Everything You Need to Know About The Incredible Health Benefits of Moringa Oleifera: The African Miracle Tree
BY JUSTIN FAERMAN
prized throughout most of the developing world for its extreme nutrient density and disease fighting ability, moringa is easily one of the most useful medicinal superfood plants on the planet. photo: istock
It is said that for every problem that we encounter, a corresponding solution exists in nature. So what, then is the solution to the difficulty with growing highly nutritious food in arid regions of the world? Answer: the Moringa tree. Commonly referred to as “the Miracle Tree”, Moringa (scientific name: Moringa oleifera) is drought-resistant, requires little water, is fast-growing year round and almost every part of the tree is edible or valuable in some way: from the seeds that are used for purifying water to the powerful medicinal properties of the bark, roots and flowers and, of course, the crown jewel of the plant: the exceptionally rich nutrient density of the leaves, which are a widely consumed superfood throughout the developing world and in Sub-saharan Africa in particular.
The Health Benefits of Moringa
Moringa lives up to the hype as well: gram for gram, the plant has two times the protein of yogurt, four times the calcium of milk, 25 times the iron of spinach, 15 times the potassium of bananas, four times the vitamin A of carrots, and seven times the Vitamin C content of oranges, making it one of the superfoods of superfoods. And to top it all off, it tastes pretty good—similar to spinach to be exact—making it an easy addition to just about anything, which is how it’s used in most of the world. It’s also rich in B-vitamins, magnesium and antioxidants like quercetin, which has been shown as an effective treatment for everything from cancer, to allergies of all kinds (food, environmental and otherwise), to inflammation, viruses and cognitive impairment, making it both nutritious and medicinal when taken regularly.
moringa oleifera blossoms kissed by rays of afternoon sun. the plant is almost completely edible and usable, with leaves, flowers, roots and seeds all having various medicinal benefits. photo: nitsa citrine
Furthermore, the protein quality in Moringa is extremely high, comparable to eggs and whey, which are traditionally heralded as the gold standard for these types of things. Containing 18 out of 20 amino acids and all eight essential amino acids, the leaf powder is a complete protein that does heavy lifting in the body, supplying a wide range of nutrients for neurotransmitter production, and muscle, cell and tissue repair.Moringa seed powder is also a heavy metal chelator, meaning that it pulls toxins from the cells and tissues to be gently excreted from the body. It’s particularly useful for arsenic buildup, which is surprisingly common with the adulteration of tap water and bioaccumulation in some types of food including rice and apples. In Ayurvedic medicine, Moringa leaves are said to purify and nourish the blood and muscle tissues, the bone marrow and the fat tissues of any toxins, working as a deep rejuvenator and cleanser.
The plant is also rich in Kaempferol—a naturally occurring compound in a handful of medicinal plants—that shows promise as a preventative and treatment for various types of cancer that works in part by interrupting cell growth in malignant cancer cells. Kaempferol, combined with the other antioxidants and nutrients in the Moringa plant, makes it an excellent immune tonic that works gently but powerfully when taken over time.
As much as there is known about the benefits of Moringa, there is plenty more that remains to be discovered as is so often the case with medicinal plants. Biochemical analysis has shown that certain parts of the tree and particularly its leaves, contain large amounts of plant hormones known as Cytokinins and extraordinarily high levels of one in particular known as Zeatin. Cytokinins are known to delay the process that causes aging in plants and humans. Zeatin delays aging via its effects on cell division and its powerful antioxidant properties. Research has shown that Moringa oleifera contains two to three thousand times more Zeatin than any other plant known to man, making it an integral part of any longevity protocol or as a medicinal addition to smoothies and other foods.
Most people who consume the plant regularly report an increase in endurance and energy as the plant supplies rich, highly bioavailable nutrients to the body’s cells. It also has a healing and cleansing effect on the digestive tract and various antioxidants in the plant have been shown to be beneficial for healing digestive issues, including ulcers and other serious disturbances. Because of its amino acid content and nutrient-density, many regular users also notice a positive effect on mood as the plant supplies abundant raw materials to help the body create neurotransmitters and other essential neurochemicals.And while these benefits are impressive in their own right, the uses of the plant historically reveal an ever deeper layer of constitutional—meaning mental, emotional, spiritual and energetic—effects.
Spiritual Uses and Effects
According to Ayurvedic texts, Moringa penetrates deeply into the body’s tissues and particularly into the bone marrow itself, the deepest tissues of all. In Chinese Medicine, Jing, which loosely translates to our bodies ‘vital essence’ or ‘deep life force’, is strongly related to bone marrow—marrow being a manifestation of Jing essence in the body. As such, the leaves, as demonstrated by their ability to reverse moderate to severe malnutrition, is a potent rebuilder of marrow in the body, essentially restoring life force energy at an extraordinarily deep level.
Ayurvedic texts, which record usage of the plant over 4,000 years ago as a treatment for over 300 different diseases, also cite it as a powerful blood cleanser for removing impurities, toxins, parasites and metabolic wastes, helping to rejuvenate cells from the inside out.
