Moringa is a modern health trend with roots in ancient medicine. It's a tree, and everything about the tree is useful. It grows quickly, the leaves are edible, the seed pods and the seeds are edible, the flowers are edible, and it is a staple plant for many. Because of how fast it grows, it's an easily renewable food resource.
As with many ancient vegetables and herbs, it's no surprise that moringa has been used for health benefits as well as just nutrition. Moringa preparations have been used to treat practically any disease you can think of, from diabetes to "tired blood".
Of course, hundreds of herbal remedies exist from the ancient era, brought to modern times, and many of them have been extensively studied by science and proven to be nothing more than vaguely nutritious plants. So where does moringa fall in this category? Let's look at the benefits.
Moringa is Highly Nutritious
Probably one of the best benefits of moringa on its own is that it's a highly nutritious plant. A single 100 gram serving of moringa leaves contains high levels of vitamins, including A, B2, B6, and C. It also includes trace amounts of B1, B3, and B9. On the mineral side of the coin, moringa also contains plenty of calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus, all of which are used in the body for a wide variety of systems.
That's for the leaves. Moringa seed pods aren't quite as nutritious as the leaves, but they're packed with a ton of vitamin C. In fact, a single 100 gram serving of moringa pod is over twice your daily recommended dose of vitamin C.
Depending on the kind of product you get, moringa may be purely moringa powder, dried and ground-up from the leaves, seeds, and pods of the tree. Alternatively, it might be a combination beverage, with additives like aloe, elderberry, pomegranate, cranberry, mangosteen, goji berry, and vitamin mixtures added to it. This makes it more flavorful and gives it a wider nutrient profile, though the concentration of actual moringa may be lower.
While moringa is a nutritious plant, you're not likely to find fresh moringa unless you grow it yourself. The most common ways to find moringa are in capsules, in powder form that you can use similar to matcha, or as a juice drink.
Moringa is Full of Antioxidants
Antioxidants are one of those classes of nutrients that are powerful but overused. Good antioxidants can help reduce free radicals throughout the body, and they help prevent damage caused by oxidation. Antioxidants are good for a variety of systems throughout the body, and they can boost your immune system, your overall health, and your energy levels.
The trouble with antioxidants is that pretty much any product that contains any ingredient that has antioxidants in it now has a big label claiming it's high in antioxidants. Even if every other ingredient in the product is bad for you, someone in a marketing department somewhere will tout the benefits of those antioxidants.
Hey, berries are packed full of antioxidants, but that doesn't mean a jelly doughnut is healthy for you.
The primary antioxidant in moringa in vitamin C, which we all know about, but we also generally get plenty of it from other healthy sources as well. In addition, moringa has beta-carotene and quercetin. Quercetin is a flavonoid found in a variety of different plants, including green tea, apples, and onions.
Different kinds of moringa will have different levels of different antioxidants. In particular, fortified moringa juice is packed with even more than normal, due to the addition of fruit juices and vitamin additives.
Moringa Works as an Appetite Suppressant
In the world of weight loss, there are essentially three ways a product you take can help you lose weight. One kind gives you the energy to help you be more active. One kind stimulates your metabolism to help burn existing food and fat as calories. And one kind fills you up and helps minimize the urge to snack and take in more calories.
Moringa is among the third kind of supplements. It's a very low-calorie supplement, even in juice form, but it's packed full of protein and fiber. That means it makes you feel satisfied for longer when you take it and slows down your digestive system so you don't get as hungry as quickly.
Moringa is not a weight loss supplement by itself, however. You can take it alongside other weight loss products safely; the most you're liable to do is get a higher than average dose of a vitamin or two, which generally isn't bad.
Moringa May Help Treat Some Diseases
Now, a word of caution before we go into what diseases moringa may be able to help with.
Moringa is a traditional herbal remedy, which means that throughout the last 1,000 or so years, it has been used to "treat" a huge range of possible problems with the body. Some of them might help, and others might not - very little has been done in the way of scientific studies to see what works and what doesn't.
We're going to try to stick with the ailments that some study has been conducted with moringa, and try to stick to scientific results rather than recommendations from naturopaths and shamans.
It's also important to recognize that in therapeutic doses, moringa tends to be highly concentrated and in higher doses than you might otherwise take. A single bottle of moringa juice, used as directed, might not have nearly enough moringa in it to have the same effects.
So, what diseases or ailments might moringa be able to help with?
