The Magical Moringa By: Vanita Agarwal
Growing up in India this humble tree grew in our backyard and it never caught my attention, though I always loved the vegetable that grew on it. As I entered into the world of Ayurveda I learnt about this most nutritious tree in the world called Moringa only to realize that this tree was a childhood friend that I had loved and this world famous Moringa was my backyard fried the drumstick tree or Sajana as we used to call it.
In this paper I will attempt to cover:
- 1. What is Moringa?
- 2. The Nutritional value of Moringa
- 3. Johns Hopkins University research on Moringa
- 4. Health benefits of Moringa
- 5. The qualities of Moringa from an Ayurvedic perspective
1. What is Moringa?
According to Wikipedia Moringa, a native to parts of Africa and Asia, is the sole genus in the flowering plant family Moringaceae. The name is derived from the Tamil word Murungai (முருங்கை) .
It contains 13 species from tropical and subtropical climates that range in size from tiny herbs to massive trees. The most widely cultivated species is Moringa oleifera, a multipurpose tree native to the foothills of the Himalayas in northwestern India and cultivated throughout the tropics. M. stenopetala, an African species, is also widely grown, but to a much lesser extent than M. oleifera.
As Moringa spread from India to other tropical and subtropical areas, it adapted to local conditions. Over time, these thirteen distinct species of Moringa developed.
Scientific Classification of Moringa :
Scientific Names of the 13 different species of Moringa found in the world today 
1. M. oleifera (Northwestern India)
2. M. arborea (Kenya)
3. M. borziana
4. M. concanensis
5. M. drouhardii (Southwestern Madagascar)
6. M. hildebrandtii
7. M. longituba
8. M. ovalifolia
9. M. peregrine
10. M. pygmaea
11. M. rivae
12. M. ruspoliana
13. M. stenopetala
Common Names of Moringa:
While native to the Indian sub-continent, Moringa has spread throughout the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. There are over 400 names of Moringa around different parts of the world. Here are some of the many common names of Moringa: 
||Drumstick tree, Horseradish tree, Mother's Best Friend, Radish tree, West Indian ben
||Bèn ailé, Benzolive, Moringa, Ben oléifère, Arbre radis du cheval
||Behenbaum, Behenussbaum, Flügelsaniger Bennussbaum, Pferderettichbaum
||Acácia branca, Cedra (Brazil), Marungo, Moringuiero, Muringa
|| Árbol del ben, Ben, Morango, Moringa
Benin: Patima, Ewé ilé
Burkina Faso: Argentiga
Cameroon: Paizlava, Djihiré
Chad: Kag n’dongue
Ethiopia: Aleko, Haleko
Ghana: Yevu-ti, Zingerindende
Niger: Zôgla gandi
Nigeria: Ewe ile, Bagaruwar maka
Senegal: Neverday, Sap-Sap
Togo: Baganlua, Yovovoti
Cambodia: Ben ailé
India: Sahjan, Murunga, Moonga;
Hindi: Sahijan, Munaga, Sajana,
Tamil: Murungai, Murunkak-kai, Morunga
Telegu: Tella-Munaga, Mulaga, Sajana
Kannada: Nugge mara, Nugge kayi;
Oriya: Munigha, Sajina
Punjabi: Sanjina, Soanjana
Rajasthani: Lal Sahinjano
Sanskrit: Sigru Shobhanjan, Sobhan jana, Shobanjana
Konkani/Goa: Moosing, Mosing
Malayalam: Sigru, Moringa, Muringa, Murinna, Morunna
Marathi: Sujna, Shevga, Shivga
Sri Lanka: Murunga
Taiwan: La Mu
Vietnam: Chùm Ngây
South and Central America, Caribbean
Costa Rica: Marango
Cuba: Palo Jeringa
Dominican Republic: Palo de aceiti
El Salvador: Teberinto
French Guiana: Saijhan
Honduras: Maranga calalu
Puerto Rico: Resada
2. The Nutritional value of Moringa
The tree is often referred to as "The Miracle Tree" and "Mother’s Best Friend", which is understandable when you learn that Moringa contains a unique combination of vitamins, minerals and amino acids that make it one of the most nutritious plants ever discovered. Much of the plant is edible by humans or by farm animals.