The Romans, Greeks and Egyptians also used moringa as a perfume and medicine, all of them recognizing even in their day the immense medicinal and practical benefits of the plant. Furthermore, these ancient cultures also saw the plant in a much different manner than we do in the overly-scientific west. Most ancient systems of medicine saw plants as constitutional remedies, affecting not just the body, but the personality, mind, energy and emotional-spiritual tendencies of the person as well. As such, the plant is known to have the following subtle (mental, emotional, energetic and spiritual) properties as well according to its uses in ancient cultures:
In addition to their remarkable nutritional properties, the leaves are said to restore self-confidence and address indecisiveness. Ancient physicians also used the leaves to bring clarity and restore the body at deep levels, which both contribute to a feeling of certainty and assuredness.
The roots of the plant are said to be mildly calming and grounding, as is often the case with root medicines. In particular, the root is known to enhance feelings of serenity and balance as well as helping to keep one centered in times of change or uncertainty.
The seeds of the plant were used as a remedy for depression in ancient cultures, revered for their ability to give energy and overcome feelings of hopelessness. The seeds benefited and were believed to renew the spirit and reinvigorate the body mentally and emotionally.
Although somewhat difficult to obtain without growing the plant yourself (which is fairly easy to do), the plants flowers are believed to be beneficial and effective for helping to let go of past memories, guilt, emotional wounds and traumas. Moringa flowers are said to encourage positive thinking and a renewed outlook on life.
Selecting a Quality Product
As with all foods and plants, look for organic, wildcrafted and biodynamic sources of Moringa as these tend to have the highest nutrient density, benefits, freshness and life force and will generally be free of chemicals or other harmful toxins. Many parts of the plant are available for purchase, however in most places you will find it primarily as Moringa leaf powder and slightly less frequently as seed powder or a blend of the two. Generally speaking the greatest bang for your buck can be had with the leaf powder as the vast majority of the plant’s beneficial compounds and nutrients are naturally occurring in the leaf. If you want a more full spectrum effect, you might also seek out the seed powder as well. As a plant, it is fairly easy to grow in temperate to warm climates making it a viable and cost effective option for people who want the freshest material available. The fresh leaves from the Moringa tree make a great addition to salads or can be eaten fresh straight from the tree.
How to Use It
As with any new plant start slowly and work your way up to find the dosage that resonates with your body. Moringa is safe to take in larger quantities, however, working up to larger dosages too quickly may result in slightly unpleasant side effects due to its powerful healing properties. It is also a blood thickener so if you are on any type of blood thinning medication or supplementation protocol, you will want to consult your physician. It is highly nutrient dense so not much is needed and taking too much may be a waste as the body will only absorb the nutrients it most immediately needs and excrete the rest. General guidelines for a starting dose are ½ – 1 teaspoon working up to a heaping tablespoon if it is agreeable with your body. Moringa tea is also quite popular and warm to semi-hot water can be poured over the leaf or seed powder for a refreshing and nourishing tonic.
Recommended Moringa Products
Wildrcrafted Moringa Leaf Powder
Zen Principle offers an ultra-high-quality, leaf powder, wildcrafted and low temperature sun and shade-dried in the Himalayan foothills, one of its native regions where it has been growing for thousands of years.
Organic Moringa Leaf Powder
Anima Mundi Apothecary
Anima Mundi offers an ultra-fresh, sustainably grown and harvested organic leaf powder sourced from the lush green jungles of Costa Rica in an area with extremely rich, alive soils, which infuses their product with high nutrient-density.
Organic Moringa Leaf Capsules
Organic India offers fair trade, organic leaf powder sourced in its native homeland of India in a convenient vegetarian/vegan capsule form for easy consumption on the go and those who dislike the taste of herbs.
Organic Moringa Seed Oil
Organic Veda offers a high-quality, cold-pressed and somewhat hard-to-find organic seed oil rich in antioxidants and other important, beneficial nutrients and fatty acids for skin or internal use.
1. Jung IL. Soluble Extract from Moringa oleifera Leaves with a New Anticancer Activity. PLoS ONE. 2014;9: e95492
2. Jung IL, Lee JH, Kang SC. A potential oral anticancer drug candidate, Moringa oleifera leaf extract, induces the apoptosis of human hepatocellular carcinoma cells. Oncol Lett. 2015;10:1597–604.
About the Author
Justin Faerman has been studying and writing about holistic health practices, herbalism and natural medicine for over 14 years and is a leading authority on both modern and ancient therapies for creating lasting health and wellness. He has a degree in Environmental Science from the University of California, Santa Barbara and has conducted field research into organic and regenerative agriculture practices and eco-social sustainability during his time there. He is also the Founder of Lotus Superfoods, a boutique purveyor of rare herbs and superfoods as well as the Co-founder of Conscious Lifestyle Magazine and the Flow Consciousness Institute. Learn more about his work at flowconsciousnessinstitute.com and lotussuperfoods.com