Heard of moringa? If not, you soon will. This strange-sounding leaf powder supplement is one of the latest superfoods to gain the limelight — and for good reason. Moringa boasts a powerhouse of free-radical-fighting, anti-inflammatory, and healing compounds that benefit your heart, head, skin, and more.
Moringa, a nutrient-packed plant found in India, is also known as the “miracle tree.” With antifungal, antiviral, antidepressant, and anti-inflammatory properties, it has been used for generations to treat skin, digestive, and heart conditions, to name a few. And it possesses more antioxidants than other superfoods like acai and green tea.
Want to learn more about moringa’s benefits? Here’s your quick guide to what moringa can bring to your plate and how to best use this powerful little plant.
WHAT IS MORINGA?
While still new to the West, this small tree, moringa oleifera, has been highly valued for centuries in Southeast Asia, where it is used in everything from fiber, rope, and dye, to fertilizer, spices and medicines.
In fact, all parts of this plant are useful and edible — hence the name “miracle tree.” Other names it goes by include, horseradish tree, ben tree, and the drumstick tree. Whatever you call it, moringa seeds, flowers, fruits, roots and leaves are all used for food, and each packed with phytonutrients, proteins and minerals. But the most potent nutritional content and healing properties come from the moringa leaves. The leaves are edible raw and cooked, although in the U..S, you’re most likely to find them dried and ground in powders or capsules.
Moringa gets its superfood status from a rich nutrition profile, providing more nutrients per gram than many other plant species. The nutrient density of moringa varies by growing conditions and preparation, but many studies rank moringa with more vitamin C than oranges, more vitamin A than carrots, more potassium than bananas, and more iron than spinach.Moringa is also high in protein, and contains an impressive 8 of the 9 essential amino acids, a rare trait in plant-based proteins.
But incredible nutrient density isn’t the last of moringa’s claims to superfood fame. Its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant compounds help protect your performance and strengthen your body against a wide variety of diseases. Up next: the top health benefits of moringa supplements.
LOWERS BLOOD SUGAR AND PROTECTS AGAINST DIABETES
Treats and prevents diabetes: Moringa leaf is a useful natural supplement for treating and preventing diabetes, and may even reverse type 1 and 2 diabetes in studies with rats.
Maintains healthy blood sugar levels: In studies, moringa helps prevent sugar spikes after meals and reduces fasting blood sugar levels in both diabetic and non-diabetic animals. Maintaining healthy blood sugar is key to reducing inflammation, boosting your mood, and preventing heart disease and diabetes. Other antioxidants in moringa help protect insulin-producing cells from damaging oxidative stress.
Prevents diabetes complications: The antioxidant phytochemicals in moringa leaves also help protect the kidney and retinas from diabetes-related damage, and studies show that moringa supplementation can help restore kidney and pancreas functions in diabetic rats.
REDUCES INFLAMMATION AND OXIDATION
Lowers inflammation: Moringa is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent, and helps soothe chronic inflammation in your body by suppressing inflammatory enzymes and boosting production of anti-inflammatory cytokines. Reducing inflammation is the No. 1 goal of the Bulletproof Diet, and key to increasing your longevity, strength, and resilience to chronic diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, and obesity.
Reduces oxidative stress and DNA damage: Moringa also boasts an impressive arsenal of antioxidants including vitamins C and E, flavonoids and polyphenols. These compounds scavenge harmful free radicals, and protect your cells from oxidative stress, DNA damage, and inflammation.
Prevents weight gain: An extra perk? Reducing blood sugar, inflammation, and oxidative stress can all help prevent unwanted weight gain.
DEFENDS AGAINST VIRAL, FUNGAL, AND BACTERIAL INFECTIONS
Food poisoning: Several compounds in moringa are naturally antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and antiparasitic. This makes moringa useful in food preservation and water purification, and protecting you from nasty food-borne bugs like salmonella or fungi.
Herpes and HIV: These effects are so strong, that moringa is used as a promising treatment against herpes simplex virus and HIV.
UTIs and stomach bugs: Incorporating moringa in your diet can help boost your resilience against blood or digestive bacterial infections.
Fungal infections and acne: Moringa oils applied topically can fight fungal skin infections and acne.
MORINGA FIGHTS CANCER AND TRIGGERS CELL DEATH
Enhances cancer therapy: Moringa may play an exciting role in treating cancer, and enhancing cancer treatments such as chemotherapy. Moringa leaves pack a potent dose of antioxidants, compounds that ward off cancers by neutralizing free-radicals that can damage cells and DNA to trigger tumor development.
Triggers cancer cell death: Studies show that specific moringa leaf extracts such as glucosinolates and quercetin help inhibit growth and trigger cell death in growing tumors. Along with these exciting cancer-fighting properties, another study shows that treatment with moringa leaf extracts actually increased the effect of chemotherapy in human pancreatic cells.
DEFENDS AGAINST COGNITIVE DECLINE
Another benefit of moringa’s high antioxidant content is its ability to protect your brain tissue against neurodegeneration and damage. Moringa leaf extract may be valuable in treating memory-related disorders such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. In one rat study, treatment with moringa helped regulate and restore healthy neurotransmitter levels after Alzheimer’s-like brain damage.
PROTECT YOUR KIDNEYS AND LIVER
Certain compounds present in moringa help to protect your kidney and liver against toxins or drug exposure. Moringa’s high antioxidant content and ability to detoxify heavy metals make it an ideal supplement for supporting kidney and liver health. But what about all that calcium? Moringa is high in calcium oxalates, but not the kind of oxalates that cause kidney stones. Moringa calcium oxalates are non-soluble, which means your body can excrete them without worrying about kidney stones.
