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Names of Moringa, past and present

English: Moringa, Horseradish Tree, Tree Of Life, Moringa Tree of Paradise, Moringa the Never Die Tree, Drumstick Tree, Ben Oil Tree, Ben Tree
Latin (scientific nomenclature): Moringa oleifera, Moringa pterygosperma, Hyperanthera moringa (archaic)
Tamil: Murungai / Murungai Maram
Mandarin: la mu
Cantonese: lat mok (lit. 'spicy wood')
Filipino: malunggay / kamungay
Hindi / Indian: munaga / shajna
Spanish: palo de aceite / libertad
French: ben olifiere
Ayurvedic: Shigru / Shobhanjana
Hindi: Sahjan
Punjabi: Surajan
Konkani: Mhasanga Saang
Telugu: Munagachettu

Morniga - General Information

Moringa is a genus of 13 species of tropical and subtropical plants. The most widely known of these, and the subject of this article, is Moringa oleifera - a tree native to northwestern India. Moringa oleifera, commonly referred to as just "Moringa", grows fast in a variety of climates and is cultivated in many regions because it can grow in poor or even some barren soils. Much of the plant is edible. The leaves are nutritious and are used as food for people and feed for livestock. [1]

Image source - - lic. under CC

The moringa tree is often referred to by its advocates as the 'tree of life' due to its seemingly miraculous nutritional benefits and sheer versatility. This unassuming, curiously shaped tree is grown as a landscape tree and food source in many parts of the world – although its use as a type of vegetable and nutritive food first developed in countries such as Africa, the Himalayas, China, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines. This hardy plant grows in a wide variety of soils ranging from sandy, loamy, and even clayish soils and is resistant to drought and is fast-growing. Due to its hardiness, moringa can be found growing in different climates, and with its adaptability (with the exception that it does not tolerate frost very well), the trees are easily grown and cultivated with very little to no maintenance required. [2]

The moringa tree, when left to its own devices, usually grows as much as ten metres, although when cultivated for its leaves, seed pods (aka 'drumsticks'), seeds, or flowers it is usually trimmed and maintained at an easily reachable length of one to three metres tall to allow for easier harvesting of its constituent parts.

Proponents of Moringa oleifera sing its praises. It has been described as "one of the most useful plants that exists" - owing to its unusual combination of high nutritional value, medicinal properties, fast growing and ability to thrive in arid environments. The leaves are rich in vitamins, proteins and minerals such as calcium, potassium and iron.

One of the reasons the Moringa tree can thrive in arid regions is that it has a long taproot - which also makes it valuable against soil erosion. [3] The main products made from the plant are edible seed oil, tea leaves and animal feed. The seed kernels are also used by the French perfume manufacturing industry. [4] The Moringa tree is now widely cultivated in Africa, Sri Lanka, India, Central and South America, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. The tree is in full leaf at the end of the dry season when other food may be scarce. [5]

Moringa oleifera is listed in the AHPA's "Herbs of Commerce", p98. [6]

A full listing of the name of Moringa in many languages can be found at the University of Melbourne's Multilingual Multiscript Plant Name Database [7]

Moringa - History

Moringa is a tree with a very long history of use - "deep roots" in more senses than one. It has an entry in Lovell's Compleat Herball of 1665 - and given that these ancient herbals often drew from Medieval, Byzantine or Classical era scholars, it is highly likely that the use of the tree is all the more ancient. Indeed, Lovell's Herball, marvellously described on its title page as "Containing the Summe of Ancient and Moderne Authors, both Galenical and Chymical, touching Trees, Shrubs, Plants, Fruits, Flowers &c. " - states concerning Moringa:

Bezar-tree. Moringa. It groweth in Malabar.... The Arabians and Turkes call it Morian, the Persians Tame.... the seeds are sharp, the roots alexipharmick, and as effectuall as unicorns horn, bezarstone, or any treacle... the natives use it against all kinds of poysons and bitings of venemous creatures even of that most venemous serpent called by the Portugalls Culebras de Capillo.... it also heals the wind collick, and leprosie, it being used many have been cured thereof: it is mixed also with those medicines that purge melancholy. All which is also affirmed by Bauhinus. [8]

