By Prof. Raphael Nyarkotey Obu
Moringa powder and capsule
Moringa oleifera is a plant that has been praised for its health benefits for thousands of years. It is very rich in healthy antioxidants and bioactive plant compounds. It is also regarded as the ‘Tree of Life.’ It has also been reported that scientists have only conducted studies on a few areas of this plant. In recent times, Moringa has also been nicknamed the Ben oil tree. Due to its arrays of super health benefits, in 2008, the National Institute of Health called Moringa (Moringa oleifera) the “plant of the year,” admitting that “possibly like no other single species, Moringa can help deal with environmental problems and provide for many unmet human needs.”
The most important aspect of this plant in the Naturopathic world is that more than 1,300 studies, articles, and reports have been conducted on Moringa benefits, recognizing that many phytochemicals in Moringa help to deal with the many health conditions in areas where this plant is cultivated and in turn improves the many nutritional deficiencies in these communities.
Women processing Moringa
One study by Anwar et al. (2007) reports that Moringa (moringa oleifera) has more than 100 names in diverse languages globally. It is believed to have its root in India, specifically, native to the Himalayan mountains and Africa. Additionally, moringa has more than 90 protective compounds, including isothiocyanates, flavonoids, and phenolic acids.
Though many species exit, moringa oleifera) is the most relevant and utilized in naturopathy. Ayurveda practitioners have used this plant for many years before the emergence of scientific studies to demonstrate its efficacy and potency in medical conditions. Its nutritional content is unmatched, especially from the leaves and pods(Stohs and Hartman, 2015). Recently, it has also gained a huge reputation for averting inflammation (Kou et al. 2018) and helping to solve so many nutritional deficiencies and aging. This led many scientists to call the plant “the miracle plant.”
Moringa, Nutritional Profile
Women in rural Senegal adopt moringa to improve nutrition
Every part of this great plant has nutritional and medicinal properties; leaves, seeds, flowers/pods, stem, and roots. Levy, J(2020) article confirmed that the most popular medicinal use of this plant involves drying and grinding down the leaves, where most of the antioxidants are found. For instance, one study by Vergara-Jimenez et al.(2017) found that moringa powder is loaded with phytochemicals, protein, calcium, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and potassium. The powder is loaded with a concentrated source of vitamin A, and this is prescribed to so many children in developing countries annually facing a life-threatening vitamin A deficiency. This, the Epoch Times linked to impaired immune function.
Apart from using moringa to avert vitamin A deficiency, it has also been reported that eating moringa helps to enhance our intake of trace minerals, amino acids, and phenolic compounds. The University of Michigan reports that moringa is also loaded with phytonutrients, such as flavonoids, glucosides, glucosinolates, zeatin, quercetin, beta-sitosterol, caffeoylquinic acid, and kaempferol. Apart from the leaves, the pods of the moringa tree are also loaded with a healing type of oil. Oil from moringa seeds can be used to cook with or put directly onto the surface of the body.
Compared to the leaves, the pods are generally lower in vitamins and minerals. However, they are exceptionally rich in vitamin C. One cup of fresh, sliced pods (100 grams) contains 157% of your daily requirement. An African moringa organization, Kuli Kuli, reports that gram for gram, the plant contains:
Two times the amount of protein in yogurt
Four times the amount of vitamin A as carrots
Three times the amount of potassium as bananas
Four times the amount of calcium as cow’s milk
Seven times the amount of vitamin C as oranges
Though moringa supplements are marketed, it has been reported that Moringa oleifera supplements in capsules won’t supply a large number of nutrients. The amounts are negligible compared to what you consume if you eat a balanced diet based on whole foods. Additionally, two studies (Teixeira et al. 2014; Richter et al. 2003) found that Moringa leaves also have the tendency to be loaded with high levels of antinutrients, which can prevent the intake of minerals and protein.
Finally, the US Department of Agriculture reports that one cup of fresh, chopped leaves (21 grams) contains:
Protein: 2 grams
Vitamin B6: 19% of the RDA
Vitamin C: 12% of the RDA
Iron: 11% of the RDA
Riboflavin (B2): 11% of the RDA
Vitamin A (from beta-carotene): 9% of the RDA
Magnesium: 8% of the RDA
Antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds
Moringa can be used to improve animal health
It has been reported that Moringa oleifera appears to have the same abilities as some conventional drugs. The difference is that moringa has minimal side effects as compared to conventional drugs. Moringa is loaded with antioxidants.