Moringa leaves are exceptionally nutritious. When fresh, they are rich in vitamin C. When carefully dried, gram for gram Moringa leaves contain 24 times the iron of spinach, 16 times the calcium of milk, 9 times the vitamin A of carrots, many times the potassium of bananas, and every essential amino acid your body needs.
The leaves are rich in protein, vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C and minerals . 100g of fresh Moringa leaves have 8.3 g protein, 434 mg calcium, 404 mg potassium, 738 μg vitamin A, and 164 mg vitamin C .
Moringa contains 46 powerful antioxidants - compounds that protect the body against the destructive effects of free radicals by neutralizing them before they can cause cellular damage and disease .
Vitamin A (Alpha & Beta-Carotene), B, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, C, D, E, K, Folate (Folic Acid), Biotin 
Calcium, Chromium, Copper, Fluorine, Iron, Manganese, Magnesium, Molybdenum, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium, Selenium, Sulphur, Zinc  .
Essential Amino acids
Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan, Valine .
Non-essential Amino Acids
Alanine, Arginine, Aspartic Acid, Cystine, Glutamine, Gl ycine, Histidine, Proline, Serine, Tyrosine 
Vitamin & Mineral Content of Moringa: 
All values are per 100 grams of edible portion.
|Carotene (Vit. A)*
Amino Acid Content of Moringa :
All values are per 100 grams of edible portion.
3. Johns Hopkins University research on Moringa  :
Jed W. Fahey, Sc.D. , Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Department of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences produced a very important research paper titled: “Moringa oleifera: A Review of the Medical Evidence for Its Nutritional, Therapeutic, and Prophylactic Properties. Part 1.” In this seminal work, they began the process of sifting through the scientific work on Moringa, as well as the traditional, as well as anecdotal evidence for Moringa’s nutritional, therapeutic and prophylactic. In doing this, they found that much of the scientific evidence is beginning to support much of the traditional and anecdotal information.
4. Health Benefits of Moringa
Moringa preparations have been cited in the scientific literature as having antibiotic, antitrypanosomal, hypotensive, antispasmodic, antiulcer, anti-inflammatory, hypo-cholesterolemic, and hypoglycemic activities, as well as having considerable efficacy in water purification by flocculation, sedimentation, antibiosis and even reduction of Schistosome cercariae titer.
Antibiotic Activity: This is clearly the area in which the preponderance evidence—both classical scientific and extensive anecdotal evidence—is overwhelming. The scientific evidence has now been available for over 50 years, although much of it is completely unknown to western scientists .
Phytochemicals and 6 Carbon Sugar Rhamnose: An examination of the phytochemicals of Moringa species affords the opportunity to examine a range of fairly unique compounds. In particular, this plant family is rich in compounds containing the simple sugar, rhamnose, and it is rich in a fairly unique group of compounds called glucosinolates and isothiocyanates. For example, specific components of Moringa preparations that have been reported to have hypotensive, anticancer, and antibacterial activity .
Antibacterial and Antifungal:
Subsequent elegant and very thorough work, published in 1964 as a PhD thesis by Bennie Badgett (a student of the well-known chemist Martin Ettlinger), identified a number of glycosylated derivatives of benzyl isothiocyanate  (e.g. compounds containing the 6-carbon simple sugar, rhamnose) (8). The identity of these compounds was not available in the refereed scientific literature until “re-discovered” 15 years later by Kjaer and co-workers (73). Seminal reports on the antibiotic activity of the primary rhamnosylated compound then followed, from U Eilert and colleagues in Braunschweig, Germany (33, 34). They re-isolated and confirmed the identity of 4-(α-L-rhamnopy-ranosyloxy)benzyl glucosinolate  and its cognate isothiocyanate  and verified the activity of the latter compound against a wide range of bacteria and fungi. (Jed W. Fahey, 2005) This is clearly the area in which the preponderance of evidence—both classical scientific and extensive anecdotal evidence—is overwhelming. The scientific evidence has now been available for over 50 years, although much of it is completely unknown to western scientists .