Moringa - General Uses

In areas where moringa thrives, it is usually used as a food source. The leaves, roots, stems, flowers, and immature seed pods and seeds of the moringa tree can be cooked in a variety of ways as a type of vegetable. Now noted for its extremely high nutritive content (the leaves alone containing very high levels of readily bioavailable vitamins and trace minerals – among them potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and B-complex), the moringa tree has become widely cultivated in some parts of the United States as an anti-famine food and anti-malnutrition food supplement. [9]

With regards to its culinary uses, the leaves of the moringa tree are usually added to soups and stews and only par-boiled to maintain its flavour (which is distinctly similar to spinach) and retain its nutritional value. The leaves may also be steeped in hot water to make a tea which, in Filipino folk medicine, is used as a remedy for colds and fevers, as well as an invigorating drink for convalescent individuals and nursing mothers (as it is said that regular consumption of the tea or soup containing the leaves would increase lactation as it acts as a galactagogoue). [10] The leaves may also be sun-dried and powdered and added as a garnish or condiment to sundry foodstuffs. The modern 'superfood' market has even employed powdered moringa leaves and encased them in vegetable capsules to be taken as dietary supplements. When fresh, the leaves can be pounded and the juice extracted and used as an antiseptic and disinfectant, useful for facilitating faster healing of open wounds and cuts (a practice very common in Filipino folk medicine and African shamanic medicine). [11] The sap of the stems and soft parts of the bark can also be used to the same effect, or otherwise employed to treat open sores and warts; it may also be used as an organic dye. [12]

Moringa oleifera, West Bengal, India
Photo: J.M.Garg - lic. under CC BY-SA 3.0

The flowers of the moringa tree may be used as condiment for soups and stews, or otherwise mixed with other vegetables for a fresh salad. The flowers, like its leaves are highly nutritious, while a decoction of the flowers can also be useful for the treatment of flu, dysentery, diarrhea, and constipation, as well as doubling as an immune-system booster. [13]

The immature seed pods of the moringa tree may be cooked as a vegetable as well, mixed into stews or parboiled and added to stir-fried dishes. It may also be cooked by itself until crunchy to somewhat soft. The seeds of the pods can be harvested, roasted and eaten as a snack. Both the seed pods and the seeds themselves contain high amounts of vitamin C and riboflavin along with trance amounts of dietary minerals, although the vitamin C content may be diminished by high heat (as with the case of the seeds upon roasting or toasting).

The roots of the moringa tree may also be cooked, adding a distinctly spicy flavour to stews. When dried and ground into powder, it may be used as a condiment or spice, the taste of which resembles horseradish. A mild decoction of the roots may also be used to treat open sores, glandular swellings, and ulcerations, while a strong decoction may be used to as an antiscrobutic. [14] The roots may also be powdered and downed with water for more immediate results. In Philippine folk medicine, the roots of the moringa may be used as a temporary remedy for snakebites if chewed and applied to the afflicted area to prevent the spread of the poison. [14]

The mature seeds of the moringa tree yield an edible oil known as ben oil, which can be used for both culinary and cosmetic purposes. The use of ben oil as an organic non-petroleum based fuel has even been suggested, although very little has been done to pursue such a venture. Like the leaves of the moringa tree, its oil has also been capitalized by the nutritional market today and is commonly sold in soft-gel capsules as a dietary supplement, or otherwise bottled as cooking oil or hair and massage oil. When used in cooking, ben oil is said to impart a distinctly subtle nutty flavour and aroma to foodstuffs despite its lack of aroma or any discernable flavour. [15] Used cosmetically, it has proven to be beneficial in maintaining youthful and vibrant skin, as well as thick and lustrous hair and problem-free scalp thanks to its high antioxidant content. [15] It is also used in the perfume industry as a carrier oil for essential oil mixes, or as a primary constituent in the perfume-making process called enfleurage.

