Moringa plant is beginning to gain more popularity as a new “superfood” for its highly nutritious profile and powerful anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and tissue-protective properties among many other health benefits.
Moringa oleifera, also known as horseradish tree, ben tree, or drumstick tree, is a small tree from India, Pakistan, and Nepal that has been used for generations in Eastern countries to treat and prevent diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, anemia, arthritis, liver disease, and respiratory, skin, and digestive disorders.
Moringa has become popular as a natural leaf powder supplement, although the pods, roots, bark, flowers, seeds, and fruits are also edible.
It’s used as a traditional remedy for many ailments, and here are scientifically backed health benefits of consuming the moringa leaf:
It’s Very nutritious
Almost all parts of the Moringa oleifera tree can be eaten or used as ingredients in traditional herbal medicines.
The leaves and pods are commonly eaten in parts of India and Africa.
This is a photo of Moringa oleifera leaves, powder and capsules:
The leaves are an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals. One cup of fresh, chopped leaves (21 grams) contains the following :
- 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.
In Western countries, dried leaves are sold as dietary supplements, in either powder or capsule form.
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 for vitamin C.
The diets of people in developing nations sometimes lack vitamins, minerals and protein. In these countries, Moringa oleifera can be an important source of many essential nutrients.
However, there is one downside. Moringa leaves may also contain high levels of antinutrients, which can reduce the absorption of minerals and protein.
Another thing to keep in mind is that if you’re taking Moringa oleifera as a supplement, taking it in capsules won’t supply large amounts of nutrients.
The amounts are negligible compared to what you are already getting if you eat a balanced, real food-based diet.
It’s Rich in Antioxidants
Antioxidants are compounds that act against free radicals in our bodies.
High levels of free radicals cause oxidative stress, which may contribute to chronic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Several antioxidant plant compounds have been found in the leaves of Moringa oleifera .
In addition to vitamin C and beta-carotene, these include:
- Quercetin:This powerful antioxidant may help lower blood pressure.
- Chlorogenic acid:Also found in high amounts in coffee, chlorogenic acid may help moderate blood sugar levels after meals.
In fact, one study in women found that taking seven grams (1.5 teaspoons) of moringa leaf powder every day for three months significantly increased blood antioxidant levels.
Moringa leaf extract may also be used as a food preservative. It increases the shelf life of meat by reducing oxidation.
It Protects Against Arsenic Toxicity
Arsenic contamination of food and water is a problem in many parts of the world.
Rice may contain particularly high levels.
Although arsenic in food or water does not cause symptoms of toxicity right away, long-term exposure may lead to health problems over time.
Observational studies indicate that long-term exposure to arsenic may increase the risk of cancer and heart disease.
Several studies of mice and rats show that the leaves and seeds of Moringa oleifera may protect against some effects of arsenic toxicity.
These studies are promising, but it is not yet known whether this also applies to humans.
It helps reduce some diabetes symptoms.
High blood sugar can be a serious health problem. In fact, it is the main characteristic of diabetes.
Over time, high blood sugar raises the risk of many serious health problems, including heart disease. For this reason, it is important to keep blood sugar within healthy limits.
Interestingly, several studies have shown that Moringa oleifera may help lower blood sugar levels.
However, most of the evidence is based on animal studies. The human studies are few, and generally of low quality.
In one study, 30 women took seven grams of Moringa leaf powder every day for three months. This reduced fasting blood sugar levels by 13.5%.
Additionally, a small study in six diabetic patients found that adding 50 grams of Moringa leaves to a meal reduced the rise in blood sugar by 21%.
It Reduces Inflammation
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to infection or injury.
It is essential as a protective mechanism, but may become a major health issue when it goes on for a long time.
Sustained inflammation is believed to be involved in many chronic diseases, including heart disease and cancer.
Many fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices have known anti-inflammatory effects. These include turmeric and pomegranates.
Moringa leaves, pods and seeds have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties as well, which may also be due to isothiocyanates.
However, the research so far has been limited to test tube and animal studies. It remains to be seen if Moringa oleifera has similar anti-inflammatory effects in humans.
It Can Lower Cholesterol
High amounts of cholesterol in the blood have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
Many plant foods can effectively reduce cholesterol. These include flaxseeds, oats and almonds.
Both animal and human studies have shown that Moringa oleifera may have similar cholesterol-lowering effects.
