Moringa Juice is a health trend, but it's not a new health trend. The "Drumstick Tree", as it is known, is a tree that has been praised for its health benefits for thousands of years. That's nothing new for herbal medicines and remedies, but the eye of modern science has turned its way. Is Moringa Juice healthy, is it good for you, or is it just another snake oil?
The Science of the Moringa Tree
Moringa Oleifera, also known as the Drumstick Tree, is a subtropical tree native to southern Asia and parts of Africa. It's drought-resistant and widely cultivated for its seed pods primarily, which have been used in traditional herbal medicine for a very long time. Interestingly, while the tree is cultivated in some areas, others consider it a particularly aggressive invasive species. It grows quickly, can reach 10-12 meters in height, and produces thousands of flowers.
Moringa, unlike many traditional herbal remedies, has not been found to be toxic. The fruit of the tree – long, thin pods that resemble overly large green beans – are frequently used in India as a vegetable prepared in curries. The leaves of the tree, likewise, are used in cooking in broth-based soups, as garnishes, or in salads. The seeds, harvested from inside the pods, are a bitter snack commonly found in Nigeria.
On top of this, Moringa seeds are pressed to extract oil, leaving seed cakes that would typically be discarded. These seed cakes, however, are very good at purifying water. That's not typically a concern for our audience, but for the areas where Moringa is cultivated, it's a great side benefit.
The Moringa tree is great outside of any potential health benefits, simply as a food source. In areas with food scarcity, it grows quickly and can come to harvest in only a year or two. A single hectare can produce as much as 31 tons of fruit, making it an easy staple for improved nutrition and food security in rural areas. It can also be used as feed for livestock.
The Health Benefits of Moringa
Other than its use as a food source, Moringa has a lot of potential as a health supplement. Bear in mind, however, that few of the health benefits have been fully studied. There aren't many studies showing whether or not it can improve specific conditions or if it has any long-term side effects.
So what are the various benefits of Moringa in general, and Moringa Juice in particular?
It's generally quite nutritious. The raw leaf of the Moringa tree contains, in 100 grams, high levels of Vitamins A, B2, B6, and C, with additional amounts of B1, B3, and B9. Additionally, it's relatively high in calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus.
Overall, due to its healthy selection of nutrients, it's just a good vegetable to eat. It's much like eating a leafy green like kale or spinach; a good addition to any meal with leafy greens.
Moringa pods, meanwhile, have an overall lower selection of vitamins and minerals. By contrast, they are absolutely packed with Vitamin C, with 100 grams of pod providing you with nearly double your recommended daily value.
Moringa Juice, specifically, is typically a supplement produced with a variety of other ingredients to fortify it. It's usually prepared using powdered Moringa leaf or oil in addition to ingredients like Acai, Goji, and Mangosteen. This gives it more flavor and enhances the selection of nutrients present in the juice.
Now, Moringa isn't robust enough to replace a significant amount of your diet. For one thing, it's not typically imported as a vegetable, but rather in a powdered form for supplements or in a juice mix. Additionally, as a robust vegetable, it contains a number of "antinutrients" that can reduce the rate at which you absorb nutrients. Again, it's not toxic, it's simply not quite as effective as the raw numbers would make you believe. Hence its use as a supplement rather than a staple where other staples are available.
Moringa contains valuable antioxidants. In addition to the typical Vitamin C and beta-carotene, Moringa contains quercetin, another potent antioxidant.
Moringa Juice specifically tends to have an even higher level of antioxidants than the supplements, due to the other fruit juices and supplements it is mixed with. Essentially, if you want a small supplement packed with antioxidants, Moringa Juice is a good way to get it.
Moringa can help reduce and control cravings for snacks. Moringa is a calorie-light but nutrient-dense product, which can help satisfy your body when it craves a nutrient. Since snacking is a common problem, this means that Moringa can be a component in a diet or weight loss plan. Moringa on its own does not have any particular weight loss properties – it does not induce ketosis, nor does it inhibit the production of fat in the body – but if you're less inclined to snack, you won't be taking in as many calories, so you don't have to burn as many to maintain a deficit.
Moringa Juice has traditionally been used as a treatment for many diseases. Such diseases include everything from diabetes to inflammation to heart issues and joint pain to infections.
This isn't uncommon to see in traditional medicine. Traditional medicines are typically used for just about everything, under the theory that it probably can't hurt, and if it helps, great! Among these diseases, the most likely to benefit from Moringa include long-term inflammation, joint pain, and diabetes. Chemicals called isothiocyanates contained within Moringa Juice and supplements can potentially help regulate blood sugar levels, which helps with diabetes, mood swings, and cravings.
