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Moringa Oleifera – A Review


A Review of the Medical Evidence for Its Nutritional, Therapeutic, and Prophylactic Properties. Part 1.


Moringa oleifera is the most widely cultivated species of a monogeneric family, the Moringaceae, that is native to the sub-Himalayan tracts of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. This rapidly-growing tree (also known as the horseradish tree, drumstick tree, benzolive tree, kelor, marango, mlonge, moonga, mulangay, nébéday, saijhan, sajna or Ben oil tree), was utilized by the ancient Romans, Greeks and Egyptians; it is now widely cultivated and has become naturalized in many locations in the tropics. It is a perennial softwood tree with timber of low quality, but which for centuries has been advocated for traditional medicinal and industrial uses. It is already an important crop in India, Ethiopia, the Philippines and the Sudan, and is being grown in West, East and South Africa, tropical Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, Florida and the Pacific Islands. All parts of the Moringa tree are edible and have long been consumed by humans. According to Fuglie (47) the many uses for Moringa include: alley cropping (biomass production), animal forage (leaves and treated seed-cake), biogas (from leaves), domestic cleaning agent (crushed leaves), blue dye (wood), fencing (living trees), fertilizer (seed-cake), foliar nutrient (juice expressed from the leaves), green manure (from leaves), gum (from tree trunks), honey- and sugar cane juice-clarifier (powdered seeds), honey (flower nectar), medicine (all plant parts), ornamental plantings, biopesticide (soil incorporation of leaves to prevent seedling damping off), pulp (wood), rope (bark), tannin for tanning hides (bark and gum), water purification (powdered seeds). Moringa seed oil (yield 30-40% by weight), also known as Ben oil, is a sweet non-sticking, non-drying oil that resists rancidity. It has been used in salads, for fine machine lubrication, and in the manufacture of perfume and hair care products (158). In the West, one of the best known uses for Moringa is the use of powdered seeds ” Make Comments 3 to flocculate contaminants and purify drinking water (11,50,113), but the seeds are also eaten green, roasted, powdered and steeped for tea or used in curries (50). This tree has in recent times been advocated as an outstanding indigenous source of highly digestible protein, Ca, Fe, Vitamin C, and carotenoids suitable for utilization in many of the so-called “developing” regions of the world where undernourishment is a major concern.

Moringa trees have been used to combat malnutrition, especially among infants and nursing mothers. Three non-governmental organizations in particular—Trees for Life, Church World Service and Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization—have advocated Moringa as “natural nutrition for the tropics.” Leaves can be eaten fresh, cooked, or stored as dried powder for many months without refrigeration, and reportedly without loss of nutritional value. Moringa is especially promising as a food source in the tropics because the tree is in full leaf at the end of the dry season when other foods are typically scarce. A large number of reports on the nutritional qualities of Moringa now exist in both the scientific and the popular literature. Any readers who are familiar with Moringa will recognize the oft-reproduced characterization made many years ago by the Trees for Life organization, that “ounce-for-ounce, Moringa leaves contain more Vitamin A than carrots, more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach, more Vitamin C than oranges, and more potassium than bananas,” and that the protein quality of Moringa leaves rivals that of milk and eggs. These readers will also recognize the oral histories recorded by Lowell Fuglie in Senegal and throughout West Africa, who reports (and has extensively documented on video) countless instances of lifesaving nutritional rescue that are attributed to Moringa (47,48). In fact, the nutritional properties of Moringa are now so well known that there seems to be little doubt of the substantial health benefit to be realized by consumption of Moringa leaf powder in situations where starvation is imminent. Nonetheless, the outcomes of well controlled and well documented clinical studies are still clearly of great value. In many cultures throughout the tropics, differentiation between food and medicinal uses of plants (e.g. bark, fruit, leaves, nuts, seeds, tubers, roots, flowers), is very difficult since plant uses span both categories and this is deeply ingrained in the traditions and the fabric of the community (85). Thus, Table 1 in this review captures both nutritional and medicinal references as they relate to Moringa, whilst avoiding most of the better known agro-forestry and water purification applications of this plant. The interested reader is also directed to the very comprehensive reviews of the nutritional attributes of Moringa prepared by the NGOs mentioned earlier (in particular, see references 47,123,157).


Moringa Oleifera: A Natural Gift



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