An infusion of the barks of the moringa in its own oil or in any other carrier oil is used as a rubifacient remedy, and can be helpful in alleviating the symptoms of rheumatism, arthritis, and muscular pains as well as bloating and gas (if rubbed in the stomach area). [16] The whole parts of the plant may also be pulverised and pureed, and, if mixed with goat's milk and any natural sweetener (raw sugar or honey) can be used as a nutritive liquid food for persons recuperating from prolonged illness. [17] Extracts taken from moringa have also been advertised as being 'immuno-boosters' and seeming panaceas, although their safety and efficiency is yet to be tested, especially when compared to the relative perfection of the raw plant products itself. The byproducts of the production of ben oil may also be employed as either a handy organic fertilizer, or as a type of biofuel. Due to the sheer diversity of its uses, the moringa plant is now being cultivated chiefly for its nutritional benefits. Many countries are being encouraged to cultivate moringa trees for the benefit of an easy access to nutrition, without the need for high-budget cultivation procedures, proving that the uncanny moringa is indeed worthy of the title of 'tree of life'.

Moringa as Aphrodisiac:

Some accounts exist as to the efficacy of Moringa as an aphrodisiac. Moringa Oleifera's Wikipedia entry states that in Siddha medicines, the "drumstick" seeds are "used as a sexual virility drug for treating erectile dysfunction in men and also in women for prolonging sexual activity." [5]

Ram Nath Chopra's 1958 Indigenous drugs of India states that the flowers are sometimes boiled with milk and used as an aphrodisiac. It also notes (p.157) that Moringa pterygosperma (aka oleifera) has been found to contain a "sympathomimetic alkaloid" resembling ephedrine.

Moringa is described as aphrodisiac in the 1840 Transactions of the Medical and Physical Society of Bombay, which states:

MOCHRUS. Hyperanth: Moringa. — A red gum got from Horse radish tree, is carminative, astringent, tonic and aphrodisiac. [18]

Robert Hamilton Irvine's 1848 A short account of the materia medica of Patna states that "The root is used in debility and as an aphrodisiac".

Moringa - Scientific Studies

Moringa peregrina has been found to have antiviral activity against Herpes simplex virus in an interesting study of forty-two medicinal plants that confirmed the specific indications claimed by traditional healers. [19]

Moringa oleifera is one plant highly valued medically and pharmacologically in tropical and subtropical nations, particularly as part of the indigenous health-care system that makes use of almost every part of it – from the leaves, to the roots, to the bark, to the seeds, fruit, flowers, and immature pods.

Numerous studies have associated Moringa with a long battery of biological activities of interest aside from its high nutritional value. A search of Pubmed revealed 185 scientific papers featuring Moringa - and some interesting topics researched include; antioxidant properties, ameliorative effects on liver fibrosis, amelioration of fluoride toxicity and water purification research. Different Moringa oleifera plant parts have been known to act as cardiac and circulatory stimulants and to boast antitumor, antipyretic, antiepileptic, anti-inflammatory, antiulcer, antispasmodic, diuretic, antihypertensive, cholesterol-lowering, antioxidant, antidiabetic, hepatoprotective, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. [20]

A series of current scientific data from both human and experimental animal studies have been published on the corrective potential of Moringa oleifera leaves in chronic hyperglycemia, an indicator of diabetes mellitus, and chronic dyslipidemia, a risk factor of cardiovascular disease. [21] For instance, Ndong, Uehara, Katsumata, and Suzuki (2007) had furnished concrete evidence that the extract from Moringa oleifera improves the glucose intolerance in diabetic rat models. Based on the glucose tolerance test used by the study, Moringa oleifera extract significantly decreased the blood glucose levels of Goto-Kakizaki (GK) rats at 20, 30, 45, and 60 min and of Wistar rats at 10, 30, and 45 min (p < 0.05). Its administration had also decreased the stomach emptying in GK rats (p < 0.05). [22] Similarly, Jaiswal, Kumar Rai, Kumar, Mehta, and Watal (2009) evaluated the effect of Moringa oleifera leaves administered orally in aqueous extract therapy on glycemic control, hemoglobin, total protein, urine sugar, urine protein, and body weight of both normal and streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. At a dose of 200 mg/kg, a decrease in blood glucose level by 26.7% and 29.9% per fasting blood glucose and oral glucose tolerance tests, respectively, in normal rats was noted. Sub-diabetic and mildly diabetic rats presented a maximum fall of 31.1% and 32.8%, respectively, at the same dose during oral glucose tolerance test. On the other hand, those considered severely diabetic manifested reduced fasting blood glucose levels and postprandial glucose levels (69.2% and 51.2%, respectively). Furthermore, total protein, body weight, and hemoglobin level increased by 11.3%, 10.5%, and 10.9%, respectively, after 21 days of treatment. [23]

