Thousands of years ago, moringa was praised for its health benefits. Moringa is a functional food that is gaining popularity across the globe due to its highly nutritious value. It is native to the Asian subcontinent and is largely grown in India, also cultivated in South America and Pacific countries too. Moringa is famously used in various cuisines as a culinary delicacy, but it has incredibly therapeutic benefits hence widely used in traditional medicine, especially Ayurveda.
Botanical and common names:
The botanical name of Moringa is Moringa oleifera, a plant that belongs to the Moringaceae family, a name derived from the Indian Tamil name Murungai, which means Drumstick tree. In Sanskrit, it is called Sahajan, or Shobhanjan which means pleasing to the eye and also auspicious in Indian culture. In English, it is recognized by the name of Drumstick tree, benzoilve plant, and horse-radish tree.
Physical Structure and useful botanical parts:
Moringa is a large deciduous, tropical tree with a thick and strong trunk. The flowers are yellowish-white with a pleasant fragrance, and the leaves are dark green and elliptical in shape. The fruit of Moringa is a capsule-shaped pod that looks like a drumstick, hence the name drumstick tree. All parts of this plant are used for culinary and medicinal purposes, but the leaves and the fruit have special significance in Ayurveda.
Ayurvedic properties and therapeutic benefits:
Moringa leaves are dominant in Katu Rasa that is Pungent taste, followed by Tikta that is Bitter tase. It has Laghu (light), Rooksha (dry), and Teekshna (sharp and piercing) qualities that help in quicker absorption and assimilation. Moringa leaves are beneficial to reduce excess Kapha Dosha and helps to balance Vata Dosha too. Pitta individuals are advised to consume this herb in moderation. Moringa pods are Guru, which is heavy to digest, may increase Kapha Dosha but are useful for bone and joint health being Snighdha (slimy) in nature. Ayurveda has categorized this herb amongst Krimighna (herbs that reduce worm infestations) category and one which can be used internally as well as externally for therapeutic purposes.
Health Benefits of Moringa:
Moringa is known to have tremendous health benefits. It is used in various Ayurvedic and herbal health formulations. Some prominent health benefits of this herb are:
- Antioxidant properties – Moringa is loaded with natural antioxidants known as quercetin which helps to lower blood pressure and chlorogenic acid that lowers blood glucose levels after meals (post prandial levels), thus making Moringa an essential dietary supplement for
- Hypertensive and Diabetic individuals.
- Anti-inflammatory action – Moringa leaves, seeds and pods all have anti-inflammatory properties which helps in reducing symptoms such as joint pain, chronic fatigue, and cramps. Highly recommended to use in conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout.
- Improves bones and teeth – Moringa is rich in calcium and magnesium which helps in strengthening the functioning of the skeletal system. It is highly beneficial in degenerative conditions such as Osteoporosis and accelerates fracture healing.
- GI Health – Moringa leaves tea is useful to soothe the inflamed intestines and improve absorption in conditions like ulcerative colitis and gastric ulcers. It is also beneficial in Inflammatory bowel syndrome to reduce diarrhea and inflammation.
- Respiratory health and ENT – Moringa leaves are astringent in nature, hence are a natural bronchodilator which helps to relieve chest congestion in conditions like asthma and bronchitis.
- External application – Paste of Moringa leaves is used locally as an ointment for cuts and wounds in traditional medicine. It is also used as a herb in Swedana procedure, that is medicated herbal steam or sauna; an essential therapeutic procedure before Panchakarma.
- Skin infection – Ayurveda recommends using the powder of Moringa seeds for various skin infections due to its blood purification action. Dried Moringa leaves tea is beneficial for a glowing skin.
- Detoxification – Moringa is used in diet as well as a medicine which helps to clear out the circulation channels known as Srotasa in Ayurveda. It helps to digest Ama that is bio-toxin accumulation in the body and improves Agni.
- Anti-helminthic properties – Moringa is categorized under the Krimighna group of herbs which have an anti-helminthic action, resulting into removal of intestinal worm infestation.
- Reproductive Health – Moringa is proven to be beneficial to increase sperm count and their quality. In women, it is useful in irregular menstrual conditions such as dysmenorrhea.
Clinical Studies on Moringa and outcomes:
Various clinical studies have been conducted on Moringa to understand this potent herb for its health benefits. Moringa is clinically researched mainly for its antioxidant action, nutritional values, phytochemical properties, and therapeutic benefits. An excerpt from a publication state that,
“The Moringa plant provides a rich and rare combination of zeatin, quercetin, beta-sitosterol, caffeoylquinic acid and kaempferol. In addition to its compelling water purifying powers and high nutritional value, M. oleifera is very important for its medicinal value. Various parts of this plant such as the leaves, roots, seed, bark, fruit, flowers and immature pods act as cardiac and circulatory stimulants, possess antitumor, antipyretic, antiepileptic, anti-inflammatory, antiulcer, antispasmodic, diuretic, antihypertensive, cholesterol-lowering, antioxidant, antidiabetic, hepatoprotective, antibacterial and antifungal activities, and are being employed for the treatment of different ailments in the indigenous system of medicine, particularly in South Asia. This review focuses on the detailed phytochemical composition, medicinal uses, along with pharmacological properties of different parts of this multipurpose tree”.
Traditional remedies, applications, and uses of Moringa:
- Moringa fruit /Drumsticks are a common delicacy in India. It is often used in South Indian culinary practices to make different types of lentil curries. Such curries are a rich source of protein, especially for vegans. Drumstick pod soup is also recommended for patients suffering from liver disease, poor bone, and joint health. It also acts as an aphrodisiac.
- Moringa extract is available in the form of dietary supplement as capsules, tablets, and powder. It is recommended for individuals with chronic fatigue, back ache and for women suffering from menstrual conditions like dysmenorrhoea.
- The antioxidant properties of Moringa make it a good choice for diabetics.
- Moringa is also beneficial as an antidote for tobacco as per Ayurveda. It is recommended to consume this herb to reduce the ill effects of tobacco from the body.