Moringa oleifera is a small to medium-sized tropical tree indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. The tree is easily recognizable from its light colored knotty trunk and highly branched compound leaves. The fruit of the Moringa tree are thin, 1 ½ -2 ft. long pods. Moringa is generally known as drumstick tree due to these pods that hang from it during the big part of the year.
Although the sparse crown of the drumstick tree offers little shade from the hot sun of the tropics, it is a common fixture in almost every yard and by the wayside. The Moringa tree is known to have innumerable health advantages, but the natives value it as a fantastic food source. The leaves, flowers and the green pods of Moringa are all edible; and are widespread in Indian cuisine.
Moringa tree is drought tolerant and easily adapts to tropical and subtropical climate, enjoying wide distribution in Asia, Africa and parts of North America. It has been promoted as the Miracle Tree of Africa, because of its contribution to fighting malnutrition, checking water pollution and offering seemingly magical cures for a plethora of disease conditions.
1. Moringa offers excellent nutritional support
Having a Moringa tree in the garden is enough to fulfill the nutritional requirements of the entire household. The leaves have the highest score in this regard. Moringa leaves are a superb calcium source and a storehouse of many other minerals and vitamins. 100 grams of dry Moringa leaves contain 17 times more of calcium than milk and 25 times more iron than spinach. Their beta-carotene content is 10 times greater than carrots. They are rich in minerals like potassium, iron and zinc and in Vitamin C and B-complex vitamins.
Moringa leaves are surprisingly full of protein too, containing 4 times of what eggs provide. There are 2 grams of protein in every cup of fresh Moringa leaves. Although most vegetable protein sources are considered inferior to animal sources, Moringa has the benefit of containing all the essential amino acids, which makes it a complete protein.
2. Moringa extract lowers serum cholesterol
Mainstream medicine is starting to recognize some of the health benefits of Moringa, one among them being its ability to reduce cholesterol. Many traditional medicine systems of Asia have been using the extract of Moringa leaves and root as heart tonics. These herbal preparations have been shown to reduce serum cholesterol and the formation of atherosclerotic plaques.
Laboratory studies in rabbits have shown 50% reduction of serum cholesterol and 86% lowering of atherosclerotic plaque formation in 12 weeks of administering Moringa extract.
3. Moringa leaves help to control blood sugar
Eating a tablespoon of lightly toasted Moringa leaves early in the morning is a traditional herbal cure for hyperglycemia. Recent laboratory studies using leaf powder on diabetic animals indicate that this is indeed helpful in regulating blood glucose. The beneficial effect is partially related to the fiber content, but the quercetin-3-glucoside in Moringa as well the isothiocyanates and chlorogenic acid could be playing a crucial role.
Small-scale studies on diabetic individuals have shown promise with just 7 grams of Moringa leaves in powder form taken for 3 months. 50 grams of fresh leaves as part of normal diet has been found to significantly reduce blood glucose spikes after the meal.
4. Moringa may help fight various types of cancers
The anti-cancer arsenal of Moringa is impressive. Besides antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E, it has kaempferol, quercetin, and rhamnetin. Since cancerous growths are triggered by free radical damage at the cellular level, it is not surprising that Moringa should have an anti-cancer effect. Lab tests have proven that it has a beneficial action against liver, lung, ovarian and skin cancers. While more studies are being carried out to evaluate the clinical significance of these findings, it doesn’t hurt to incorporate more Moringa in our diet or use just 7 grams of leaf powder (1 ½ teaspoons) as a nutritional supplement.
5. Moringa reduces inflammation in the body
The inflammatory response to injuries is a vital part of the natural healing mechanism of the body, but chronic inflammation, probably due to the damage inflicted by free radicals, can have a detrimental effect on our metabolic system. Cardiovascular disease and metabolic disorders like insulin resistance and diabetes are thought to be the result of chronic inflammation.
Not only the leaves of Moringa, but its fruits and flowers used as a vegetable as well as the extract of its seeds, have anti-inflammatory action. Including them in your diet or in the form supplements may help avert these disease conditions.
6. Moringa leaves and drumsticks provide energy boost
Our body is in constant need of energy just to function normally. The energy requirements of our body for the growth and repair of tissues are met by the food we eat, but as we age, our body faces more cellular damage and becomes less efficient in the regenerative process. This makes us tired and listless. We regularly count on energy boosters like caffeine, but they only provide temporary spurts. Besides, we tend to need ever increasing doses to get the same effect.
Moringa has a heavy load of antioxidants to reduce cell damage. It also contains high levels of vitamin, minerals, and most importantly, all the essential amino acids necessary for the repair and regeneration of tissues. This highly nutritious, wholesome food can provide lasting energy boost.
7. Moringa improves immune function
Including Moringa leaves and fruit in the diet helps increase immunity and provides protection against seasonal ailments. In India, Moringa leaves are usually put into lentil soups throughout the cold and flu season to increase disease resistance. This practice is a lifesaver in poor communities where people live in crowded, unsanitary conditions with little or no access to medical facilities. Moringa leaves are part of the herbal supplement given to HIV+ve patients as an adjuvant to anti-retroviral therapy.
8. Moringa leaves promote weight loss
People taking Moringa leaf extract and leaf powder often report weight reduction. This beneficial effect could be due to many factors. The anti-inflammatory and diuretic effect helps in reducing water retention. The high fiber content reduces fat absorption in the gut. The cut in insulin resistance may prevent excess fat accumulation.
9. Moringa is wonderful for treating gastrointestinal problems
Adding a handful of Moringa leaves to soups and vegetable dishes is a good way to keep things moving. Moringa leaves have a mild laxative effect. The high fiber content facilitates easy movement of stomach contents along the digestive tract and relieves constipation. Moringa can take care of minor digestive problems due to gastrointestinal worms and microbes. The root extract is an herbal remedy for helminth worms.
10. Moringa leaves increase breast milk in lactating mothers
Of all the health benefits of Moringa, this is one of the most appreciated in Indian communities, specifically in economically weaker sections, because breast milk is the mainstay of infants in the first year of life. Moringa leaves toasted in a spoonful of butter would be given every day to lactating mothers as part of traditional postpartum care. If any ailments or general fatigue leads to a decrease in breast milk production in the following months, Moringa leaves are added to the diet again. This ensures not only plenty of milk supply but good weight gain and robust health for the infant.
The high calcium content of Moringa leaves could be an obvious basis for the increased breast milk production, but there could be more to it than that. As an illustration, the effect of calcium supplements comes nowhere near the copious milk production resulting from the use of Moringa leaves.
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