Never heard of moringa before? Although this plant was initially discovered for its beneficial properties thousands of years ago, only recently has moringa (sometimes called the Ben oil tree) become known as one of the most impressive herbal supplements to hit the holistic health market. In fact, in 2008 the National Institute of Health called moringa (moringa oleifera) the “plant of the year,” acknowledging that “perhaps like no other single species, this plant has the potential to help reverse multiple major environmental problems and provide for many unmet human needs.” (1) Clearly, moringa benefits are highly touted and deservedly so.
To date, over 1,300 studies, articles and reports have focused on moringa benefits and this plant’s healing abilities that are important in parts of the world that are especially susceptible to disease outbreak and nutritional deficiencies. Research shows that just about every part of the moringa plant can be utilized in some way, whether it’s to make a potent antioxidant tea or produce an oily substance that lubricates and nourishes the skin. Throughout the world, moringa is used for treating such widespread conditions as: (2)
- inflammation-related diseases
- arthritis and other joint pain, such as rheumatism
- allergies and asthma
- constipation, stomach pains and and diarrhea
- stomach and intestinal ulcers or spasms
- chronic headaches
- heart problems, including high blood pressure
- kidney stones
- fluid retention
- thyroid disorders
- low sex drive
- bacterial, fungal, viral and parasitic infections
Moringa is an excellent source of protein, vitamin A, potassium, calcium and vitamin C. Just how strong is moringa? According to Kuli Kuli, an organization that harvests moringa plants in Africa and makes them accessible to customers in the the U.S. and other western nations, gram for gram, moringa contains:
- two times the amount of protein of 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 cows’ milk
- seven times the amount of vitamin C as oranges
6 Proven Moringa Benefits
Moringa is known by over 100 names in different languages around the world. This easy-to-grow tropical plant species, native to the Himalayan mountains and parts of India and Africa, comes packed with over 90 protective compounds, including isothiocyanates, flavonoids and phenolic acids. (3) Moringa has gained a reputation for fighting inflammation and combating various effects of malnutrition and aging, earning the nickname “the miracle plant.”
Here are the top six proven moringa benefits to show that nickname is well-deserved.
1. Provides Antioxidants and Anti-Inflammatory Compounds
One of the reasons that the many health benefits of herbal plants like Moringa oleifera are so impressive is because they contain similar abilities to conventional drugs, only they don’t pose the same level of risk for experiencing side effects. According to a report published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, moringa contains 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. (4)
Moringa leaves are high in several anti-aging compounds that lower the effects of oxidative stress and inflammation, including polyphenols, vitamin C, beta-carotene, quercetin, and chlorogenic acid. These are associated with a reduced risk for chronic diseases, such as stomach, lung or colon cancer; diabetes; hypertension; and age-related eye disorders.
2. Balances Hormones and Slows the Effects of Aging
A 2014 study published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology 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. Knowing that levels of valuable antioxidant enzymes get affected during the postmenopausal period due to deficiency of “youthful” hormones, including estrogen, researchers wanted to investigate if these superfoods could help slow the effects of aging using natural herbal antioxidants that balance hormones naturally.
Ninety postmenopausal women between the ages of 45–60 years were selected and divided into three groups given various levels of the supplements. 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 haemoglobin levels. Results showed 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 haemoglobin were also found, which led the researchers to conclude that these plants have therapeutic potential for helping to prevent complications due to aging and natural hormonal changes. (5) Moringa benefits the libido as well and might work like a natural birth control compound, according to some studies.
Although it’s been used as a natural aphrodisiac to increase sex drive and performance for thousands of years, it seems to help reduce rates of conception. That being said, it can boost the immune system during pregnancy and also increase breast milk production/lactation, according to some studies.
3. Helps Improve Digestive Health
Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, moringa has been used in ancient systems of medicine such as Ayurveda to prevent or treat stomach ulcers, liver disease, kidney damage, fungal or yeast infections (such as candida), digestive complaints, and infections. (6)
A common use of moringa oil is helping to boost liver function and therefore detoxifying the body of harmful substances, such as heavy metal toxins. It might also be capable of helping to fight kidney stones, urinary tract infections, constipation, fluid retention/edema and diarrhea.
4. Balances Blood Sugar Levels, Helping Fight DiabetesMoringa contains a type of acid called chlorogenic acid, which has been shown to help control blood sugar levels and allow cells to take up or release glucose (sugar) as needed. This gives moringa natural antidiabetic and hormone-balancing properties. Aside from chloregnic acid, compounds called isothiocyanates that are present in moringa have also been tied to natural protection against diabetes.
A study that appeared in the International Journal of Food Science Technology found that moringa had positive effects on blood glucose control and insulin levels in patients with diabetes when eaten as part of a high-carbohydrate meal. The effects of three different plants (moringa, curry and bittergourd) were tested in response to eating meals containing various levels of glucose. The results showed that plasma insulin responses were significantly lower when the three plants were included in the meal compared to when they weren’t, with all three plants having similar effects. (7)
Separate studies conducted by the Biotechnology Institute at Sadat City University in Egypt have found 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.