Moringa oleifera and the hot water infusions derived from its flowers, roots, leaves, seeds, and bark were also determined to possess antispasmodic, diuretic, and anti-inflammatory activities. In particular, the seed infusion appears to suppress the contraction induced by acetylcholine in this study (ED50 of 65.6 mg/mL) and the edema stimulated by carrageenan at 1000 mg/kg. Diuretic activity was noted at a concentration of 1000 mg/kg. Some of these cited biological properties were also noted in the roots. [24]

Moringa - Active Compounds

One thing that Moringa truly and clearly has under its belt is its being a rich and good source – not to mention affordable and readily accessible – of vital minerals and vitamins, protein, β-carotene, amino acids, and various phenolics. Zeatin, quercetin, β-sitosterol, caffeoylquinic acid, and kaempferol can also be isolated from Moringa. [25] Upon a comprehensive analysis of Moringa glucosinolates and phenolics (including flavonoids, anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, and cinnamates), Bennett et al. (2003) found that:

The seeds contain 4-(α-l-rhamnopyranosyloxy)-benzylglucosinolate at high concentrations.

The roots have high concentrations of 4-(α-l-rhamnopyranosyloxy)-benzylglucosinolate and benzyl glucosinolate.

The leaves contain 4-(α-l-rhamnopyranosyloxy)-benzylglucosinolate and three monoacetyl isomers of this glucosinolate; quercetin-3-O-glucoside and quercetin-3-O-(6' '-malonyl-glucoside); kaempferol-3-O-glucoside and kaempferol-3-O-(6' '-malonyl-glucoside) in lower amounts; and 3-caffeoylquinic acid and 5-caffeoylquinic acid.

The bark contains 4-(α-l-rhamnopyranosyloxy)-benzylglucosinolate. [24]

References & Further Reading






[6] "Herbs of Commerce" (AHPA) (2000 edition) - Michael McGuffin, John T. Kartesz, Albert Y Leung, Arthur O. Tucker p.98











[17] saturday-magazine&Itemid=566

[18] (p.123)


[20] Anwar F., Latif S., Ashraf M., & Gilani A. H. (2007). Moringa oleifera: a food plant with multiple medicinal uses. Phytotherapy Research, 21(1): 17–25. Retrieved 23 March 2013 from

[21] Mbikay M. (2012). Therapeutic potential of Moringa oleifera leaves in chronic hyperglycemia and dyslipidemia: A review. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 3:24. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2012.00024. Retrieved 23 March 2013 from

[22] Ndong M., Uehara M., Katsumata S., & Suzuki K. (2007). Effects of oral administration of Moringa oleifera Lam on glucose tolerance in Goto-Kakizaki and Wistar rats. Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition, 40(3): 229–233. doi: 10.3164/jcbn.40.229. Retrieved 23 March 2013 from

[23] Jaiswal D., Kumar Rai P., Kumar A., Mehta S., & Watal G. (2009).Effect of Moringa oleifera Lam. leaves aqueous extract therapy on hyperglycemic rats. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 123(3): 392–396. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2009.03.036. Retrieved 23 March 2013 from

[24] Cáceres A., Saravia A., Rizzo S., Zabala L., De Leon E., & Nave F. (1992).Pharmacologic properties of Moringa oleifera. 2: Screening for antispasmodic, antiinflammatory and diuretic activity. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 36(3): 233–237. Retrieved 23 March 2013 from

[25] Bennett R. N. et al. (2003).Profiling glucosinolates and phenolics in vegetative and reproductive tissues of the multi-purpose trees Moringa oleifera L. (horseradish tree) and Moringa stenopetala L. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 51(12): 3546–3553. Retrieved 23 March 2013 from

Main article researched and created by Alexander Leonhardt & Alex Newman, scientific studies report by Dan Ablir. © 2013

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