The Benefits of Moringa
Moringa (Moringa oleifera) has gained popularity in recent years as an energy supplement, but there is much more that this vibrant green herb has to offer. An herbal superfood, moringa also possesses tremendous nutritious content and supports the body’s overall vitality, immunity, and well-being.
In this article:
- Characteristics of the Moringa Plant
- Benefits of Moringa
- How to Take Moringa
- Modern Research on Moringa
- Is Moringa Safe?
- Growing and Harvesting Moringa
Characteristics of the Moringa Plant
Moringa oleifera is perhaps the best-known and most widely sought-after member of the genus Moringa, from the flowering plant family Moringaceae.1 Found primarily in India and throughout the sub-tropics, it is a drought-resistant, perennial tree that can quickly grow in a variety of climates and conditions.2,3,4
Moringa is sometimes called "the drumstick tree" for its long pods that resemble drumsticks.5 The name derives from the Tamil word “murungai,” which means “drumstick.”6
Another name for moringa is “the horseradish tree,” which caught on after the plant was first introduced to English consumers, who used the pungent-tasting root as a substitute for horseradish sauce. The name “oleifera” is a reference to its oil-producing seeds.7
Throughout history, people have used just about every part of the moringa tree for their various needs. Like most trees, it has been harvested for timber, but because its wood is relatively soft and light, it isn't regularly sought after for this purpose. Far more coveted are its seeds, which are used for water filtration and purification,8 and its bark, which produces fiber commonly used in textiles and to make ropes, mats, and blue dye.9
Other parts of the moringa tree are frequently used to make teas and powders.10,11 It is said that any part of the moringa plant can be consumed, and its leaves, seeds, and fruits in particular are often consumed for their numerous health benefits.12
Benefits of Moringa
This multi-purpose tree has many uses in folk herbalism and is regularly cultivated and marketed as a dietary supplement or meal ingredient. It is said that royalty as far back as 150 B.C. consumed moringa leaves and fruit to enhance their beauty and intelligence, and that the Mauryan soldiers in the frontlines who defeated Alexander the Great had taken moringa leaf extract before going into battle, and considered the strength and stamina it lent them a contributing factor in their success.13
Moringa’s benefits extend beyond promoting natural beauty, a sharp mind, and vibrant energy, and many of its benefits can be at least partially attributed to its impressive nutritional content. Sometimes called a "powerhouse" of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, moringa can be beneficial for those who are malnourished.14,15 Here are a few more of moringa’s remarkable benefits:
- Is a Good Source of Protein. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and the essential amino acids necessary to form a complete protein can all be found in moringa. This makes moringa a good source of protein, especially for those who do not eat meat.16
- Promotes Healthy Sleep and Increased Energy. Since amino acids also help the body with energy levels and tissue restoration,17 moringa can help the body in these areas. Moringa is also an adaptogenic herb, so it can adapt to what the body needs, providing energy throughout the day and sound, restful sleep at night.
- Supports Cleansing and Detoxification. Known for its purifying properties, moringa is said to be a valuable source of natural antioxidants,18,19 which help the body cleanse and remove ama (natural toxins).
- Has High Nutritional Content. In addition to amino acids and antioxidants, moringa is also a source of helpful vitamins and minerals like beta-carotene, vitamin B6, vitamin C, riboflavin, vitamin E, and iron.20,21
- Supports Various Organs. Moringa’s antioxidant content helps make it a beneficial tonic for the heart, liver, kidneys, blood, and pancreas.22,23,24
Moringa in Ayurveda
From an Ayurvedic perspective, moringa is considered heating and pungent. It has a heating virya (action) and a pungent, bitter rasa (taste), with a pungent vipaka (post-digestive effect).
As mentioned previously, moringa has deep cleansing and detoxifying effects. In Bhava Prakash, a historical Ayurvedic text, moringa is called “sigru,” which translates to “moves like an arrow.” This is in reference to moringa’s ability to quickly penetrate the dhatus (tissue layers of the body) for deep cleansing. It has a particular affinity for rakta dhatu (blood) and meda dhatu (fat).
Its bitter, pungent nature makes moringa excellent for balancing kapha and vata dosha, though it may increase vata in excess due to its bitter taste. Its heating qualities may aggravate pitta.
Modern Research on Moringa
Many studies have been conducted throughout the past century, with much of the focus placed on moringa’s nutritional content. Below are a few studies that have researched moringa’s effects:
- “Moringa Plants: Bioactive Compounds and Promising Applications in Food Products.” Food Research International. September 2018.25
- “Moringa Oleifera: a Food Plant with Multiple Medicinal Uses.” Phytotherapy Research. January 2007.26
- “Nutraceutical or Pharmacological Potential of Moringa Oleifera Lam.” Nutrients: Plant Food, Nutrition, and Human Health. March 2018.27
- “Biological, Nutritional, and Therapeutic Significance of Moringa Oleifera Lam.” Phytotherapy Research. August 2019.28
- “Cultivation, Genetic, Ethnopharmacology, Phytochemistry, and Pharmacology of Moringa Oleifera Leaves: An Overview.” International Journal of Molecular Sciences. June 2015.29
How to Take Moringa
Moringa is extremely versatile, not only in its many properties but also in the variety of ways it can be taken to support your health. Here are a few ideas to get started:
Traditional Methods. For an easy traditional method, take ¼ to ½ teaspoon Moringa powder with warm water, once or twice daily.
- Take the powder with a teaspoon of ghee for overall nutrition or with honey to boost metabolism.
- Mix it with warm milk and honey to help balance vata.
- To offset the heating quality, take with a spoonful of aloe vera.
Make a Lemon Moringa Latte. As a caffeine alternative, try making a lemon moringa latte with moringa powder. This revitalizing tonic is the perfect morning drink or afternoon pick-me-up.
Add to Food. Experiment with sprinkling moringa powder in smoothies, nutritional shakes, or on top of your oatmeal.
Take it with other superfoods. Moringa is a key ingredient in Elevated Adaptogens, a powdered blend of renowned adaptogens and superfoods, including ashwagandha and amalaki. Try mixing it into your meals or boosting your beverages.
Is Moringa Safe?
As a superfood with high nutritional content, moringa is generally considered safe, although its heating nature can be aggravating to pitta, and its bitter taste and light, dry qualities could be potentially imbalancing to vata.
Moringa is not recommended for those who are pregnant or nursing. If you are taking medications, we recommend speaking to your doctor or Ayurvedic practitioner before taking moringa.
The Growing and Harvesting of Banyan’s Moringa
Moringa trees grow from seeds as well as vegetative propagation. They can grow in a wide range of soil types—even in poor soils—but thrive best in light and sandy soil rich in organic matter and compost or manure.
Our moringa trees grow in India and are ready to harvest within 7–8 months after planting, once they have reached 5–6 feet. When harvesting, the farmers we partner with carefully cut the leaf stems by hand. Successive harvesting can be done every 45–50 days, depending on the regrowth of the tree after the first harvest.
On the farm, the leaves go through hygienic drying under a shaded net before going through a powdering process. They are then powdered in a way that keeps all volatile and trace nutrients in the powder.
Sustainability of Moringa
At this time, moringa is not in danger of overharvesting or extinction.
As a part of a larger conversation regarding the sustainability of Ayurvedic herbs, it is important to understand where and how plants are grown and harvested.
We ensure sustainability by sourcing the botanicals used in our products from privately owned farms where each plant has been cultivated or harvested from legal wild-craft sourcing. Our herbs and ingredient-producing plants are harvested at optimal times, using environmentally sustainable practices sensitive to the long-term health of the plants.