Some early studies have suggested that Moringa supplements may help reduce asthma symptoms and can reduce inflammation relating to rheumatoid arthritis. It can also have a placating effect on stomach issues, gastritis, and ulcers, though it is by no means a cure.
Remember, of course, that Moringa – as a supplement, as a juice, or as a vegetable – has not been fully tested or approved by the FDA to treat any of these diseases. While there may be some benefits, those benefits have not been tested and proven by human trials.
Surprisingly, Moringa may have anti-cancer properties. Very few human studies and only a few animal studies have been performed with Moringa and cancer, so do not consider this an endorsement or a claim that Moringa "cures" cancer.
That said, Moringa was tested on some lines of colorectal and breast cancer and showed surprising anti-malignant properties in the extract of both leaves and bark. This did not apply to seed oil extract.
Moringa is not intended to be a treatment for cancer and should not be used in place of any existing treatments. Rather, this is evidence that science may study Moringa and use it to develop new drugs that can fight cancer more effectively.
Moringa contains some protein. Moringa Juice is not a replacement for protein in your diet, but it's interesting in that many plant supplements typically have more carbs than proteins. Moringa containing protein means its somewhat more balanced to keep your body in ketosis, if you're focused on a Keto diet, for example.
Moringa can be pretty tasty. While this isn't specifically a health benefit, Moringa is a staple food in many areas of the world, so there are a lot of recipes that use it either as a major or minor ingredient. It can be tricky to find in fresh form in North America, unfortunately, but if you can get your hands on it, it can open the door to some Thai, Pilipino, and Indian dishes.
The juice, of course, can be used as a direct supplement or as an additive in other meals. While it's generally sweet and slightly bitter, it pairs well with smoothies and similar fruit-packed health foods.
It has a lot of potential. Perhaps best of all, while Moringa has not been robustly studied in humans, the eye of science has turned towards it over the last few years. Over the next few years, it's entirely possible to find that Moringa has as-yet unrecognized health benefits and may be even better than we think.
Drawbacks and Cautions
As with any supplement or medicine, you need to exercise caution and be aware of your body and your medical needs before taking something, especially something you take on an extended basis.
Moringa has the potential to be toxic at extremely high levels. We're talking 3 grams per kg of body weight or higher, which is a lot – the average person 62 kg, so you'd have to be taking nearly 200 grams of Moringa to reach this level. Generally, toxicity won't be a concern, if you're buying a reputable juice.
Many of the benefits of Moringa as studied by science have been observed in animal studies, not in studies on humans. This is common with supplements in general, and it doesn't mean those benefits aren't real. Because animals work differently, some benefits may be more or less pronounced.
While Moringa may have some benefits for diabetes, it can also interfere with diabetes medications. In particular, if you're on sitagliptin as a prescription, consult your doctor before taking Moringa Juice.
Moringa is also not recommended for pregnant mothers. The bark of Moringa in particular can cause contractions of the uterus, which has been used to induce abortion. While Moringa juice typically does not include the bark of the tree as an ingredient, it's better to be on the safe side. As usual, let your doctor know what you're taking. There are other sources of nutrition you can take relating to pregnancy for better effects.
How to Use Moringa Juice
Moringa comes in both capsule and juice form. Capsules are a different supplement and should be taken on their own, rather than in conjunction with the juice.
Moringa Juice comes in the form of a concentrate in large bottles. Typically, you should take 1-2 ounces of juice once per day, either on its own or as an additive to another drink or smoothie. Of course, you should talk to your healthcare provider for any more specific instructions, contraindications, or restrictions.
Avoid taking too much Moringa Juice per day. While you are unlikely to reach toxicity levels, all supplements are best kept to minimal doses until such time as they're proven to be effective.
On an individual level, Moringa tastes somewhat like matcha or another very green product. That is, it's very grassy and earthy in its natural form. When mixed with juices like Acai and Goji, it takes on a sweeter flavor with some tartness. This also helps cut down on the natural bitterness of the plant also known as the "horseradish tree." When added to a smoothie, to yogurt, or to juice, an ounce of Moringa Juice is unlikely to have much significant impact on flavor.
Should You Take Moringa Juice?
Moringa Juice is a good, healthy supplement when used in moderation. It's essentially like an extract full of nutrients that you can add to other healthy treats, like smoothies, to give them more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
In general, Moringa can be a good supplement to help with a variety of issues and increase overall nutrition. As such, it's a great product to take in moderation. The only exceptions are cases where you're taking prescription medications that affect cytochrome P450, when you're taking sitagliptin, or when you're pregnant. If none of those apply, and your healthcare provider does not give you a restriction on such supplements, by all means, give it a try.