27 Dec Moringa Oleifera- An Overlooked Superfood
I’ve never been one to get overly excited about the latest and greatest “superfood” being pushed. It seems that much of the hype around the nutritional benefits of particular foods is really just clever marketing techniques. So, when I first heard about Moringa oleifera I wrote it off as just another fad, assuming that if it really was all that it was cracked up to be I’d have heard about it sooner. Turns out, that just because I (and many other health professionals) hadn’t heard about this humble little tree didn’t necessarily make it any less amazing – it simply hadn’t been officially introduced to the states yet.
Moringa, also known as the “drumstick” or “horseradish” tree, has been used medicinally for thousands of years with evidence tracing back to ancient Ayurvedic medicine to heal and prevent hundreds of diseases. It was also used by early Egyptian, Roman and Greek people for food and cosmetic uses. Originating in Arabia and India, Moringa is now found around the globe, typically thriving in climates ranging from 77-104 degrees F and annual rainfall is at least 19-inches. (1)
After crossing paths with Moringa a number of times, I was finally prompted to dig a little deeper and find out what on earth was so special about this plant that kept finding its way into my daily life. I jumped on PubMed.gov (the largest online database of peer reviewed studies) and plugged the phrase “Moringa oleifera health benefits” into the search bar and was surprised to find about 240 related studies. I plugged in “Moringa oleifera cancer” and found 40 specific studies. “Moringa oleifera inflammation” and found 29 more. I went on to plug in a number of health conditions – from diabetes to hypertension – and uncovered countless studies touting the health benefits of this little tree.(2) In fact, a number of resources claim that Moringa has been said to treat 300 different diseases!(4)
Possibly one of my favorite stories around Moringa is the plant’s use in Senegal in the “Mother and Child Health” project. While Moringa grows naturally in Africa, until recently the plant’s seeds had only been used to purify water or its leaves were overcooked, killing all of the nutrients. In 1997 the project was launched to educate public health workers around the use of the Moringa plant with a goal of using this nutritional powerhouse to combat child malnutrition. Previously, more products like whole milk powder, vegetable oils and sugars were proposed to combat the problem. These were far too expensive for most, not to mention the fact that they aren’t exactly packed with nutrition. Moringa on the other hand, grows quickly and abundantly in these regions, (it is actually nicknamed “nebeday” or “Never Die” because the plant is so hearty and easy to grow) making it an obvious, affordable candidate for improving the health of the population. In only 2-3 months, those taking Moringa experienced dramatic health improvements. A few of the results of those treated solely with moringa leaf powder included: (1)
- Abdoulaye Diallo weighed 5kg 100g at the age of five months when he was brought to the clinic on February 27. By April 13, his weight had increased to 8kg 950g.
- Maimouna Diedhiou weighed 8kg 900g at about 4 years old. One month later she weighed 9kg 900g.
- Fatmata Gassama (17 months old) weighed 6kg 350g on February 2. On May 18, she weighed 8kg 800g.
Many of the children in the project survived only on Moringa leaves (dried and fresh) or as supplement to their mother’s milk. Malnourished nursing mothers who’d previously struggled with milk production also noted drastic improvements in milk supply by simply supplementing with Moringa leaves and/or Moringa leaf powder.
If that’s not impressive enough, according to an article published in National Geographic in November 2012, gram for gram dried moringa leaves boast 25 times the iron in spinach, 17 times the calcium in milk, 15 times the potassium in bananas, 10 times the vitamin A in carrots and 9 times the protein in yogurt.3 In addition, extensive research assessing the phytocompounds found in Moringa oleifera has uncovered at least 77 antioxidants and anti-inflammatories.(6) The plant also contains 92 verified vitamins and minerals and 18 amino acids (including the 9 essential) as well as omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids! Moringa seeds are loaded with beneficial fats, and are composed of about 30-42% oil while the leaves and pods are also 1-2% oil with the primary fat being oleic acid (about 73%).(1)
For those not currently residing in climates where Moringa grows freely, I recommend adding dried Moringa to one’s daily supplement regimen. When supplementing with Moringa, I have had great success beginning with about 1 teaspoon of dried moringa (leaves, seeds and fruit) and working my way up to about 1 tablespoon (about 6 grams). When purchasing dried Moringa, there are a few key components to look for to assure a quality product.
- Correct Plant Parts. In order to obtain all of the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, amino acids, and fatty acids it’s important to find a form of Moringa that contains the leaves, seeds and fruit of the plant (rather than just the dried leaves). While the leaves are beneficial, each part of the plant contributes specific nutritional components.
- Proper Manufacturing. When purchasing any dietary supplement, keep in mind that distributors are not required to obtain approval with the FDA prior to marketing and selling the product. So, that 10-pound bag of “dried Moringa” that you’re looking at on Amazon could very well be someone’s grass clippings. I do recommend buying all supplement products from companies that have taken the extra step of getting GMP-certified.
- Shade Drying. How the Moringa is dried is essential in maintaining the nutritional integrity of the plant. While many companies will sun dry or use other forms of heat to dehydrate the Moringa plants, shade drying the plant is essential to maintain nutritional integrity.
- Sourcing. While Moringa grows all over the globe, this doesn’t necessarily mean that all forms/sources contain the same nutritional values. Numerous assessments show that Moringa grown in arid climates in India will result in the highest nutritional density and profile.(7)
While my wife and I maintain an organic diet, even hunting/fishing/growing our own food as much as possible, there’s no denying that simply living in today’s world makes us all susceptible to things like vitamin/nutritional deficiencies, inflammation and the slew of affiliated conditions. Where many might rely on a simple multivitamin to fill in nutritional gaps, I’m a strong believer in relying on food sources whenever possible. As the most nutritionally dense plant yet to be discovered, it just makes sense to incorporate Moringa oleifera into one’s daily life as we continually strive for optimal health.(7)
-Jason M. Kremer, DC, CCSP®, CSCS
Note: While there are many forms and brands of Moringa on the market, we have not taken the time to research all of the different forms and products available. Most forms of Moringa available for purchase in health food stores and online contain only Moringa leaves, which may (or may not) have been processed in a way that decreases nutritional value. We have thoroughly researched and used a product carried by the Zija brand and have found this to be of excellent quality, containing the leaves, seeds and fruit of the Moringa oleifera plant. Zija’s Moringa is organically grown, shade dried, hand picked and manufactured in a USDA-inspected, pharmaceutical-grade facility. This product can be purchased HERE. For specific product and ordering questions or to learn how to receive a discount on all orders placed with Zija please Contact Us by completing our online form.
1. Marcu, Monica G. Miracle Tree. La Cañada, CA: KOS Health Publications, 2005. Print.2) http://moringatrees.org/tmtmch.html
3. “Mighty Moringa”. Luna Shyr. National Geographic. (November 2012)
5. Mugal, K., and Haq, I.U. Moringa oleifera: a natural gift- A review. Jpsr.Pharmainfo.in
7. Plant, Joshua. Moringa Oleifera: The Natural Solution to the Nutritional Famine We Live In. N.p.: Sound Concepts, 2016. Print.