ANTIBACTERIAL PROPERTIES OF MORINGA STENOPETALA 
The main objective of this study was to isolate compounds from root wood of Moringa stenopetala and evaluate antibacterial activities of the isolated compounds. Three of the compounds namely cholest-5-en-3-ol, palmitic acid and oleic acid showed highest activity against E. coli. The observed antibacterial activities of the crude extract and the isolated compounds could justify the traditional use of the plant for the treatment of different bacterial infections .
H. pylori is an omnipresent pathogen of human beings in medically underserved areas of the world, and amongst the poorest of poor populations worldwide. It is a major cause of gastritis, and of gastric and duodenal ulcers, and it is a major risk factor for gastric cancer (having been classified as a carcinogen by the W.H.O. in 1993). Cultures of H. pylori, it turned out, were extraordinarily susceptible to , and to a number of other isothiocyanates (37, 60). These compounds had antibiotic activity against H. pylori at concentrations up to 1000-fold lower than those which had been used in earlier studies against a wide range of bacteria and fungi. The extension of this finding to human H. pylori infection is now being pursued in the clinic, and the prototypical isothiocyanate has already demonstrated some efficacy in pilot studies .
Since Moringa species have long been recognized by folk medicine practitioners as having value in tumor therapy, we examined compounds for their cancer preventive potential. Recently, these compounds were shown to be potent inhibitors of phorbol ester (TPA)-induced Epstein-Barr virus early antigen activation in lymphoblastoid (Burkitt’s lymphoma) cells .
In one of these studies, they also inhibited tumor promotion in a mouse two-stage DMBA-TPA tumor model. In an even more recent study, Bharali and colleagues have examined skin tumor prevention following ingestion of drumstick (Moringa seedpod) extracts. In this mouse model, which included appropriate positive and negative controls, a dramatic reduction in skin papillomas was demonstrated. Thus, traditional practice has long suggested that cancer prevention and therapy may be achievable with native plants.
Role of Moringa on Gastric Ulcer and its use as Antacid
- • A study on Moringa leaf extract to determine its effect on experimental gastric ulceration concluded that the leaf extract can be beneficially used in the management of gastric ulcer in contrast to the classical antacid, antihistamine or surgical treatment .
- • Two weeks of treatment with Moringa Oleifera healed gastric ulcer damage .
Role of Moringa on Muscle cramps and Sleep
- • Moringa is found to significantly reduces muscle cramps, decreases body temperature, and enhances sleep .
Benefits to Heart, Cholesterol, Triglycerides, Atherosclerotic Plaques:
- • Moringa has been found to have significant benefits to heart . Water extract of Moringa Oleifera leaves possesses strong antioxidant activities. The prevention of artherosclerotic plaque formation in artery as well as the lipid lowering activity of the extract has been shown in rabbit fed with high cholesterol diet. M. Oleifera has high therapeutic potential for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases.
- • It works as well as Simvastatin in decreasing cholesterol, triglycerides, and inhibiting the formation of atherosclerotic plaques. 
- • Moringa strengthens heart function : Prevented structural damage and prevented increases in lipid peroxidation in the myocardium 
- • Moringa seeds have shown anti-fungal ability and effectiveness against athlete’s foot .
Prevention of Kidney stone
- • Moringa water extract has shown to prevent kidney stone formation and dissolve already performed stones .
Oral administration of Moringa seed extract in rats reduced liver damage as well as symptoms of liver fibrosis. Moringa seed extract can act against CCl(4)-induced liver injury and fibrosis in rats by a mechanism related to its antioxidant properties, anti-inflammatory effect and its ability to attenuate the hepatic stellate cells activation. 
