Often called the drumstick tree, horseradish tree, and miracle tree, the moringa has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine (which is a traditional Indian holistic approach).
Most parts of the moringa tree are edible and are used as a source of food in the places where it grows indigenously. The young fruit pods, shaped like drumsticks, have an asparagus-like taste and its seeds can be eaten like peanuts. Moringa leaves are used as a green vegetable and the roots, which have a sharp flavor, are used to produce a condiment much like horseradish.
Moringa went largely unnoticed by the West until a recent combination of studies that reported (or suggested the potential for) favorable health advantages for this ancient medicinal plant. Little doubt, the fact that Dr. Oz featured it on his show several years back help put it on people’s radar.
Indigenous to the Himalayan regions of northern India and parts of Africa, science is finding that moringa is loaded with important nourishment and also provides a collection of phytonutrients – plant compounds that, while not necessary for life, are known for their powerful health-boosting benefits. Overall, moringa contains more than 90 nutrients and phytonutrients, some of which are thought to be unique to moringa.
1. Minerals and Vitamins
By weight, moringa provides 7x as much vitamin C as an orange and 4x as much vitamin A as a carrot – which equates to almost 3 times the RDI of vitamin A per serving of moringa. It has more niacin than peanuts or brown rice, two plant sources with the highest levels of this B-complex vitamin. It also contains 4 times as much calcium as milk, 3 times as much potassium as a banana and triple the iron of spinach (1).
2. Amino Acids
Moringa contains 18 amino acids and is one of the rare plants that contain all eight essential amino acids, making it an excellent source of complete protein, with none of the unhealthy fats found in animal products.
This naturally makes moringa a good vegan source of the branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) leucine and isoleucine, commonly found in dairy foods. These amino acids promote lean body mass and boost your brain and body’s energy consumption, keeping you both energized and alert.
Methione in moringa is purported to help support the liver, kidneys, and helps provides sulfur for healthy hair, skin, and nails.
Tryptophan, a precursor to the calming neurotransmitter serotonin, is assumed to possibly help reduce anxiety, insomnia, and improve immune function.
Tyrosine, a non-essential amino acid, is purported to help support memory and healthy function of the thyroid, adrenal and pituitary glands.
3. Healthy Oils
Moringa seed oil consists of 40% ben oil, an odorless, pleasant-tasting oil with a similar nutritional and antioxidant profile to olive oil. Of note, ben oil does not spoil easily, giving it, and moringa leaf powder, which also contains small quantities of ben oil, a long shelf life.
Zeatin, an antioxidant found in moringa at significantly higher levels than found in other plants, keeps cells healthy, wards off cell-aging damage from free radicals and prolongs the useful lifespan of cells. Zeatin also benefits the function of other antioxidants. Applied topically, some allege zeatin can help slow the premature aging of skin.
The pigment that makes plants green, chlorophyll is structurally comparable to hemoglobin except that, where hemoglobin contains iron, chlorophyll attaches a molecule of magnesium.
Chlorophyll is regarded as a blood purifier and alkalizer. Some say it promotes detoxification and strengthens the body’s defence mechanism. Moringa is an excellent source of chlorophyl, containing four times as much as is found in wheatgrass.
6. Anti-inflammatory Agents
Most of the antioxidants and other phytonutrients in moringa provide powerful anti-inflammatory benefits. Compounds with names such as caffeoylquinic acid, kaempherol and quercetin function as Cox-2 enzyme inhibitors, blocking output of pro-inflammatory chemical messengers in a similar fashion to particular prescription anti-inflammatory drugs, but with fewer dangerous side-effects. Carotenoids and flavonoids are known to help reduce inflammation and promote healthy joint function.
7. Pain Alleviation
Along with its anti-inflammatory arsenal, moringa contains a variety of compounds that may help manage and lower pain. A partial list of compounds responsible for moringa’s pain-relieving benefits includes omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, the minerals calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc and the amino acids histidine, arginine, and phenylalanine. Moringa also includes alpha, delta and gamma tocopherols, members of the vitamin E family that have been attributed as having pain-relieving functions.
Moringa seeds and leaves have been found to inhibit food-borne pathogens for example E. coli, salmonella and staphylococcus, which may make concentrated extracts of the plant useful as a safe, natural food preservative.
The seeds contain compounds that kill common water-contaminating bacteria and it also acts against fungal pathogens. It has been purported that Moringa extract might help to inhibit the herpes and Epstein-Barr viruses.
Bitter properties of the leaves are purported to provide liver cleansing benefits and the seeds have been recognized as a possible bioabsorbant for removing heavy metals.
10. Chronic Ailments
Its bark, leaf and root may help support healthy digestion. Moringine and moringinine, alkaloid compounds named for this plant, have been purported to help regulate blood glucose levels, preventing spikes that can bring about Type 2 diabetes. Consequently, after further research, moringa may turn out to be a powerful ally in the epidemic of diabetes and obesity.
Compounds in the seeds, bark, fruit, flowers, and leaves may help support the circulatory system.
Anti-inflammatory advantages of moringa seed extract have demonstrated effectiveness for the treatment of asthma, potentially helping to lessen the level of steroid drugs used by some asthma patients (3). In one clinical trial, participants who consumed 3 grams of moringa seed extract daily for 3 weeks experienced significant improvement in lung capacity with no adverse effects.
A compound called niaziminin in the plant has been shown to have possible anti-cancer benefits. Cervical, prostate, pancreatic, liver and colon cancers have been inhibited in preliminary animal or tissue culture studies.
Additionally, compounds in the plant may be beneficial for regulating thyroid function, which affects women 5-8x more frequently than men. Moringa leaf extract has been found to boost thyroid hormone levels in female, but not male rats when administered in high doses, while low doses suppressed thyroid hormone levels (4).
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