Have you ever heard of the Moringa tree? I was thinking about it because I had moringa in my GGS in Rwanda last year, and also recently had it on a trip to Tulum, Mexico. Maybe you’ve been hearing about it here and there and were curious about it? Well that’s why I wanted to write this blog for you today!
It is a super unusual tree because not only is it incredibly nutritious, and highly valued for its medicinal properties, but absolutely every part of it can be eaten!
Moringa is like a “vegetable tree,” loaded with health and beauty supporting vitamins, minerals, and enzymes, making it a true superfood in every sense of the word.
The Moringa tree originates from India, where it has been prized for thousands of years, both as a bountiful source of nutrition, and a robust curative featured heavily in the ancient Ayurveda Medicine tradition.
Called by some cultures “The Miracle Tree,” it is said to be effective in treating upwards of 300 conditions and maladies (more on this later on). Virtually every part of this amazing tree, from its roots to its flowers has been used for thousands of years to benefit people all over the world.
Though native to the southern foothills of the Himalayas, the Moringa can now be found growing in many different countries, bringing health, nutrition, vitality and beauty to diverse populations from Asia and Africa all the way to the western world. While it is still not found in most regular grocery stores, you can usually find fresh Moringa in Asian markets.
Ground into powder, Moringa is used as a natural health and beauty promoting multivitamin. The powder can be taken in capsule form, sprinkled into soups and sauces, added to your Glowing Green Smoothie, or it can be steeped in hot water and consumed as a soothing tea with tons of nutritional, alkalizing and purifying benefits.
Nutrition = Health = Beauty
Once you have added nutrient rich Moringa to your diet, you will notice positive changes like:
- Fact #1 : Clearer, more youthful looking skin. Moringa is rich in antioxidants and Omega 3 fatty acids which reduce inflammation, contribute to healthy cell production and regeneration. They help your skin retain its suppleness, helping to prevent lines and wrinkles while also boosting your immune system.
- Fact #2: Healthier hair, scalp, and nails. Because Moringa contains all of the the essential amino acids, you will notice that dry, brittle hair and nails are a thing of the past after incorporating it into your diet. Vitamins C and E also help facilitate blood circulation in the scalp which is absolutely essential to the absorption of nutrients in the follicles.
- Fact #3: Increased energy. A single serving of Moringa contains about 3x the iron of spinach. Iron is essential to enriching the blood, carrying life, energy and oxygen into our muscles, organs and tissues. Move over sugary, high caffeine “energy” drinks, Moringa tea is here supporting health and vitality – without the CRASH!
- Fact #4: Clear vision and eye health. High in beta carotene and vitamin A, moringa supports healthy eyes and clear vision.
- Fact #5: Regular, healthy bowel movements. Moringa oils and fiber have a detoxifying effect to help scrub your bowel of waste and toxins allowing you to fully absorb nutrients from the foods you eat. Beauty is found in detoxification, a key player in the strength of your body and the resilience of your skin. You can find out more about beauty foods in my book, The Beauty Detox Solution.
The nutritional bounty of this tree is truly astounding, as it offers high concentrations of essential vitamins, like C and A, and a bounty of antioxidants, amino acids and healthy fats, depending on which part of the tree is being consumed.
*Per 100 grams, the leaves alone have nearly as much vitamin C as a navel orange, and the pods have almost 3x that!
*Chart adapted from the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference
There are 13 varieties of Moringa, but the most common one, and the one we are focusing on here is Moringa Oleifera. It has delicate, feathery branches with small, deep green, oval leaves which are wonderful in salads, teas, or as a healthy side dish.
If eaten raw, they have a little bite to them like watercress or radicchio. When cooked, they tend to mellow out a bit, and are much more like spinach, but with a somewhat nutty flavor.
*TIP: Always look for the young, rich green leaves, then simply wash and remove the stems before serving – like spinach.
Depending on the climate, the tree can come into flower twice a year, producing small fragrant blossoms of creamy white, and long, slender seed pods (more on these later on).
“Never Die Tree”
Moringa is called the “Never Die Tree” in parts of Africa because is so amazingly hardy – it seems to thrive no matter how tough the environment or how poor the soil.
This tree is known to produce fruit even during drought conditions, and it will rebound quickly after being cut back. In fact, it seems to like it because each stump will produce 4 – 8 new shoots. Keeping them pruned, will encourage denser, lusher growth for more bountiful harvests.
Of course, keeping them to a reasonable height makes it much easier to reach the leaves, blossoms and fruit, too. The cuttings and branches can be used as animal feed or mulch… so absolutely nothing goes to waste! Handy little tree, right?!
Moringa trees do extremely well in developing countries with little access to modern irrigation methods.
They also grow quite quickly, easily gaining as much as 10 feet per year in peak conditions, and they are naturally resistant to many types of insects.