Cancer/Chemo preventative property of Moringa
- • A study was conducted to find out the Chemomodulatory effect of hydro-alcoholic extract of Moringa oleifera, Lam, on hepatic carcinogen metabolizing enzymes, antioxidant parameters and skin papillomagenesis in mice. The findings are suggestive of a possible chemo preventive potential of Moringa oliefera drumstick extract against chemical carcinogenesis 
Blood glucose level and Diabetes
- • Variable doses of M. oleifera leaves aqueous extract administered orally to test the glycemic control, haemoglobin, total protein, urine sugar, urine protein and body weight. The dose of 200 mg kg(-1) decreases blood glucose level (BGL) of normal animals by 26.7 and 29.9% during FBG and OGTT studies respectively. In sub and mild diabetic animals the same dose produced a maximum fall of 31.1 and 32.8% respectively, during OGTT. In case of severely diabetic animals FBG and PPG levels were reduced by 69.2 and 51.2% whereas, total protein, body weight and haemoglobin were increased by 11.3, 10.5 and 10.9% respectively after 21 days of treatment. Significant reduction was found in urine sugar and urine protein levels from +4 and +2 to nil and trace, respectively. The test result concluded that the study validates scientifically the widely claimed use of M. oleifera as an ethnomedicine to treat diabetes mellitus. 
5. Ayurvedic Perspective on Moringa
According to Vaidya Mishra  , an Ayurvedic expert from the Shankha Vamsa lineage, Moringa is both a detoxifier as well as a tonic. Whenever we detox we also use a tonic, Moringa does both. It purifies and nourishes the blood and muscle tissues, the bone marrow and the fat tissues of any toxins at the same time nourishing it.
Ayurvedic Properties/Guna of Moringa
||Digestive metabolic state (vipak): pungent/katu
||Light/laghu, dry/ruksha, sharp/tikshana, fluid/sara
||• Liver cleanser (yakrit sodhana)
• Purifies Blood (rakta sodhaka)
• enhances spleen/pliha
• Removes worms (krmi), acidic toxins from the blood (amavishagni)
• Relieves from tumor (gulma)
• Strengthens heart/ hridya, fat metabolism and weight loss/Medovishahara and regulates cholesterol.
In Bhava Prakash (16 Century canonical textbook of Ayurveda), part one, authored by Bhav Mishra and Rajnigantu, Moringa is called sigru, or “it moves like an arrow” in the body because it rapidly penetrates the tissues and has deep absorption and detoxification ability, making its effect on the deep bone marrow tissue swift and effective.
The Nature and Qualities of Moringa:
- • Hot and sharp, but also bitter and pungent
- • Pacifies vata and kapha (vatakaphapaha)
- • Pacifies kledaka kapha and increases appetite
- • Reduces stiffness in the jaw, relaxes the jaw and thus helps in opening the mouth (mukhajadyahar)
- • It is appetizing (rucyo)
- • Increases digestive flame (dipano)
- • It cleans and clears the ulcers (vranadosanut). Vrana means ulcer.
- • Bitter (Sigrustiktah)
- • Pungent and heating (Katuscosnah)
- • Reduces kapha-predominant swelling and water retention, which can also lead to vata imbalance. Swollen ankles are a common complication of excess weight. Three-four drumstick pods per meal begin to reintroduce the intelligence so the body does not accumulate toxins in the lower extremities. Over time, little by little, the swelling will go down and not return. (Kaphasophasamirajit)
- • Creates an unfriendly environment for the growth of tumors
- • Destroys krimi and amavisha (Krgyamvisa)
- • By binding the toxins in the blood, and cleaning the blood (due to its hot potency and pungent taste and post digestive taste), it relieves long term burning in the skin and stomach.
- • Prevents and rids the tumors. When the clean blood circulates, growth of tumors are prevented and also if tumors are present, gets rid of the tumors (gulmanut).
- • The Ayurvedic verse on Moringa by Bhav prakash of Bhav Mishra cites Moringa as removing acidic toxins from the blood, cleansing the blood. This in turn lowers bad cholesterol and improves cholesterol metabolism. This correlates the power of Moringa in lowering bad cholesterol and improving cholesterol metabolism.
- • Kidney Stones: Ushna/hot and thikshana/pungent quality of Moringa stimulates the kidneys, dysuria, increases quantity of urine, removes excess acidity in urine and calculi.