It supports brain health
Moringa supports brain health and cognitive function because of its antioxidant and neuro-enhancer activities. It’s also been tested as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease with favorable preliminary results.
Its high content of vitamins E and C fight oxidation that leads to neuron degeneration, improving brain function. It’s also able to normalize the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline in the brain, which play a key role in memory, mood, organ function, responses to stimulus such as stress and pleasure, and mental health, for example in depression and psychosis.
It reduces tiredness & fatigue
At any given time, 1 in 5 people feel unusually tired, and 1 in 10 have prolonged fatigue, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists in the UK¹.
A single serving of Moringa Powder (10g or 2-3 teaspoons) provides:
- Iron:8% of your daily requirement
- Vitamin A:5%
Iron and magnesium are both essential for the reduction of tiredness and fatigue in the body, and vitamin A supports the metabolism of iron² ensuring a greater uptake. Adding moringa to your daily routine is an effective, natural way to prevent tiredness and fatigue.
The rich iron content of moringa powder also makes it ideal for vegan, vegetarians and those suffering from anaemia.
Moringa Powder has been heralded by Vogue magazine as “redefining beauty from within.”
It is jam-packed with skin-loving vitamins including:
- Vitamin A: 32.5%
- Vitamin E: 16.9%
Vitamin A is essential for healthy, radiant skin and vitamin E protects cells from oxidative stress helping fight the signs of ageing.
Moringa also has one of the highest antioxidant contents of any food. With an ORAC value of 157,000³, it has 6x the antioxidants of goji berries and comparable levels to the antioxidant powerhouse matcha.
Antioxidants are essential for protecting, repairing and preventing cell damage, minimising the ageing process of the skin in the long-term. They help counteract oxidative stress and the effects of free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that damage collagen causing skin dryness, fine lines, wrinkles and premature ageing.
Read our article about antioxidants and why we need them here.
The skin benefits of moringa are so exceptional that Moringa Powder is one of the first food items to ever be sold in the beauty hall of prestigious London department store Liberty.
It improves immunity
One of the best moringa benefits is its super immune-boosting powers. Maintaining a healthy immune system is essential for helping our bodies stave off infections and illnesses. Moringa Oleifera leaves are an extremely rich source of:
- Iron: 46.8%
- Vitamin A:5%
Both of which are essential for the normal function of the immune system.
Many studies have been done about moringa’s potential as an anti-cancer agent. Moringa leaves have been shown to have beneficial properties in the fight against both breast and colon cancer cells⁴ and research is ongoing.
Moringa oleifera leaves are almost 25% protein, which is unusually high for a plant. Moringa Powder contains 9 essential amino acids making it a complete source of protein, supporting the growth and maintenance of muscle mass. The high protein content of moringa makes it particularly beneficial for vegans and vegetarians who can struggle to get a sufficient protein supply.
Recent research has shown that those eating a diet rich in plant proteins can reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D). A 19 year study by the University of Eastern Finland has found that replacing just 5 grams of meat-based protein consumption a day with a plant-based source, could reduce risk of T2D onset by as much as 18%⁵.
It protects the liver
Moringa contains high concentrations of polyphenols in its leaves and flowers that protect the liver against oxidation, toxicity, and damage.
Moringa can reduce liver damage and fibrosis and reverse oxidation in the liver. Moringa oil can also restore liver enzymes to normal levels, reducing oxidative stress, and increasing protein content in the liver.
The liver is responsible for blood detoxification, bile production, fructose metabolism, fat metabolism, and nutrient processing, and it can only fulfill these functions with the aid of liver enzymes, so it’s vital they stay at normal levels. For instance, lower levels of hepatic enzymes can impair its ability to filter the blood.
It aids digestion
Moringa powder is a rich source of calcium (29.8%) which contributes to the normal function of digestive enzymes.
It also contains 31% fibre which can help support a healthy digestive system and bowel regularity. Fibre can also be helpful for weight management as it helps you feel fuller for longer and supports a healthy metabolism.
How to Use It
You can add moringa powder to your smoothie or drink it as a tea. The leaf powder was deemed safe in human studies, even in larger doses than normal. The powder has a mild flavor, so it makes for a light moringa tea with a slightly earthy taste.
But you might want to stay clear of seed extract consumption, as they have shown a level of toxicity in immune cells.
Moringa can have laxative effects in large quantities, so a safe dose to introduce it into your food or diet and avoid digestive problems is ½ to 1 teaspoon per day.