What is moringa, and is it a superfood? Explore the potential health benefits, find out what moringa is used for, and discover whether there are any side effects.
What is moringa?
So maybe you know about chia seeds, flax, and quinoa, but there’s a new plant that’s been making waves in health food and nutritional circles over the last couple of years and it’s called moringa. One of the most recent plants to receive the “superfood” label, moringa. is also known as the miracle tree, the drumstick tree, or the ben oil tree—and it has been used for its health and medicinal benefits for thousands of years. It’s native to India, but also grows in Africa, Asia and South America, and is characterized by its twisted drumstick-esque pods. In fact, the plant’s name is derived from this feature: the word “murungai” means “twisted pod” in Tamil, a language predominantly spoken by the Tamil people of India and Sri Lanka.
Every part of the plant can be consumed or used as an ingredient. You can eat the seeds the same way you’d eat peas, or you can enjoy the small round leaves either fresh or powdered. Most people choose to powder them before adding them to smoothies. Tasting a little like matcha, many companies now include moringa in juices, kombucha, nutrition bars, and other health-food snacks. Because the plant is so cheap to grow and the leaves retain many of their vitamins and minerals after drying, moringa is seen as an important weapon in the fight against malnutrition across the world. That said, like all good things, there are some warnings as well, so be sure to read all the way down to see the possible side effects associated with this plant before throwing a moringa party.
What is moringa used for?
Practitioners of Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of medicine, claim that the plant is able to prevent as many as 300 diseases. Although it’s important to remember that this sort of figure has not been verified by any clinical studies, moringa has been ascribed a wide variety of uses, including:
- Protecting the liver
- Treating upset stomach
- Increasing sex drive
- Protecting and nourishing hair and skin
- Treating edema
- Improving eyesight
- Treating sickle-cell disease and anemia
- Fighting bacterial diseases
- Helping wounds to close and heal
- Treating asthma
- Treating diabetes
Top 5 moringa benefits
The plant has plenty of health benefits to write home about. Here are 5 of the top moringa benefits:
- Moringa leaves contain high levels of Vitamin A, calcium, iron, Vitamin C, protein and potassium, making them a great dietary supplement. The pods tend to be lower in minerals and vitamins, but they’re still rich in Vitamin C.
- Numerous studies have indicated that moringa may be used to reduce cholesterol, which can help to prevent the risk of heart disease.
- The plant is also rich in a variety of antioxidants, including chlorogenic acid and quercetin, meaning that eating moringa on a regular basis can significantly increase the levels of antioxidants in your blood.
- Keeping blood sugar within a healthy range is extremely important. According to several studies, moringa may lower blood sugar levels. In one study, for instance, six patients with diabetes found that adding just 50 grams of moringa leaves to a meal reduced the rise of blood sugar by as much as 21%.
- Moringa has also been known to reduce inflammation. However, it’s important to note that all of the scientific studies linking moringa to anti-inflammatory properties have been conducted on test tube studies or animals, so it’s yet to be determined whether this property carries over into human consumption.
Are there any side effects to eating moringa?
It’s not all good news for the humble moringa plant, however. Moringa has been linked to a variety of side effects, including:
- The root and stems of the plant may lead to miscarriage. Some sources also claim that moringa leaves have this effect.
- There is some research indicating that moringa seeds may have a cytotoxic or immunosuppressive effect.
- Moringa leaves can cause digestive disturbances or have a laxative effect.
What’s the verdict?
Although moringa certainly seems to have some health properties, many of the more radical claims for the plant do not have any concrete proof behind them, while its potentially negative effects on fertility and pregnancy may cause some people to worry. It’s also important to remember that so-called “superfoods” are never shortcuts to good health, and should always be used to supplement a balanced, healthy diet.