The liver is the detoxification organ of the body. It's an extremely resilient organ, one of the few capable of healing itself and regrowing when part of it is damaged or removed. It needs to be resilient because it's constantly exposed to toxins and damaging compounds in the food, drink, and air you take into your body. It's critically responsible for filtering your blood and getting rid of toxic substances safely through your various excretory systems, including urine, feces, and even breath and sweat.
It makes sense, then, that you would want to care for your liver. It can grow back from some damage, but it can be permanently damaged, particularly when it accumulates fat. The fatty liver disease comes in two forms, one triggered by excessive alcohol and one not. Both inhibit the ability of the liver to function.
Moringa is a health supplement, which you probably already know. We've covered it extensively in posts such as:
- How long does Moringa stay fresh?
- What are the benefits of Moringa for women?
- Does Moringa affect your hormones?
- What can you mix with Moringa to make it taste better?
And more. We're quite familiar with moringa in its many forms.
One benefit that is frequently touted for moringa is liver health. As such, it's used as an ingredient in detox smoothies, cleanses, and simple dietary improvements to focus on health and wellness.
The question today is, does it really have an impact on the liver? If so, is it good or bad?
These are important questions to ask. A lot of "healthy" supplements are snake oil sold by unscrupulous sellers who just want their money and don't care who they hurt along the way. We wouldn't want to be promoting a healthy food or supplement that can actually hurt you if you take it, or take it the wrong way.
The way we see it, there are four possible results here.
- Moringa might be toxic and damage the liver when you eat it.
- Moringa might be relatively safe, but damaging in high doses.
- Moringa might be neutral, and not harmful to the liver no matter the dose.
- Moringa might be beneficial, and help the liver's function when consumed.
In some cases, the impact of a supplement or medication depends on the dose. Something like aspirin, for example, is a great anti-coagulant and pain reliever in small doses, and can even help prevent heart attacks and strokes. When taken in high doses, however, can cause a wide range of symptoms including hallucinations, seizures, vomiting, stomach pain, and even death.
Is moringa dangerous? Let's look to find out.
The first thing to mention is that different parts of the moringa tree are used as supplements and medications. There are four forms of moringa you might find, with a fifth made out of them.
Moringa leaves are the most common form of moringa. They're a lot like spinach, arugula, kale, or another leafy green. That is, they're a nutritious vegetable, full of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and other beneficial nutrients. You can find them whole and fresh, or dried and ground up into a powder similar to a spice or a supplement. Both are fine.
Moringa seeds are another common way to find moringa. The seed pods are like gigantic green beans, and the pods themselves are similar to the leaves in terms of nutritional value. The seeds themselves, found within the pods, contain a bit of a laxative effect, so taking too many of them can be detrimental to your health. Seeds can also be pressed for their oil, and moringa seed oil is often found as a perfume or essential oil, not really meant for consumption.
Moringa roots are much more potent and much more dangerous. The roots are occasionally found shredded and used as a condiment similar to horseradish, and they can occasionally be found dried and ground as a supplement. AVOID THESE! Moringa roots contain a compound not present in other forms of moringa, called Spirochin. Spirochin is a nerve toxin and can cause paralysis and death if consumed in great quantities.
Now, obviously, we humans are no strangers to eating toxins recreationally. Alcohol is a poison; the buzz and good feelings you get from it are literal side effects of the poison interacting with your body, and the hangover is the result of your body processing and frantically working to get rid of it. Capsaicin, likewise, is a plant poison meant to dissuade creatures from eating it, and yet we eat it as a spice. Those, however, are a little different from a nerve toxin. A nerve toxin is more likely to just cause numbness, permanent damage, and death, with no pleasant side effects.
Moringa roots have been used in some promising situations. For example, some studies have shown that moringa root extract can be used to treat some forms of ovarian cancer. All this means, however, is that moringa can be refined into a medication, not that eating moringa will cure cancer.
Moringa juice is the last form of moringa we're going to mention and is generally made by pressing the leaves into a juice. It's similar to what you might do to any other leafy green. It's fine and healthy to consume, but you may lose out on some of the benefits of moringa leaves, such as the fiber they include. It's often better to eat the whole leaf than it is to just drink the juice, especially if the juice has been watered down or adulterated with other fruit juices that add unnecessary sugars to the mixture.
On the other hand, that's not something you'll really have to worry about with our moringa juice! It comes with a multitude of benefits without the cost of unnecessary sugars! Be sure to check it out!
Reviewing these forms of moringa, we can see two things. First of all, moringa is generally considered safe. Other than the roots, that is. The roots should not be consumed unless directed by a doctor, and a doctor should be able to provide a form of moringa root that doesn't have nerve toxin in it if they're going to recommend it.