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. Results from the study showed that overall, compared to rats not given the herbal treatment, those receiving moringa experienced a return to both kidney and pancreatic health as well as reduced complications of diabetes. (8)
5. Protects and Nourishes the Skin
Moringa contains natural antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral compounds that protect the skin from various forms of infections. Some of the common ways moringa is used on the skin include: reducing athlete’s foot, eliminating odors, reducing inflammation associated with acne breakouts, treating pockets of infection or abscesses, getting rid of dandruff, fighting gum disease (gingivitis), and helping heal bites, burns, viral warts and wounds. (9, 10)
Moringa 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.
6. Helps Stabilize Your Mood and Protects Brain Health
As a high protein food and a rich source of the amino acid tryptophan, moringa benefits neurotransmitter functions, including those that produce the “feel good” hormone serotonin. Moringa is also rich in antioxidants and compounds that improve thyroid health, which makes it beneficial for maintaining high energy levels plus fighting fatigue, depression, low libido, moods swings and insomnia. (11)
Moringa Nutrition Facts
Moringa is a unique plant because almost all parts of it — leaves, seeds, flowers/pods, stem and roots — can be used as a source for nutrition and its other medicinal properties that fight free radical damage. The most popular medicinal use of moringa, both traditionally and today, involves drying and grinding down the tree’s antioxidant-packed leaves to unlock the most moringa benefits.
Moringa leaves are loaded with numerous nutrients, including antioxidants, protein, calcium, beta-carotene, vitamin C and potassium. Because it provides a concentrated source of vitamin A, moringa is given to thousands of children in third-world countries every year suffering from life-threatening vitamin A deficiency, which is linked to impaired immune function. (12)
With an exceptionally high nutritional value, moringa can be used to obtain important trace minerals, protein and phenolics. The plant contains a rare and unique combination of disease-preventing phytonutrients, including: zeatin, quercetin, beta-sitosterol, caffeoylquinic acid and kaempferol — proven anti-inflammatories with strong medicinal values. Numerous studies have shown that these compounds are protective of the heart, natural circulatory stimulants, and possess antitumor, anti-epileptic, anti-ulcer, antispasmodic, antihypertensive and antidiabetic effects.
To take advantage of this, moringa leaves are used to brew tea by steeping the dried, preserved leaves in hot water, which releases their special chemical compounds — very similarly to how green tea is made. Dried moringa leaves are also ground to create a long-lasting powder, or potent extracts are taken from the leaves to be used in the formation of concentrated moringa capsule supplements.
Aside from the valuable leaves, the pods of the moringa tree also contain seeds that hold a healing type of oil. Oil from moringa seeds can be used to cook with or put directly onto the surface of the body. Several popular uses of moringa oil are to help retain skin’s moisture, speed up wound healing, and soothe dry or burnt skin.
Another interesting use of the seeds is for water purification. Combining moringa seeds 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. Some studies have shown that 0.2 grams of ground moringa seed can turn one liter of contaminated water into safe drinking water due to the coagulating actions of certain ingredients in the seeds that absorb bacteria, adding water purification to the list of moringa benefits.
Moringa vs. Matcha
Both of these superfoods have several things in common. They provide antioxidants, fight inflammation, slow down aging, protect brain and heart health, and increase immune function in various ways. The two are similar in terms of their appearance and uses, since both are made into potent powders or teas, but have some notable differences when it comes to their nutrient profile.
While comparable in terms of calories, gram for gram moringa has more fiber, protein, calcium, sodium, vitamin C and vitamin A than matcha does. (13) One of the biggest differences between moringa and matcha green tea is in regard to amino acid concentration. Moringa leaves are a surprisingly great source of protein since they provide nine essential amino acids required for human protein synthesis: histidine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. This is one reason why organizations like the World Health Organization rely on moringa to supplement low-calorie diets and prevent deficiencies.
In matcha defense on the other hand, matcha tea (which contains roughly 15 times more active ingredients than any other conventional green tea) provides numerous antioxidants and high doses of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a type of powerful catechin that belongs to the flavonoids subcategory of polyphenols known to protect brain health. Moringa is not known to provide EGCG, which means both plants used together can have even more benefits than moringa benefits or matcha green tea benefits alone.
History and Uses of Moringa
There are actually believed to be at least a dozen different varieties of the the moringa tree, but one (moringa oleifera) is by far the most utilized. This species of the moringa tree — a fast-growing, tall, leafy plant that produces flowers or pods — has been used by health authorities around the world to help combat symptoms of malnutrition for several decades now. And prior to moringa benefits being proven in scientific studies, it was used extensively in traditional medicine practices like Ayurveda medicine for over 4,000 years!
