Moringa is one of the more common herbal remedies you can find on the market today. It's widely known as a beneficial plant, though the overall health benefits of any herbal medicine have to be studied by science before they can truly come to the forefront of modern health.
Moringa is, specifically, the moringa oleifera plant, also known as the drumstick tree. This tree is native to India, and has a variety of other names as well. It's used as an herbal remedy there as well, though more often you'll simply find it as a food item.
Moringa is a highly nutritious plant. The leaves and pods of the plant are great vegetables, full of beneficial nutrients. A single cup of the leaves, prepared fresh, contains almost 20% of your daily recommended vitamin B6, 12% of your vitamin C, 11% each of your iron and vitamin B2, and more. It's overall a very nutritious plant, though perhaps the same can be said of most leafy greens.
Moringa also has a variety of potential health benefits. First and foremost among them is the fact that moringa is rich in antioxidants. Reducing oxidative stress on your body is a great way to reduce inflammation, prevent the formation of free radicals, and boost your overall immune system.
There's also some evidence to suggest that moringa can lower your blood sugar levels when consumed. For people fighting diabetes and high blood sugar levels, this can be a good supplement, though it's not nearly effective enough to completely replace your blood sugar medications or a healthy diet in general. There's also the possibility that moringa can reduce blood cholesterol. Millions of Americans struggle with high cholesterol on a daily basis, so if anything can be simply and easily added to your diet to reduce it, it's probably worth trying, right?
Different Types of Moringa
Moringa is just one tree, but it can come in a variety of different forms when you want to add it to your diet. Specifically, you can find it as seeds, as powders, as leaves, or as capsules. The question is, which of these preparations is the best?
First, I'd like to make one note: not all forms of the same plant are created equal. Processing an herbal remedy can, in some cases, remove some or all of the benefits you would otherwise get from it. It's not uncommon for processing to destroy fragile organic compounds that you rely on for the plant benefits, and sometimes the way a supplement is processed and refined can remove vitamins or minerals.
Now, is that true of processed moringa? Let's find out.
The most true, raw form of moringa is the leaves. Leaves from the drumstick tree can be eaten as a salad green, or they can be cooked and prepared in many of the same ways you might prepare something like spinach. You can, of course, find recipes specifically for moringa from a variety of sources online.
Seeds are another whole way you can eat moringa. Many people purchase the seeds and prepare them in a way similar to preparing popcorn. Toasting them lightly in a healthy oil can "pop" them the same way popcorn pops, and they can be a surprisingly tasty little snack.
A word of caution, however; moringa seeds have some powerful laxative effects. They are commonly used as a kind of cleansing ingredient, something you might take as a supplement as part of a juice cleanse, not just a quick snack. Eating too many of them will give you some digestive issues, and eating far too many of them at a time might lead to abdominal pain, dehydration, and other problems you really don't want to have to deal with.
Moringa seeds are generally prepared by harvesting them and drying them out before shipping them to whatever store you're buying them from. They'll still be fresh, rather than roasted or otherwise processed, but they're not quite as fresh as the leaves.
Now, seeds usually have a different set of nutrients than the leaves of the same plant. This is true of a variety of different plants, including grains. Moringa is no different. The seeds have a higher concentration of nutrients, but they also have a higher concentration of the ingredients that cause those aforementioned laxative effects.
With moringa leaves, you can eat a large amount of them at a time without experiencing negative side effects. They're much like any other leafy green vegetable, really. With the seeds, you'll get a lot of nutrition packed into just a few seeds, but that's where it stops: at just a few seeds. You're really not able to eat more than a small handful of the seeds before you start to feel unpleasant side effects. Most people recommend eating only 2-3 a day.
Another form you might find the seeds is in their pods. Moringa seed pods are sort of like long green beans grown from a tree. When they get older and riper, the pods split and let the seeds out. That's the kind of seed you find when you buy seeds in bulk. However, seed pods are a younger version that you can find and eat more safely.
Because moringa pods are young, they haven't had the time to develop the compounds that cause the laxative issues you see in the ripe seeds. The pods can also be eaten whole, like green beans or snap peas. They're larger, of course, and actually have a taste similar to asparagus. You can eat them raw when they're young, but once they get a little older, you'll want to cook them to soften them up and bring out more of the flavor.
