Moringa is used both in food and cosmetics. Its use in these fields is justified by its nutritional components and the numerous properties attributed to the so-called miracle tree, some confirmed and some not.
The parts of the plant that are used are the leaves, flowers, fruits (pods), seeds, bark and roots.
In countries where moringa is indigenous, people use the leaves, flowers, fruits, roots, seeds and oil extracted from them in their normal diet.
In our country, on the other hand, it is mainly the dried and chopped or pulverised leaves which are used for the preparation of infusions or drinks. Pulverised leaves and seed extracts are also included in the composition of several food supplements approved by the Ministry of Health (these supplements are listed in the National Register of Food Supplements, which can be consulted on the official website of the Ministry of Health).
Moringa oleifera, also known as the horseradish tree or drumstick tree (because of the characteristic shape of its fruit), is a plant native to north-east India, which then spread to tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, south-east Asia, South America and the Caribbean islands.
It belongs to the Brassicaceae genus, the same genus as broccoli, with which it shares many of the beneficial health properties: in addition to being an everyday food in its regions of origin, Moringa has been used for centuries for its healing properties (it is known as the 'miracle tree'). And what has been passed down from these cultures is now becoming the subject of scientific research, with the first confirmations of the plant's healing potential.
Moringa was already known in ancient civilisations: Egypt, Greece, Rome and in Indian Ayurvedic medicine, to name but a few. It is said that in India, Maurian warriors were able to oppose the advance of Alexander the Great's troops in 326 BC, thanks to the strength derived from the daily use of an extract of Moringa leaves.
From a compositional point of view, the Moringa oleifera has a very respectable nutritional profile, so much so that it has been named the 'most nutrient-rich plant ever discovered' [1,2].
- protein (30% in the dried leaves, which contain all the essential amino acids),
- fatty acids (44% alpha-linolenic acid),
- vitamins (A, some B, C, D, E, K),
- minerals (calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, zinc),
- plant sterols (beta-sitosterol),
- flavonoids (quercetin),
- isothiocyanates (moringine).
The table below shows the content of certain vitamins and minerals in fresh or dried Moringa leaves compared with that of the best-known reference foods: as can be seen, the nutritional value is undoubtedly high - and to a greater extent in the dried leaves, with the sole exception of vitamin C [2,4,8].
There are countless testimonies in traditional medicine to the healing power of Moringa oleifera and an equally large number of scientific studies since the 1950s that have sought to investigate and verify these properties. Moringa has been studied for its applications as a
- antihypertensive (combating high blood pressure),
- antiulcer (for peptic ulcer),
- cholesterol-lowering (to lower high cholesterol),
- hypoglycaemic (to lower blood sugar),
- hepatoprotector (benefiting liver health),
- cardiac and circulatory stimulant,
Unfortunately, many of these studies have not been conducted in a sufficiently rigorous manner (randomized, versus placebo), or have been published in semi-recognized journals-and thus escaped international attention-or have stopped at in vivo testing on animals but have not continued on humans. This also explains the lack of awareness of Moringa in Western medical practice, in whose tradition this plant is completely absent. Go to our Shop
However, there are applications for which scientific research has provided solid evidence: antibiotic activity is one of them. In the 1950s, three Indian universities identified a compound in Moringa that they called pterigospermine, which can dissociate to form two benzyl isothiocyanate molecules in vivo: the latter was a compound already known at the time for its antibiotic properties. The group of researchers did not stop with the identification of pterigospermine, but studied its antimicrobial activity, triggering a series of subsequent studies that confirmed Moringa's activity against a range of bacteria and fungi, including the well-known Helicobacter Pylori, the cause of gastritis and duodenal ulcers and a predisposing factor for stomach cancer .
The anti-epileptic activity of the ethanolic extract of Moringa leaves has been demonstrated in vivo in animals, as has its anti-diabetic activity . Studies have also been carried out on humans for the latter potential use, but the number of human studies is still too limited to draw any conclusions. The same applies to its effectiveness in reducing cholesterol and triglyceridesand its antioxidant and anti-tumour activity [10, 11,12].
Ultimately, the studies carried out to date do not rule out the therapeutic potential of Moringa oleifera (indeed, those in vitro and on animals confirm it), but they require further study and confirmation through human studies, which will give robustness to the preliminary results obtained to date (and to what has been handed down by traditional medicine) and may pave the way for the therapeutic use of Moringa extracts .