A noteworthy characteristic of the moringa tree is that it’s capable of growing in depleted or dry soils where many other types of beneficial plants or trees cannot survive. This is precisely why certain undernourished populations living in third-world countries, such as Somalia or India, have benefited from moringa during times of famine.
Aside from providing important nutrients, moringa is used to help restore fertile soil, in forest restoration efforts, to filter water, produce an oil that benefits the skin, and also in the manufacturing of certain medications or supplements. The plant can be grown yea- round and as it progresses through its life cycle it actually helps replenish diminished minerals and other substances. Even as it decomposes, the moringa tree helps provide a way for populations to better grow other sources of food in difficult landscapes with barren soil.
How to Use Moringa
As you can probably tell by now, moringa can be used in many different ways in order to utilize all the available moringa benefits. Because of the long transport time needed to ship moringa from parts of Africa or Asia where it’s grown, in the U.S. it’s usually sold in powder or capsule form, which prolongs its shelf life.
An interesting characteristic of moringa? It’s said to taste like a mix between horseradish and asparagus. (14) It might not have the most appealing flavor, but it’s a supplement with one of the the richest supplies of vital nutrients in the world, which makes the off-putting taste worth it.
There’s no recommended or required dosage of moringa at this time since it’s only an herbal supplement and not an essential nutrient. That being said, there’s some evidence that the optimum dose for humans has been calculated to be 29 milligrams per kilogram of body weight.
It’s recommended that you start by taking half a teaspoon of dried moringa orally per day for three tofive days, increasing your intake slowly over two weeks as you get accumulated to its effects. Most people choose to take moringa every several days but not every single day for long duration of time, since it can can cause laxative effects and an upset stomach when overused.
Here are the most common ways to use moringa to get the best moringa benefits possible:
- Dried moringa leaves or powder: It takes roughly seven pounds of moringa leaves to make one pound of dried powder. The leaves are considered the most potent parts of the plant, containing the most antioxidants and available macronutrients. In regard to the concentration of phenolic compounds, amino acids and volatile oils, the stem and root portions of the plant appear to have the least bioactive nutrients compared to the leaves. Look for moringa dried leaves in capsule, powder or tea form, and take them with a meal, rather than on an empty stomach.
- Moringa tea: This type of moringa is made from dried leaves steeped in hot water, just like many other beneficial herbal teas. The most nutrient-dense types are organic and dried slowly under low temperatures, which helps preserve delicate compounds. Avoid boiling the leaves to help retain the nutrients best, and don’t cook with moringa if possible.
- Moringa seeds: Moringa pods and flowers appear to have a high phenolic content along with proteins and fatty acids. These are the parts of the plant used to purify water and add protein to low-nutrient diets. Look for them added to creams, capsules and powders. The immature green pods of the plant are often called “drumsticks” and are prepared similarly to green beans. The seeds inside the pods are removed and roasted or dried just like nuts to preserve their freshness.
- Moringa oil: The oil from moringa seeds is sometimes called Ben oil. Look for it in natural creams or lotions. Keep the oil in a cool, dark place away from high temperatures or the sun.
Potential Moringa Side Effects & Concerns
Because it’s completely natural and free from chemical additives (when you buy a pure, high-quality brand), moringa taken by mouth or used on the skin seems to be very well-tolerated and unlikely to cause side effects. Leaves, fruit, oil and seeds from the moringa tree have been consumed safely for thousands of years, but today there are various forms of moringa supplements or extracts sold, so it’s important to buy the purest kind you can find.
It’s possible for moringa to be combined with synthetic ingredients, fillers and toxins in certain supplements, so read ingredient labels carefully. Follow dosage directions carefully, taking up to six grams daily for up to three weeks at a time (which has been shown to be safe according to studies). (15)
During pregnancy or when breast-feeding, it’s best to avoid moringa extract, root or high doses of supplements since not enough research has been done to show it’s definitely safe. It’s possible that chemicals within the plant’s root, bark and flowers can lead to contractions of the uterus, which can cause complications during pregnancy. Use moringa under the care of a health care professional or functional doctor if pregnant or breast-feeding to air on the safe side.
Final Thoughts on Moringa Benefits
- In 2008 the National Institute of Health called moringa (moringa oleifera) the “plant of the year,” acknowledging that “perhaps like no other single species, this plant has the potential to help reverse multiple major environmental problems and provide for many unmet human needs.”
- Moringa benefits include providing antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, balancing hormones and slowing the effects of aging, improving digestive health, balancing blood sugar levels and helping fight diabetes, protecting and nourishing the skin, and helping stabilize mood and protect brain health.
- There are actually believed to be at least a dozen different varieties of the the moringa tree, but one (moringa oleifera) is by far the most utilized.
- The most common forms of moringa are drive moringa leaves or powder, moringa tea, moringa seeds, and moringa oil.