Three studies (Chumark et al. 2008; Sreelatha and Padma, 2009; Verma et al. 2009) found diverse antioxidant plant compounds in the leaves of Moringa oleifera.
Two studies( Amaglo et al. 2010; Coppin et al. 2013) also found the following:
Quercetin: This powerful antioxidant could aid in decreased blood pressure(Edwards et al. 2017; Larson et al. 2012)
Chlorogenic acid: Two studies (Dijk et al. 2009; Tunnicliffe et al. 2011) also found this phytocompound in high amounts in coffee, chlorogenic acid could aid in lowering blood sugar levels after meals. One study in women found that taking 1.5 teaspoons (7 grams) of moringa leaf powder daily for three months significantly improved blood antioxidant levels
Shah et al.(2015) study also found that Moringa leaf extract could be adopted as a food preservative. It increases the shelf life of meat by reducing oxidation.
An earlier study by Razis et al. (2014) also reports that moringacontains a mix of essential amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), carotenoid phytonutrients (the same kinds found in plants like carrots and tomatoes), antioxidants, such as quercetin, and natural antibacterial compounds that work in the same way as many anti-inflammatory drugs.
Hybertson et al.(2011) study also found that these compounds in moringa protect the heart, act as natural circulatory stimulants, and possess antitumor, anti-epileptic, anti-ulcer, antispasmodic, antihypertensive, and antidiabetic effects.
Moringa, blood sugar
Both animal and human studies have confirmed that moringa can lower blood sugar. For instance, three animal studies (Mbikay et al. 2012; Ndong et al. 2007; Jaiswal et al. 2009) have demonstrated moringa’s ability to lower blood sugar. Another rat study by Al- Malki et al.(2015) demonstrated that antidiabetic activities of low doses of moringa seed powder (50–100 milligrams per kilogram body weight) help increase antioxidant status and enzyme production within the liver, pancreas, and kidneys of rats and prevent damage compared to control groups. They also found that high levels of immunoglobulin (IgA, IgG), fasting blood sugar, and glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) — three markers seen in diabetics — were also found to decrease as a result of moringa given to rats with diabetes.
In human studies, William et al. (2009) used six people with diabetes and found that adding 50 grams of moringa leaves to a meal reduced the rise in blood sugar by 21%. Another, report in an article by Arnarson, (2018) used 30 women and found that taking 1.5 teaspoons (7 grams) of moringa leaf powder daily for three months reduced fasting blood sugar levels by 13.5%, on average.
Moringa’s ability to reduce blood sugar levels is attributed to the presence of isothiocyanates, which Waterman et al. (2015) found that is present in moringa leaf tied to natural protection against diabetes. Additionally, the presence of a type of acid called chlorogenic acid, which has been shown by (Dijk et al. 2009; Tunnicliffe et al. 2011) to help control blood sugar levels and allow cells to take up or release glucose (sugar) as needed. This gives it natural antidiabetic and hormone-balancing properties.
Moringa, Cholesterol, enhances digestive health
Both animal and human studies (Chumark et al. 2008; Mbikay, M, 2012; Mehta et al. 2003; Ghasi et al. 2000), have found that Moringa oleifera could lower cholesterol levels. Additionally, Minaiyan et al.(2014) also found that due to its anti-inflammatory properties, moringa has been used in the ayurvedic system of healing to avert or treat stomach ulcers, liver disease, kidney damage, fungal or yeast infections (such as candida), digestive complaints, and infections. The oil, for instance, boosts liver function, hence ridding the body of harmful substances, such as heavy metal toxins. It might also be capable of helping fight kidney stones, urinary tract infections, constipation, fluid retention/edema, and diarrhea.
Moringa, Brain support
As a protein diet, and a rich source of the amino acid tryptophan, Medline Plus notes that moringa supports neurotransmitter functions, including those that produce the “feel good” hormone serotonin. Another by Debnath et al.(2010) found that moringa antioxidants could enhance thyroid health, which could help maintain high energy levels plus fight fatigue, depression, low libido, mood swings, and insomnia.
Nourishes the Skin
Many have used moringa oil to enhance their skin. One study by Ali et al.(2014) found that moringa has natural antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral compounds that protect the skin from various forms of infections. It can be applied on the skin to reduce athlete’s foot, eliminate odors, reduce inflammation associated with acne breakouts, treat pockets of infection or abscesses, get rid of dandruff, fight gum disease (gingivitis), and help heal bites, burns, viral warts, and wounds.
