta-carotene, vitamin K, manganese, potassium, fiber and protein, among other essential nutrients
- Moringa leaves have been proposed as an iron-rich food source (31% Daily Value per 100 g consumed, table) to combat iron deficiency
- Moringa trees have been used to combat malnutrition, especially among infants and nursing mothers. Since moringa thrives in arid and semiarid environments, it may provide a versatile, nutritious food source throughout the year
- It may be used as forage for livestock, a micronutrient liquid, a natural anthelmintic, and possible adjuvant.
- The leaf powder was as effective as soap for hand washing when wetted in advance to enable anti-septic and detergent properties from phytochemicals in the leaves.
- The seeds and press cake have been implemented as wastewater conditioners for dewatering and drying fecal sludge. The seed cake is obtained as a byproduct of pressing seeds to obtain oil, and used to filter water using flocculation to produce potable water for animal or human consumption. The seeds contain dimeric cationic proteins which absorb and neutralize colloidal charges in turbid water, causing the colloidal particles to clump together, making the suspended particles easier to remove as sludge by either settling or filtration. This use is of particular interest for being nontoxic and sustainable compared to other materials in moringa-growing regions where drinking water is affected by pollutants
Please note that despite its reputation in lay press as a “superfood”, there is no scientific evidence that it provides nutritional benefits beyond those of a healthy diet or has any unique pharmacological effects or anti-disease activities in humans
When can I eat it?
Moringa can be eaten at all stages of life as long as some leaves remain. A good way to absorb all the benefits of this superfood is making a fresh juice from the leaves. An example would be to collect some leaves and mix with pineapple and celery stalks in a blender.
- Fruits : When the plant is grown from cuttings, the first harvest can take place 6–8 months after planting. During the first years production is low. A good tree can yield up to 100 or more pods.
- Leaves : Average yields of 6 tons/ha/year in fresh matter can be achieved. At every harvest, the plants are cut back to within 60 cm of the ground. In some production systems, the leaves are harvested every 2 weeks.
- Flowers: pick when young
Moringa is extremely nutritious. It contains vitamins and minerals and anti-oxidants, that protect cells. The protein property in moringa is extremely high, comparable to egg and whey.
Moringa is versatile enough to be added to both sweet and savory dishes. You can blend it into shakes and smoothies, stir into oatmeal, fold it into muffin, bread, rice or steep as a tee. Can be added to nearly everything.
Many parts of Moringa are edible :
- Immature seed pods, called “drumsticks” : Prepared by parboiling, and cooked in a curry until soft
- Leaves : Cooked and used like spinach and are commonly dried and crushed into a powder used in soups and sauces. Commonly added to clear broth-based soups, such as the Filipino dishes tinola and utan. Tender moringa leaves, finely chopped, are used as garnish for vegetable dishes and salads, such as the Kerala dish thoran. It is also used in place of or along with coriander.
- Mature seeds : removed from more mature pods and eaten like peas or roasted like nuts. Mature seeds yield 38–40% edible oil called ben oil
- Oil pressed from seeds
- Roots : The roots are shredded and used as a condiment with sharp flavor qualities
- The long drumsticks are often cut into shorter lengths and stewed in curries and soups. Because the outer skin is tough and fibrous, drumsticks are often chewed or sucked out to extract the juices and nutrients, with the remaining fibrous material discarded. Traditional : South Indian sambar where it is stewed with lentils, and the Thai dish kaeng som which is a sour curry with drumsticks
The leaves, fruit and seeds might be safe when eaten as food. However, it’s important to avoid eating the root and its extract. This part may contain a toxic substance can cause paralysis and death.
Moringa has been used safely in doses up to 6 grams daily up to 3 weeks.
- Various adverse effects may occur from consuming moringa bark, roots, or flowers and their extracts, as these components contain chemicals that appear to be toxic when eaten.
- Moringa should not be used concurrently with prescription drugs affecting cytochrome P450 (including CYP3A4), the diabetes drug sitagliptin, or during pregnancy.
- Moringa bark can cause uterine contractions.
- Moringa tree extract may interfere with fertility.
- Moringa leaves increased risk of liver and kidney damage in rats.
- It’s important to avoid eating the root and its extracts. These parts of the plant may contain a toxic substance that can cause paralysis and death.
It’s likely unsafe to use the root, bark or flowers of moringa if you are pregnant. Chemicals in the root, bark, and flowers can make the uterus contract, and this might cause a miscarriage. There is not enough information available about the safety of using other parts of moringa during pregnancy. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.