Moringa oleifera (drumstick tree) – Properties and medicinal uses

Moringa oleifera also known drumstick tree, horse radish, benzoil tree or ben oil tree is widely used in herbal medicine. It is the most widely cultivated tree of the genus Moringa, belonging to family Moringaceae. Its origin is traced to the southern foothills of the Himalayas in northwestern India. Today, it is grown all over the tropical and sub-tropical areas of the world.

moringaleavesMoringa has enormous medicinal potential, which has long been recognized in the Ayurvedic and Unani system (Mughal et al., 1999). Interestingly, the Ayurvedic system of medicine associates it with the cure or prevention of about 300 diseases. Nearly every part of this plant, including root, bark, gum, leaf, fruit (pods), flowers, seed, and seed oil have been used for various ailments in the indigenous medicine (Odebiyi and Sofowora, 1999). Awesome! Using moringa today is not limited to the indigenous ways, but it has been accepted in modern medicine by scientifically proven facts.

Moringa_oleifera_medicinal-usesBefore proceeding into the medicinal properties of moringa, I suggest you plant one for yourself. Yes! It grows very fast – just like an unwanted weed, and has very little water requirements, in fact, it can thrive even under drought conditions. Personally, I have more than 10 plants of big Moringa trees in my house, and I planted them all with my bare hands, so I guess you can do the same. And the good news is that it can be harvested all year-round, with new leaves sprouting very fast to replace the ones cut off.

That aside, Moringa is a plant packed naturally with great amounts of nutrients and several active constituents which are mostly responsible for its enormous medical profile. Just 100 grams of moringa leaves contains:

  • More than 4 times the vitamin C of Orange
  • More than 5 times the calcium of milk
  • More protein than banana
  • More iron than spinach
  • More protein than yogurt
  • More vitamin A than carrots.
Quick list of some medicinal uses of moringa
  1. Lowers blood sugar level
  2. Great anti-inflammatory
  3. Great antioxidant
  4. Effective antiseptic
  5. Lowers blood cholesterol
  6. Treats diarrhea
  7. Prevents cancer
  • Anti-diabetic

This is probably one of the most utilized medicinal properties of moringa. The consumption of leaves powder of Moringa oleifera appears to be effective in reducing blood glucose level in diabetic patients. This anti-diabetic effect of moringa has been linked to the presence of certain polyphenols.

According to a certain scientific research, Moringa leaves significantly decreased the blood glucose concentration in Wistar rats and Goto-Kakizaki (GK) rats with type 2 diabetes (Ndong et al., 2007). Another impressive scientific study demonstrated a jaw-dropping fact, showing how the blood sugar level is lowered just within 3 hours after ingestion of extracts from moringa leaf (Mittal et al., 2007).

  • Anti-inflammatory

Moringa oleifera possess a great anti-inflammatory effect, and this is due to its richness in certain non-nutritive components such as flavonoids and phenolic acids. This anti-inflammatory activity of moringa makes it exert a profound beneficial effect on most diseases associated with inflammation. It shows beneficial effects in cases of asthma, pain, arthritis, obesity, diabetes, and stomach ulcer problems.

The anti-inflammatory effect of moringa has been proved by many recent scientific studies. A recent research showed how Amelioration of inflammation associated chronic diseases can be possible with the potent anti-inflammatory activity of Moringa bioactive compounds (Muangnoi et al., 2011).

  • Anti-oxidant

The medicinal benefits of moringa are never complete without mentioning the antioxidant activity of this miraculous plant. According to the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention:

“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.”

Due to this antioxidant effect of moringa, its consumption helps prevent the damage caused by free radicals in our body tissues, thus, keeping them healthy.”

  • Anti-fungal and anti-bacterial

The consumption of moringa leaves has been proven to fight fungal and bacterial infections. A study conducted by Peixoto JR et al, 2011, evaluated the antibacterial effect of aqueous and ethanolic moringa leaf extracts (Moringa oleifera) on the growth of gram-positive and negative bacteria. These bacteria are mostly responsible for blood and urinary tract infections and as well as digestive problems.

As quoted from Miracle trees:

“Several other specific components of Moringa have been reported with antibacterial activity, including 4- (4′-O-acetyl-a-L-rhamnopyranosyloxy) benzyl isothiocyanate, 4-(a-L-rhamnopyranosyloxy) benzyl isothiocyanate, niazimicin, benzyl isothiocyanate, and 4- (a-L-rhamnopyranosyloxy) benzyl glucosinolate (Fahey, 2005). Other bioactive compounds, such as Spirochin and Anthonine are found in root and are active against several bacteria. Anthonine has potent inhibitory activity against Vibrio cholerae (Nwosu and Okafor, 1995). Moringa flower and leaves are also capable of controlling parasitic worms, their antihelmintic activity has been demonstrated during several studies (Bhattacharya et al., 1982). Moreover, it has also been reported to inhibit Indian earthworm Pheritima posthuma with MO leaves ethanolic extracts (Rastogi et al., 2009)”.

Other scientifically proven beneficial effects of moringa include:
  • Anti-pyretic
  • Anti-asthmatic
  • Anti-hypertensive
  • Anti-fertility
  • Anti-tumour
  • Anti-spasmodic
  • Anti-ulcer
  • Cardiac and circulatory system stimulant
  • Analgesic
Due to the above beneficial effects exhibited by moringa extracts, it can be used medicinally in the following cases:
  1. Juice from the leaves of moringa can be very beneficial in controlling the blood glucose levels of the diabetics.
  2. Leaves of moringa can also be used as an anti-helminthic. They can be eaten to kill or eliminate intestinal worms.
  3. The leaves when treated with honey are used traditionally for the treatment of diarrhoea and dysentery.
  4. Juice from the leaves of moringa (usually obtained by boiling leaves in hot water) is used as a diuretic. This makes its consumption recommended in cases of gonorrhoea.
  5. Consumption of the leaf extracts has also been proven to be effective in maintaining healthy blood cholesterol levels.
  6. Extracts from the leaves, roots, or seeds of moringa is used in fostering the healing of wounds. This is mainly due to the blood-clotting properties attributed to some compounds found in moringa.
  7. Several researches have shown how the consumption of moringa extracts can be beneficial in preventing cancerous growths.
  8. Consumption of juice from leaves fosters and stimulates the development of a healthy hair. This can be attributed to its high content of vitamin C, A, and also zinc, which helps prevent the drying and clogging of the sebaceous glands.
  9. The leaf powder of moringa is also beneficial in reducing tiredness and fatigue. This property can be attributed to its richness in iron and magnesium.
  10. Iron-deficiency anaemia! Consumption of moringa leaf extract/juice can be very beneficial to those suffering from anaemia, due to its high iron content (significantly greater than that found in the famous spinach).

Well, the above are just few of the abundant medicinal uses of moringa oleifera. You can take a look at the image below to learn even more medical benefits of moringa.


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By Abbati

Abbati studied Biological sciences at Ahmadu Bello Univeristy, Zaria. He loves learning about the medicinal properties of foods, and the need to explore them!