What is moringa?
Moringa oleifera is an edible plant which is native to the sub-Himalayan areas of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. A wide variety of nutritional and medicinal values have been associated with its roots, bark, leaf, flowers, fruits, and seeds. Moringa oleifera is also called the drumstick tree, the miracle tree, the ben oil tree, or the horseradish tree. It is very rich in healthy antioxidants and bioactive compounds. It is an important food source in some parts of the world. The leaves retain lots of vitamins and minerals when dried.
It has numerous health benefits. They are used for anemia, arthritis, joint pain, asthma, cancer, constipation, diabetes, diarrhea, epilepsy, stomach pain, stomach and intestinal ulcers, and many other chronic diseases. It is used to reduce swelling, increase libido, prevent pregnancy, boost the immune system, and increase breast milk production. It is used topically to treat abscesses, athlete’s foot, dandruff, gingivitis, snakebites, warts, and wounds. Oil also is produced from moringa seeds and is used in foods, perfume, and hair care products, and as a machine lubricant. Moringa contains proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Moringa is also an antioxidant and helps to protect cells from damage.
Nutritional contents of moringa
Minerals:It contains minerals namely iron, copper, sodium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, manganese, zinc, and selenium.
Vitamins: It contains the vitamins namely vitamin B1, vitamin E, vitamin B6, vitamin B7, vitamin D, vitamin K, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin C.
Amino acids: It contains aspartic acid, glutamic acid, serine, glycine, threonine, alanine, valine, leucine, isoleucine, histidine, lysine, arginine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, cysteine, proline, tyrosine, methionine, cysteine, phenylalanine, choline.
Moringa contains around 92 different nutrients and 46 different antioxidants and has the ability to treat hundreds of diseases.
Health benefits of moringa
Due to a large number of nutrients and antioxidants, there are numerous health benefits associated with consuming moringa.
High in Nutrition: Moringa consumed by any form provides ample amount of nutrition. They are rich in minerals and vitamins, which are very much required for the daily function of the body. One cup of fresh chopped leaves consists:
- Protein: 2 grams
- Vitamin B6: 19%.
- Vitamin C: 12%.
- Iron: 11%.
- Riboflavin (B2): 11%.
- Vitamin A (from beta-carotene): 9%.
- Magnesium: 8%.
Rich in Antioxidants: Antioxidants are compounds, which act against free radicals present in the body. High levels of free radicals cause oxidative stress and are associated with chronic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Moringa is known to have 46 types of antioxidants. Quercetin, which is a powerful antioxidant, is particularly beneficial in lowering the blood pressure. Chlorogenic acid present in moringa helps in moderating the blood sugar levels after consuming meals. Moringa leaf extract is also used as a food preservative, which increases the shelf life of meat by reducing oxidation.
Lowers Blood Sugar Levels: Blood sugar is called glucose, which is the main sugar found in the blood. It is formed from the food we eat and is the body’s main source of energy. Blood carries glucose to all the body’s cells to use for energy. Diabetes is a disease in which blood sugar levels are too high. High blood sugar can lead to a serious health problem including heart disease. This is one main reason why it is important to keep the blood sugar under control.
Moringa contains a plant compound called isothiocyanates, which has the ability to regulate the insulin levels and in turn reduce the blood sugar levels. Studies have shown that consuming around 7 grams of moringa leaf powder every day for three months can reduce fasting blood sugar levels by 13.5%. Studies have also claimed that adding 50 grams of moringa leaves to a meal reduced the rise in blood sugar by 21%.
Reduce Inflammation: Inflammation is a localized physical condition in which part of the body becomes reddened, swollen, hot, and painful, especially as a reaction to injury or infection. Inflammation is an essential protective mechanism, but there are instances where it can lead to serious health issue when it continues over a long period of time. Sustained inflammation is also associated with chronic health problems, including heart disease and cancer.
Many of the fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices have anti-inflammatory properties, but the degree of anti-inflammatory effects they contain varies. Moringa has a compound called isothiocyanates, which are found in the leaves, pods, and seeds of moringa and have very powerful anti-inflammatory effects as compared to other plant compounds.
Lowers cholesterol and reduces heart disease risk factors: Cholesterol is a waxy substance, which is found in the fats (lipids) in the blood. The high content of LDL (low-density lipoproteins) is called as high cholesterol. People having high cholesterol are at higher risk of getting heart disease or stroke, which can be fatal. Moringa leaf powder has heart-healthy benefits, particularly in blood lipid control, which helps in the prevention of plaque formation in the arteries, and reduces the cholesterol levels, which overall helps in reducing the risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
Supports Brain Health: Brain is one of the most vital organs of our body and brain health is referred to the ability of the brain to function normally and perform various complicated tasks of our daily life namely to remember, learn, play, concentrate, and maintain a clear, active mind. Moringa is well known for a large number of nutrients and antioxidants it contains. The antioxidant and neuro-enhancer activities of moringa help the brains cognitive function and brain health. Moringa is also studied for the treatment of Alzheimer disease with favorable results.