Next, you have the more processed version of moringa, in the form of powder. Moringa powder is made in a way similar to something like matcha. The leaves of the moringa tree are harvested and then dried under a light, low heat. This is pretty similar to how various teas are dried, without the oxidation process involved in black teas.
Once the leaves are dried, they are gently ground up into a fine powder. It's not so fine as powdered sugar, but it's not as granular as table salt.
Because moringa is native to India, it's not necessarily easy to come by the fresh stuff. It really depends on the area of the country you live and whether or not you have the right kind of store that might import the vegetable for consumption. As such, it can be difficult to even get your hands on the whole vegetable form of moringa. Ground and powdered moringa is generally what you're going to find on the shelves of your local health food or supplement store, or your favorite online vendor.
Moringa powder can be purchased in bulk, and you can use it as an additive for smoothies or shakes, as an ingredient in baking, and in a variety of other ways. You have pretty much as many potential uses as you would with something like spirulina.
The other way you can find moringa that we listed in the title is in capsules. Capsules are generally carefully measured doses that are treated more like an herbal medicine than as a supplement used for the nutrient-dense nature of the powder. You simply take a capsule as you would a large pill, and let your body digest it.
Moringa capsules are nothing special compared to moringa powder. The only difference is, in fact, the capsule itself. Moringa capsules are just dissolvable capsules filled with the powder. Capsules tend to be more expensive than the raw powder, because of the processing involved in making it a capsule in the first place. Measuring doses and filling capsules requires specialized machinery, after all.
Other Forms of Moringa
There are actually a few other forms of moringa that we haven't mentioned yet, but that you can often find on store shelves.
For example, did you know that the moringa tree produces flowers? It's true! They're actually quite pretty, typically white and similar to small lilies.
Like everything else about the moringa tree except the wood itself, the flowers – and the buds of the flowers – are edible. However, much like the seeds, the flowers and the flower buds are laxative. The compound that causes the laxative effects can be neutralized through some light cooking, though, so if you're interested in giving the flowers a try, that's one way you can do it. Of course, finding fresh moringa flowers might be difficult, as they don't ship well and they aren't usually thought of as a good piece of produce.
Finally, you can get moringa oil. Moringa oil is produced from the mature seeds, which are packed with the stuff. You can make it on your own, if you have a source of the seeds, or you can buy the oil to use on your own.
Moringa oil can be used in a ton of different ways.
- It can be used as a cooking oil similar to how you might use olive oil. It has a high smoke point, around 200 C, which is suitable for deep frying if you want.
- It can be used as a base for emulsions such as mayonnaise, giving it a unique taste based on the plant it comes from.
- It can be used as a base for a dressing, and makes a particularly good vinaigrette.
- It can be used as a skin treatment. Historically, it has been used to treat everything from gout to rashes to joint pain, though there's not a ton of modern evidence to suggest that it does much beyond making your skin look clearer.
- It can be used as part of a hair treatment to help restore natural oils and prevent sun damage. Some people use this to help retain color, like a conditioner.
- It can be used as the base for perfumes and scented oils, both for bodily use and for aerosolizing.
- It has been used historically as a lubricant for metal devices, in particular fine watches and other small gears. You can find this product as "ben oil" most commonly.
So as you can see, there's a ton of different ways you can use the moringa tree.
Which Type of Moringa is Best?
Now, this wouldn't be a good blog post if we gave you a question in the title and we didn't answer it, now would it? So among all of the different preparations – or at least the ones we mentioned in the title – which is the best?
Frankly, all forms of moringa are great for you. The only difficulty is, sometimes, in finding the fresh versions. It can be difficult to obtain fresh moringa leaves and seeds, and particularly the blossoms and buds. If you have a local store that offers them, or if you know a source to import them, we highly recommend giving them a try. They're a unique kind of vegetable and a delicious experience.
For the most part, the most readily available forms of moringa are going to be powder and capsules. The choice between those is largely in how you want to use them. Do you want to add powder to a shake or smoothie? Do you want to use it as an ingredient in recipes? If so, get the powder. If you'd rather just take a moringa supplement each day for the health benefits, the capsules are the way to go. You can, of course, always break open the capsules to use the powder, but that's an expensive way to get it when you can just buy the powder instead.
What about you? What's your favorite way to prepare moringa? Leave us your suggestions and recipes below!