STRENGTHENS SKIN AND HAIR
While moringa leaf helps you glow from the inside, moringa oils can boost your glow from the outside. (Bonus points if you add it to a smoothie along with collagen protein.)
Hydrates skin: Pressed from seeds and leaves, this vitamin and antioxidant-rich oil makes an excellent skin cleanser, hydrating moisturizer or hair treatment.
Fights wrinkles & sagging skin: High vitamin C levels help boost natural collagen production and protect your skin from oxidative stress, fighting off wrinkles, sagging and sun damage.
Keeps skin clear: and its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties can also help clear skin problems such as acne or blackheads.
Heals wounds: Moringa oil also helps heal wounds and skin damage by promoting the growth and movement of fibroblasts, the cells responsible for producing collagen in wound healing.
TREATS LOW-IRON ANEMIA
Moringa is an ideal iron supplement, and perfect for vegetarians who may need help hitting their iron and protein intake. On top of providing a potent plant-based iron, compounds in moringa actually improve iron absorption levels, increase red blood cell counts, and prevents the breakdown of red blood cells seen in sickle-cell anemia.
Risks and Side Effects
What are the side effects of taking moringa? Because it’s completely natural and free from chemical additives (when you buy a pure, high-quality brand), when taken by mouth or used on the skin it seems to be very well-tolerated.
Moringa side effects are still possible and may include:
- lower blood pressure
- slowed heart rate
- uterine contractions
- cell mutations when high amounts of seeds are consumed
- interference with fertility
Leaves, fruit, oil and seeds from the moringa tree have been consumed safely for centuries, but today there are various forms of supplements or extracts sold, so it’s important to buy the purest kind you can find and to read ingredient labels carefully.
During pregnancy or when breastfeeding, it’s best to avoid moringa extract, root or high doses of supplements since not enough research has been done to show it’s safe. It’s possible that chemicals within the plant’s root, bark and flowers can lead to contractions of the uterus, which can cause complications during pregnancy.
How to Use It
As you can probably tell by now, this plant can be used in many different ways in order to utilize all the available moringa benefits. Because of the long transport time needed to ship moringa from parts of Africa or Asia where it’s grown, in the U.S. it’s usually sold in powder or capsule form, which prolongs its shelf life.
An interesting characteristic of moringa? It’s said to taste like a mix between horseradish and asparagus. It might not have the most appealing flavor, but it’s a supplement with one of the the richest supplies of vital nutrients in the world.
There’s no recommended or required dosage of moringa at this time since it’s only an herbal supplement and not an essential nutrient. That said, there’s some evidence that the optimum dose for humans has been calculated to be 29 milligrams per kilogram of body weight.
It’s recommended that you start by taking half a teaspoon of dried moringa orally per day for three to five days, increasing your intake slowly over two weeks as you get acclimated to its effects.
Most people choose to take moringa every several days but not every single day for long duration of time, since it can can cause laxative effects and an upset stomach when overused.
Here are the most common ways to use moringa to get the best moringa benefits possible:
- Dried moringa leaves or moringa powder: It takes roughly seven pounds of moringa leaves to make one pound of dried moringa powder. The leaves are considered the most potent parts of the plant, containing the most antioxidants and available macronutrients. Follow dosage directions carefully, taking up to six grams daily for up to three weeks at a time (which has been shown to be safe, according to studies).
- Moringa tea: This type of moringa is made from dried leaves steeped in hot water, just like many other beneficial herbal teas. The most nutrient-dense types are organic and dried slowly under low temperatures, which helps preserve delicate compounds. Avoid boiling the leaves to help retain the nutrients best, and don’t cook with moringa if possible.
- Moringa seeds: The pods and flowers appear to have a high phenolic content along with proteins and fatty acids. These are the parts of the plant used to purify water and add protein to low-nutrient diets. Look for them added to creams, capsules and powders. The immature green pods of the plant are often called “drumsticks” and are prepared similarly to green beans. The seeds inside the pods are removed and roasted or dried just like nuts to preserve their freshness.
- Moringa oil: The oil from seeds is sometimes called Ben oil. Look for it in natural creams or lotions. Keep the oil in a cool, dark place away from high temperatures or the sun.
Moringa vs. Matcha
Both of these superfoods have several things in common:
- They provide antioxidants, fight inflammation, slow down aging, protect brain and heart health, and increase immune function.
- The two are similar in terms of their appearance and uses, since both are made into potent powders or teas.
- They do have some notable differences when it comes to their nutrient profiles. While comparable in terms of calories, gram for gram moringa has more fiber, protein, calcium, sodium, vitamin C and vitamin A than matcha does.
- One of the biggest differences between moringa and matcha green tea is in regard to amino acid concentration. Moringa leaves are a surprisingly great source of protein since they provide nine essential amino acids required for human protein synthesis: histidine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. This is one reason why organizations like the World Health Organization rely on moringa to supplement low-calorie diets and prevent deficiencies.
- In matcha’s defense, on the other hand, matcha tea (which contains roughly 15 times more active ingredients than any other conventional green tea) provides numerous antioxidants and high doses of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a type of powerful catechin that’s known to protect brain health. Moringa is not known to provide EGCG, which means both plants used together can have even more benefits.
- What is moringa good for? In 2008 the National Institute of Health called moringa (moringa oleifera) the “plant of the year.” Moringa health benefits include providing antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, balancing hormones and slowing the effects of aging, improving digestive health, balancing blood sugar levels and helping fight diabetes, protecting and nourishing the skin, and helping stabilize mood and protect brain health.
- There are actually believed to be at least a dozen different varieties of this plant, but one (moringa oleifera) is by far the most utilized.
- Most commonly, supplements are made from dried moringa leaf which forms a powder. Other forms include tea and oil/tincture.
- It’s a great source of nutrients including antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, calcium and even amino acids.