It is these characteristics, combined with awesome nutritional/medicinal attributes that make it such a wonderful, highly economical, low maintenance crop helping to fight disease, starvation and malnutrition in many parts of the world. The leaves can actually be harvested relatively frequently, as often as every few weeks, providing a pretty steady flow of sustenance.
In this video below I speak with Julie who works with Gardens for Health International and she mentions how in Rwanda they use the fresh Moringa in their Glowing Green Smoothie.
Wondering if there are any more surprisingly wonderful attributes of the magnificent Moringa tree?
Get comfortable because we are just getting warmed up! Check out just a few of the numerous practical uses for its seeds:
- Fact #6: Seeds can be pressed to extract a highly versatile oil. Moringa oil, better known as “Ben” oil is high in monounsaturated fatty acids and healthy saturated fats. It is wonderful for use in frying and sautéing due to its high smoke point, and it’s also great for use in things like salad dressings. Bonus: this oil won’t ever go rancid!
- Fact #7: Highly moisturizing for the skin, hair and nails. Valued for its rejuvenating, repairing, softening and beautifying effects, Ben oil has been used for centuries in lotions, soaps, conditioners, cosmetics and as a base for perfumes.
- Fact #8: Health promoting. Ben oil contains flavonoids, important antioxidants that protect our bodies and blood vessels, while lowering imflammation. It also provides us with high levels of health promoting sterols which act to lower cholesterol as well as blood glucose levels.
- Fact #9: Biofuel! It is an economical and ecologically responsible alternative to traditional crops which are being used as fuel because it can grow on marginal land, and doesn’t require much maintenance, fertilizer or pest control.
- Fact #10: Healthy snack: the seeds are great when eaten raw, or they can be toasted and eaten for a healthy snack. *Be careful not to overdo (even healthy fats should be consumed in moderation), because even though they are yummy and satisfying, they do have a natural laxative/mild diuretic effect. Remember, a little goes a long way :)
- Fact #11: Water purification: When crushed, the seeds act as a natural binder, causing fine particles, salts, bacteria, and other impurities in river or lake water to clump together for easy removal, an important step in the process of readying water for sanitary drinking.
*Note: The World Health Organization estimates that unsafe drinking water is responsible 1.6 million deaths annually. In certain rural areas of Sudan, Moringa seed purification techniques are routinely being used – an economical and healthy process that can and does save lives.
In most places, the Moringa is known as the Drumstick Tree because of the shape of its nutritious fruit. The pod is long and slender, and actually looks quite like a drumstick.
The young pods, like the leaves, are harvested and eaten just like a vegetable.
They can be picked right off the tree, washed and consumed raw for a healthy, refreshing snack, or they can be lightly cooked for a delicious addition to any meal, much like green beans.
The pods are best when harvested young and tender because they tend to get tough and woody as they age. The flavor is delicate, like asparagus, so they make a wonderful side dish, or a great addition to soups or stews. Not only do they provide a host of health and beauty promoting nutrients as noted above, they are a valuable source of dietary fiber, too.
Moringa is known in some areas as the “Horseradish Tree” because the roots have been ground and used as a condiment in moderation, the same way we use horseradish (yes this tree might have set the record of all time for the most nicknames!).
*TIP: Eating the root is not recommended, since it has been found to contain alkaloids which can be toxic in large amounts, or to sensitive people.
The scientific community is taking particular notice of the composition of the Moringa root, as it has been shown in lab tests to cause death in ovarian cancer cells.
What other health benefits does it offer?
Here is a video clip from my travels to Rwanda helping Gardens for Health International, where they use Moringa leaves in their Glowing Green Smoothie®.
Like so many traditional folk remedies, Moringa’s healing and nourishing properties have sustained populations for centuries.
People didn’t know why it worked, they just knew that it did. In ancient India, Maurian warriors were fed Moringa leaf extract at the war front to provide them with extra stamina and strength.
As mentioned earlier, Moringa is a rich source of Omega 3 fatty acids, something our bodies must get from the foods we eat. Omega 3s are so integral to our health as well as our beauty because they:
- Reduce and regulate inflammation
- Keeps blood from excessive clotting
- Reduce cytokines, which are involved in inflammatory processes
- Improve insulin response
- Promote healthy cell membranes
- Regulate prostaglandin production
Few plants in the world offer as many nutrients and medicinal properties as this hardy tree. In fact, the flowers and leaves contain pterygospermin, a natural antibiotic, antiseptic and fungicide which has been successful in the treatment of cholera as well as:
- Sore throat
- Swollen glands
- Chest congestion
- Ear infection
- Conjunctivitis (eye infection)
- High blood pressure/cholesterol
I hope this info on Moringa was interesting to you and will help encourage you to seek some out, to get the health and beauty benefits for yourself!
And if you do try it, let me know what you think and experience :).
With Love and Gratitude,
Question: How many other trees have you heard of that are completely edible?