- Rheumatoid arthritis. There's some evidence to suggest that moringa, in sufficient quantities, might have an anti-inflammatory benefit for arthritis. It can potentially lower fluid swelling and joint pain associated with RA.
- Diabetes. One of the biggest and most studied ways moringa may benefit an ailment is with diabetes. Moringa has been shown to have the potential to lower blood sugar, and some phytonutrients in it can also help your body process sugar more effectively, similar to insulin. In addition, the appetite suppressant capability may help you lose weight, which helps minimize the problems associated with diabetes.
- Cancer. No, moringa is not going to cure cancer. It's very limited in what it may be able to do. Thus far, studies have only shown that it might have an effect that slows the growth of pancreatic cancer cells, and may increase the efficacy of chemotherapy. It was also tested against breast cancer and colorectal cancer. Keep in mind, however, that any compound shown to have a potent effect against cancer is going to be isolated, extracted, and converted into a medication; no doctor is going to recommend moringa in place of cancer treatment.
- Memory issues. Moringa may have some benefits when it comes to memory retention and recall. This could be because of the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of the plant, though no one is quite sure just yet.
In addition to the above, there is some evidence that moringa might be beneficial for a range of other health conditions. However, unlike the above, these other problems have not been studied much at all, so claims are not really verified.
That said, it's possible that moringa might help with cholesterol, high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, asthma, diarrhea, anemia, ulcerative colitis, and general wound healing. Obviously, don't skip out on modern medical treatments in favor of moringa for any of these, but taking moringa is unlikely to hurt them and could add some relief.
On the plus side, moringa is not toxic. Some traditional herbal remedies can have toxic elements that, when taken in normal doses, are fine, but can be painful or even deadly at high doses. Moringa is not like that. The worst that can happen if you take a lot of moringa products is that you get more than your recommended daily allowance of certain vitamins and minerals, and while that can have some potentially negative consequences, you'd have to be taking weeks' worth of moringa capsules every day to see any noticeable detrimental effects.
There are a handful of other benefits of moringa that don't fall into one of the major categories but are worth mentioning.
Moringa may reduce fatigue. As a side effect of getting more of some nutrients and vitamins, moringa may be able to reduce the chronic fatigue many of us experience in our day to day lives. While no supplement is going to replace a good night of sleep and a better diet, moringa can help ease some of the fatigue. In particular, the high levels of iron and vitamin A are both great for reducing fatigue and boosting energy throughout the day.
Moringa may have benefits for your skin. Obviously, some vitamins, like A and E, are beneficial for your skin. The antioxidant content of the plant can help as well. Take it alongside some form of collagen supplement for the best effects. Note that this is about eating moringa, not adding it to any sort of skin treatment. As far as we know, moringa does not have benefits when applied directly to the skin.
Moringa can help boost the immune system. You know how it goes at this point; vitamins, minerals, and nutrients are all great for keeping your body in peak shape. Antioxidants boost your immune system and help keep you healthy. Moringa has all of that in spades.
Potential Drawbacks of Moringa
Most natural remedies have a few counterindications. Nothing is perfectly safe for everyone. Heck, even simple things like vegetables can trigger allergies in some people. Always try out a small amount of a supplement to make sure you don't experience any adverse side effects.
Now, we mentioned that moringa is not toxic, and while that's mostly true, it's not entirely true. Moringa can be toxic, but only if you're eating so much of it that anything would be toxic at that level. So that's not really a problem.
One possible precaution that we should warn you about is the diabetic benefits mentioned above. Yes, moringa might be able to help with some forms of diabetes. However, it's also been shown to interact negatively with some diabetes medications, including sitagliptin, which is a common prescription. Avoid taking moringa if you're on a prescription for things like diabetes or cancer, and talk to your doctor about it before taking it to make sure it won't interfere with what you're taking.
Moringa pulp and bark – part of the tree, not part of the leaves or the seeds – can be dangerous for pregnant mothers as well. Compounds present in the wood and bark can cause uterine contractions and can jeopardize a pregnancy. Obviously, this is a bad thing.
On the plus side, most moringa preparations you're likely to find are going to be one of three things. They can be the leaves, dried and ground into a powder similar to matcha, which is then shipped and purchased as a bulk powder or in capsules. They can be the seeds, compressed and stripped of their moisture to make seed oil, which can be added to other preparations. They can be a mixture of both, juiced and added to fruit and other juices to make a beverage. All of these typically avoid the bark and pulp of the tree and are thus generally safe.
How do you prefer your moringa? We know it's a popular product, so tell us how it has helped you in the comments below!