Moringa oleifera, originating from the Indian subcontinent has gained increased popularity over recent years for its nutrient profile and health benefits! So, what is moringa good for?November 28, 2022 5:52 pm November 28, 2022 5:13 pm
What is moringa?
First let’s begin by looking into the background of this unique plant. Moringa oleifera is a large tree native to the Northern region of India. It goes by several names including drumstick tree, horseradish tree or ben oil tree.
People eat almost all parts of the tree and in many parts of the world it is consumed as a herbal remedy. This especially applies to the leaves and pods, which are commonly eaten in parts of India and Africa where it has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years. In fact, it can positively impact so many different parts of the human body that several cultures refer to it as “the tree of life.”
In countries where the plant grows in abundance, the leaves are collected and eaten fresh, or dried, ground into powder and added to food. The seeds produce an oil, while the roots, which have a faint taste of horseradish, are dried or grated fresh.
Moringa oleifera is an adaptogenic herb and a powerful antioxidant, and that means it supports the health of the human body on several different levels. In this article we’ll breakdown and analyse what moringa is good for. But first let’s take a look at the nutritional content.
Nutritional breakdown of the leaf
You might have already guessed that moringa leaves are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals! A 100g serving of moringa leaf powder, which is the most common form of this ingredient contains:
- 25g of protein
- 0g of fat
- 50g of carbohydrate
- 25g of fibre
- 0g of sugar
It’s also an excellent source of:
- Vitamin B1, B2, B3, and B6
- Vitamin C
- Amino acids
Out of the above mentioned it’s worth noting that in particular moringa’s content of iron and calcium is excellent. In fact, 2 tsp (4g) of moringa powder contains over ¼ of our RDA of iron and around 10% of our RDA of calcium.
Interestingly, moringa is rich in antioxidants, which might explain its positive effects in reducing oxidative stress. Let’s look at this a bit further.
Can moringa reduce oxidative stress?
Before we investigate how this unique plant can reduce oxidative stress, first let’s fill you in on the power of antioxidants and how they fight free radicals.
Antioxidants have the ability to help neutralise free radicals in the body. But what are free radicals and why are they so bad? Free radicals are unstable atoms that cells produce as a result of various foods and stimuli. When there are more free radicals than antioxidants, it can lead to a state called oxidative stress. Continuous oxidative stress damages our DNA and other significant molecules in our bodies, which can increase the risk of diseases, including cancer and heart disease.(1)
As previously mentioned, moringa is rich in antioxidants. In particular, these include:
- Vitamin C, which is a water-soluble antioxidant known as ascorbic acid and an essential dietary nutrient. It’s a part of many body functions, including absorption of iron, proper functioning of the immune system, and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth.
- Beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A in our body. It plays an important role in healthy vision, cell division, reproduction and immunity.
- Quercetin is a plant pigment that is a potent flavonoid and more specifically a flavonol. It is a versatile antioxidant that protects against tissue injury as a result of various drug toxicities.
So, what does the research say? In one study, scientists investigated the effect of moringa leaf extract on markers of oxidative stress in HL60 cells exposed to oxidative stress. To improve the reliability of the research the HL60 cells were incubated with different concentrations of moringa leaf extract, whilst being subjected to the same levels of oxidative stress. The results showed that the leaf extract did in fact provide protection against oxidative stress within 24 hours. Furthermore, the most significant protection occurred after 24 hours of incubation.(2)
Are there any benefits of moringa for inflammation?
Subsequently, oxidative stress triggers inflammation, which is the cause of many chronic diseases.
First, let’s look into how inflammation comes about. After infections and injuries trigger the body’s immune response, immune cells produce free radicals. As a result, free radicals damage healthy cells, which results in inflammation. Unfortunately, this may lead to several conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and arthritis. It’s worth pointing out that inflammation is an essential protective mechanism. However, it may become a major health issue if it continues over a long period of time.
So, is moringa good for inflammation? Traditionally, the moringa plant has been used to fight against inflammation, such as joint pain.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease, which means that your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake, mainly attacking the joint, causing painful swelling. But, does the research back up the use of moringa as a traditional treatment?
One study found that moringa root extract might indeed be helpful in treating acute inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatic pain. Meanwhile, another study found that moringa root extract significantly inhibited the development of an oedema just as much as indomethacin, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug. The swelling process, i.e. oedema, is the result of acute inflammation, a response triggered by damage to living tissues.(3)
Scientists believe that isothiocyanates are the main anti-inflammatory compounds in moringa leaves, pods and seeds.(4) In addition, isothiocyanates are abundant in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, brussels sprouts and cabbage, and they significantly contribute to the cancer chemopreventive activity of these vegetables.(5)
However, it’s important to note that so far, research only includes test-tube and animal studies. Therefore, it remains to be seen if moringa has anti-inflammatory effects in humans. Fortunately, future studies will help form a more clear answer surrounding this, so keep your eyes peeled!
"it’s worth noting that in particular moringa’s content of iron and calcium is excellent."
Does moringa help lower blood sugar levels?
High blood sugar is a serious health problem for many people, especially those with diabetes. According to Diabetes UK, over 4.9 million people in the UK have diabetes and 13.6 million people are at higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
Over time, high blood sugar levels increase our risk of developing serious health problems, such as heart disease and organ damage. Therefore, it’s essential to try and keep our blood sugar within a healthy range.
Interestingly, a number of studies have shown that moringa may help lower blood sugar levels. Let’s look a little further into this.
Researchers looked at the effects of moringa leaf powder on postmenopausal females and their blood sugar levels. 30 participants took 7g of the leaf powder every day for 3 months. As a result, fasting blood sugar levels reduced by an average of 13.5%. In addition, the study showed amaranth leaf powder was just as effective in reducing blood glucose levels. This is because the two plants contain antioxidants, including carotenoids, vitamins C and E, and flavonoids, which play an important role in reducing blood glucose.(6)
Another study found that adding 50g of moringa leaves to a meal reduced the rise in blood sugar by over 20% in people with diabetes.(7) Again, scientists believe these effects are caused by isothiocyanates, which may stabilise the blood sugar levels.(8)
Although, only a few human trials exist, and they’re generally a small sample size. The majority of the evidence is based on animal studies, which highlights the need for more research.
Is moringa good for sleep?
According to a study, over 30% of adults report sleeping less than the recommended seven hours per night.(9) Not getting the recommended amount of sleep can raise a whole host of issues, such as hypertension and diabetes.(10) In other words, sleep is vital for our health. If you happen to be amongst the 30% of people who struggle to sleep then this next section could be of particular interest to you.
Ideally something so fundamental like sleep should be simple, but unfortunately that’s just not the case. There is a wide range of factors that can either hinder or support your sleep. Let’s look a little further into what these are and shine some light on the question ‘is moringa good for sleep?’.
One of the biggest factors that contributes to lack of sleep is stress. Fortunately, moringa is an adaptogen, which means it can help our bodies resist both mental and physical stress.