The Moringa tree is also called “the miracle tree,” and for good reason. Better known in Asia and India than here, the tree is tenacious, growing easily in poor soil, in dry climates, and from cuttings of the branches as well as seeds. (I planted a cutting from my neighbor’s tree in my caliche-filled backyard, and it grew like a weed!) Not only that, but nearly all portions of the tree are edible.
Nutrition of Moringa
The tree is pretty nutritious too. It’s especially high in protein, usually consumed by drying the leaves and then processing them into flour. However, due to antinutrients that block absorption, only a portion of it is digestible. In this animal study, only about 10% of protein can come from moringa without compromising growth.
Moringa is also high in micronutrients as well—particularly vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, potassium, and iron (relatively speaking—for a plant).
Health Benefits of Moringa
Like nearly every medicinal or edible plant, moringa is high in antioxidants—so much so that it can actually be used as a natural preservative for meat packaging to prevent spoilage. Its antioxidants include quercetin, well-known recently for its capacity as a zinc ionophore (helping zinc to enter cells where it can be used for immune function), as well as for blocking histamine release.
In general, antioxidant activity goes hand in hand with anti-inflammatory activity. This study does show that moringa can modulate inflammation as well.
Many medicinal herbs are also anti-microbial, and moringa is no exception. This study shows that it is quite broad-spectrum, with activity against various pathogenic bacteria, opportunistic fungi, and even helminths.
Lots of supplements are being marketed as superfoods these days, and moringa seems to be a popular one at the moment. It does have medicinal benefits, and if consumed in quantity (as a food), there’s some nutritional benefits as well. But moringa’s health benefits are primarily as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-microbial agent, all of which are also shared with nearly every other edible or medicinal plant. Moringa’s claim to fame seems to be primarily that the entire plant is edible and protein-dense–benefits that don’t really matter, if you’re just taking the supplement.