Levy, J(2020) also notes that the oil is applied directly to the skin as a drying, astringent agent used to kill bacteria, but at the same time, when used regularly, it’s known to act like a lubricant and hydrate the skin by restoring its natural moisture barrier. It’s a common ingredient used in food manufacturing and perfumes because it prevents spoilage by killing bacteria — plus it has a pleasant smell and reduces odors.
Moringa, Stabilizes hormones and Slows the Effects of Aging
One study by Kushwaha et al.(2014) reported by Levy, J(2020) article has it that a study tested the effects of moringa (sometimes also called “drumstick”) along with amaranth leaves (Amaranthus tricolor) on levels of inflammation and oxidative stress in menopausal adult women. The researchers wanted to investigate if these superfoods could help slow the effects of aging by balancing hormones naturally.
Levels of antioxidant status, including serum retinol, serum ascorbic acid, glutathione peroxidase, superoxide dismutase, and malondialdehyde, were analyzed before and after supplementation, along with fasting blood glucose and hemoglobin levels.
They found that supplementing with moringa and amaranth caused significant increases in antioxidant status along with significant decreases in markers of oxidative stress. Better fasting blood glucose control and positive increases in hemoglobin were also found.
Moringa, sex life, and birth control
One study by Prabsattroo et al.(2015) found some evidence it may boost libido and work( Shukla et al. 1988) like a natural birth control compound in animals. Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed); Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US); 2006, reported that moringa has a history of usage as a natural aphrodisiac, it seems to help reduce rates of conception. That said, it can boost the immune system during pregnancy and also increase breast milk production/lactation, according to some studies.
Good for the Environment (Water and Topsoil)
Moringa seed (Dube and Chingoma, 2016) found that 0.2 grams of ground moringa seed can turnone liter of contaminated water into safe drinking water.
Levy, J(2020) explained that the moringa plant is capable of growing in depleted or dry soils where many other types of beneficial plants or trees cannot survive. This accounts for why some underfed populations living in third-world countries, such as Somalia or India, have benefited from it during times of famine. Apart from the nutrient content, moringa aids in restoring fertile soil, forest restoration efforts, and filtering water.
One interesting use of the seeds is for water purification. Combining moringa with water helps impurities cling to the seeds so they can be removed, leaving behind better quality water that’s lower in toxins. Salt also seems to bind to moringa, which is beneficial for producing fresh-tasting water. For instance, Dube and Chingoma, (2016) study found that 0.2 grams of ground moringa seed can turn one liter of contaminated water into safe drinking water. This is due to the coagulating actions of certain ingredients in the plant that absorb bacteria.
Three other studies (Sheikh et al. 2014; Chattopadhyay et al. 2011; Gupta et al. 2005) in mice and rats have shown that the leaves and seeds of Moringa oleifera may protect against some of the effects of arsenic toxicity.
Moringa side effects are still possible and may include:
Lower blood pressure(Meaning, it benefits those with high blood pressure. However, those with low blood pressure should take it with caution)
Slowed heart rate
Uterine contractions-( Pregnant women should tread with caution using it in their first trimester)
Cell mutations when high amounts of seeds are consumed
Interference with fertility( Those with fertility issues should also tread cautiously)
Leaves, fruit, oil, and seeds from the moringa tree have been consumed safely for centuries, but today there are various forms of supplements or extracts sold, so it’s important to buy the purest kind you can find and to read ingredient labels carefully.
Levy, J(2020) finally, explained that during pregnancy or when breastfeeding, it’s best to avoid moringa extract, root, or high doses of supplements since not enough research has been done to show it’s safe. “It has been established that the chemicals within the plant’s roots, bark, and flowers can lead to contractions of the uterus, which can cause complications during pregnancy”.
Prof. Nyarkotey has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations to justify his write-ups. My articles are for educational purposes and do not serve as Medical advice for Treatment. I aim to educate the public about evidence-based scientific Naturopathic Therapies.
The writer is a Professor of Naturopathic Healthcare, a Medical Journalist, and a science writer. President, Nyarkotey University College of Holistic Medicine & Technology (NUCHMT)/African Naturopathic Foundation, Ashaiman, Ghana. Currently BL Candidate at the Gambia Law School, Banjul. E. mail: email@example.com.