Secondly, there's not much to indicate that moringa has a beneficial effect either. Spinach doesn't cure diseases, it's just a healthy vegetable, and moringa seems to be in the same category. So, let's see if there are any scientific studies.
Moringa Liver Studies
Moringa has been studied somewhat for a few different benefits, but the majority of that research has gone into cancer treatments due to the observed effect of the plant in suppressing ovarian cancer. We're not talking about ovarian cancer right now, though; we're talking about the liver.
A lot of health websites talk about how moringa can help the liver, but they don't really go into a deeper context. We hate when a site does that because, without direct sources and references, it's just a game of telephone. And, indeed, that seems to be what's going on here with moringa.
What they say: "Moringa can help heal the liver."
The truth: "Moringa can help the liver heal from damage induced by antitubercular drugs."
Let's look at some studies.
First of all, we have this study. This was a study in rats, on the effect on antitubercular drugs. Those drugs are treatments for tuberculosis, in case it wasn't clear. They're effective, but they can also damage the liver, primarily by causing lipid build-up (the accumulation of fat in the liver). Since the primary disease of the liver is fatty liver disease, the fat build-up is bad.
The study administered concentrations of moringa to mice that had been dosed with the antitubercular drugs and, thus, were accumulating fat in their livers. Studies afterward comparing mice with and without the moringa doses saw that there was a marked reduction in the fat build-up in the mice who took moringa.
This is another version of the same study.
This study is a slightly different version of the same concept. They used guinea pigs instead of mice, and they didn't use antitubercular drugs to induce a fatty liver. Instead, they were just fed a high-fat diet. Three groups were studied; a control group, a group with a low amount of moringa in their diet, and a group with a high amount of moringa in their diet.
At the end of the study, the guinea pigs were sacrificed and dissected, with their blood and their livers studied for fat content. Two things were determined:
- There was no change in blood lipid levels, meaning moringa didn't have a tangible effect on their blood cholesterol levels.
- There was a dose-dependent change in fat in the liver.
This second finding is the important one, and verifies the previous study; moringa seems to help prevent fat build-up in the liver.
Another study here is back to rats and specifically looked at moringa juice. Or, rather, "aqueous leaves extract", which is just a fancy way of saying juice. They discovered that a high level of juice may actually be toxic over time, but is fine in short periods or in smaller doses. They also found that it's gender-preferential, with male rats suffering more from toxicity than female rats.
Finally, we can look at another rat study. This study used moringa and examined a wide range of effects, rather than testing for any one individual effect. To quote the study: "The results provided scientific evidence that MOLH rich in phenolics and peptides ameliorated hyperuricemia and metabolic disorders. This study validates the potential use of MOLH for the regulation of hyperuricemia."
To translate that into English:
- MOLH is Moringa Oleifera Leaf Hydrolysate.
- Phenolics and peptides are some of the beneficial nutrients in the plant.
- Ameliorate means "make better".
- Hyperuricemia is a liver disease where the liver doesn't properly filter uric acid into the urine and instead leaves it in the blood.
In other words, moringa has validated scientific potential to be used as the basis for the treatment of liver disorders.
So, what have we learned? A few things.
First, studies have shown that while moringa root is dangerous to consume, the leaves, seeds, and juice are all fine, unless you're drinking literal gallons of juice every day, in which case it can be mildly toxic. Then again, the same can be said of many things, including water itself, so that's not a huge surprise.
Second, moringa has been shown in several studies to help protect the liver from lipid build-up. This can help prevent fatty liver disease.
Third, the plant has been validated as potentially useful in treating other liver ailments and might help the liver heal and recover from damage more quickly.
All of this is promising, but there are a few things to remember here:
- All of these studies have been performed on rodents; mice, rats, and guinea pigs. None of this study has been performed in humans, and so there's no way to know how much moringa it would take to achieve the same effect, or indeed even if the effects are achievable at all.
- There's not a lot of detail on how these studies were performed, or their sample sizes, or their controls. You have to dig deeper into the science to make sure the studies are valid, and not cherry-picked for their results.
- The real result might not be moringa supplements; scientists might refine the bioactive compounds in moringa into medications that work better, and anyways, there are likely better ways to protect the liver from damage.
Indeed, if you're worried about your liver health, you can take many actions above and beyond just taking a few moringa supplements. Quitting drinking, reducing fat in your diet, and losing weight are all more important and can have a much larger impact.
Does that mean you shouldn't take moringa? Of course not. The only thing we ask is that you use caution when taking it, and make sure your doctor knows you're taking it, in case it interferes with any other medications or treatments you're taking.