Vitamins like vitamin E and C fight oxidation, which leads to neuron degeneration and improves brain function. Serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline nerve cells are called the neurotransmitters in the brain, which play a key role in memory, mood, organ function, and responses to a stimulus such as stress and pleasure, and mental health such as depression and psychosis. Moringa has the ability to regulate these nerve cells and normalize them for appropriate brain function.
Protects liver: Liver is the largest solid organ present in the human body. The main function of the liver is to detoxify chemicals and metabolize drugs. The other function of the liver is to produce proteins, which are important for blood clotting and other functions. Maintaining a healthy liver is directly associated with a healthy lifestyle. Moringa contains large amounts of polyphenols (naturally occurring micronutrients in plants) in its leaves and flowers, which protect the liver against oxidation, toxicity, and damage. Moringa can reduce liver damage and fibrosis and can reverse the process of oxidation in the liver.
Moringa oil, which is the extract from its seeds, can restore liver enzymes to normal levels. Maintaining normal liver enzymes is very important because it is responsible for various functions namely fat metabolism, blood detoxification, bile production, and nutrient processing. Lower levels of hepatic enzymes can impair the ability of the liver to filter the blood.
Antimicrobial and Antibacterial Properties: Bacteria and microorganism can harm the human body in a major way and can lead to different health conditions. Antibacterial and antimicrobial activities of moringa have been extensively studied and crude extracts of different tissues of moringa have displayed antimicrobial and antibacterial activities. Aqueous ethanol extracts of moringa leaves have been effective in the antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus aureus.
Mood Stabilizers: Anxiety and depression have become a widespread mental disorder in the present world. Depression usually results from constant stress or neurochemical reaction. Antipsychotic drugs are available for treating depression and these include tricyclic antidepressants, selective monoamine oxidase inhibitors, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), and specific serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors. A new approach to the treatment of depression with plant-derived remedies is being studied.
Some nutraceuticals containing flavonoids and polyphenolic compounds have proven to help in the treatment of mental disorders and are used as antidepressants. Moringa which contains a high amount of nutrients and antioxidants has the properties of antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antiulcer, and also has cholesterol-lowering abilities. Moringa also contains vitamins A, B, C, flavonoids, oleic, palmitic and stearic acid, saponins, glycoside, gum, protein, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron.
Moringa leaves are rich in properties such as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory and thus could be used in the treatment of depression caused by oxidative stress or inflammation.
Side effects of moringa
Moringa is generally considered very safe and is also consumed as a food delicacy in many parts of India and Africa. It can be safely consumed in a medicinal format appropriate doses. It is generally advised to avoid the roots of moringa since these are toxic and cause side effects and there are cases where it can lead to paralysis.
Forms of moringa
Moringa is generally found in three main forms other than the whole plant.
Moringa Powder: Moringa powder is generally the most popular form of moringa and it typically is used in green drink smoothies. The main advantage of using moringa powder is that it can be bought in a bulk and is typically a little cheaper than capsules or oil, but it is not necessarily as concentrated. Moringa powder can also be added to tea and create a delicious moringa tea.
Moringa Oil: Moringa oil is not typically ingested by humans and is mainly used in hair care and skin care products. Moringa oil is highly concentrated and is mainly used only for external application due to the various healing properties in the highly concentrated oil. Many of the cosmetic products also contain moringa oil. Due to the moisturizing and healing effects, moringa is used in products such as makeup, skincare, and hair care products (shampoos and conditioners).
Moringa Capsules: Moringa capsules are easy to consume and is considered to be the favorite form of moringa. Moringa capsules are even highly concentrated than the powder form and the serving size is also smaller as compared to the powder form (800 mg per capsule). Moringa capsules are expensive compared to the powder.
What is the right dosage?
The appropriate dose of moringa depends on several factors including the age, health, and several medical conditions. There is not much research done to exactly prescribe moringa for any particular treatment.
The final takeaway
Moringa is a tree filled with various nutrients and antioxidants and is traditionally used to prepare many medicines. Moringa has shown promise in treating hundreds of diseases, but more specific research on the dosage needs to be obtained. Natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. It is very strongly advised to follow the directions of a medical professional before consuming any herbal products.
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