Dr. JV Hebbar, summarizes several interesting facts about Moringa in his blog .
- • Shobhanjana – Very auspicious tree
- • Shigru – has strong, piercing qualities
- • Teekshnagandha – Strong and pungent odor
- • Aksheeva – relieves intoxication
- • Mochaka – helps to cure diseases
- According to Charaka Samhita –
- Krimighna – group of herbs that are used to treat worm infestation.
- Svedopaga – group of herbs that are used in Svedana (preparatory procedure for Panchakarma)
- Shirovirechanopaga – group of herbs that are used in Nasya Panchakarma treatment
- Katuka Skandha – group of herbs that have pungent taste.
- According to Sushruta and Vagbhata – Varunadi Group of herbs. (Hence it is an ingredient of a famous Ayurvedic medicine – Varanadi kashayam)
Medicinal Qualities of drumstick tree:
- Rasa(taste) – Katu (Pungent), Tikta (bitter)
- Guna(qualities) – Laghu (light to digest), Rooksha (dryness), Teekshna (strong, piercing)
- Vipaka – katu (Moringa undergoes pungent taste conversion after digestion.)
- Veerya – Ushna – hot potency.
- Effect on Tridosha – Balances Kapha and Vata
Varieties of Moringa:
There are three varieties of Moringa explained in Ayurvedic text books.
1. Shyama – black variety
2. Shveta – white variety and
3. Rakta – red variety. It is also called as Madhu shigru.
Black variety of drumstick tree is the most common. Its qualities are:
Katu – pungent,
Teekshna – piercing, sharp, strong
Ushna – hot in potency
Madhura – slightly sweetish
Laghu – light to digest
Deepana – improves digestion
Rochana – Improves taste,
Rooksha – dry
Kshara – Has alkaline properties
Tikta – Bitter
Vidaahakrit – causes burning sensation
Sangrahi – Useful to check diarrhoea
Shukrala – Improves semen quantity and sperm count
Hrudya – Good for heart. Cardiac tonic
Pittarakta prakopana: Increases Pitta and vitiates blood. Hence, drumstick should not be consumed during bleeding disorders, duriner menstruation and for people with pimples and Pitta related skin diseases.
Chakshushya – Improves vision, good for eyes.
Kaphavataghna – Decreases imbalanced Kapha and Vata
Vidradhi – Useful in abscess. It helps in quick wound healing of abscess, upon oral intake and external application as paste.
Shvayathu – It is a good anti inflammatory herb.
Krimi – useful in worm infestation in stomach and in wounds.
Meda – helpful to decrease fat and obesity.
Apachi – Useful in relieving carbuncles.
Visha – Anti toxic. Has detoxifying action.
Pleeha – Useful in spleen related diseases
Gulma – Useful in abdominal bloating and tumors
Ganda Vrana – Useful in lymphadenitis
White variety Moringa Properties: It is quite similar to the black variety.
Dahakrut – causes burning sensation
pleehaanaam vidradhim hanti – useful in splenic abscess
VraNaghna – helps in quick wound healing
Pittaraktakrut – Increases Pitta and vitiates blood.
The Red Variety, called as Madhushigru
Deepana – Increases digestion power.
Sara – promotes proper bowel movements.
Moringa Leaves and Bark
The juice extract of drumstick leaves and bark are very useful in relieving pain. They act as natural analgesic. They are used both for oral intake and also for external application as paste.
In Indian household, the leaves are used to prepare Chutney and Sambar (a south-indian soup).
Moringa seeds uses: Moringa seeds are called as Shweta Maricha
Chakshushya – good for eyes
Vishanashana – anti toxic
Avrushya – do not have aphrodisiac qualities
Nasyena Shiro Artinut – When used for Nasya (in the form of powder or oil), it helps to relieve headache.
Moringa for Headaches:
Moringa leaves paste applied externally, or used as vegetable helps to relieve headache.
Its seed powder, in the form of nasya treatment cures headache.
Moringa for Diabetes: Many studies have been conducted to prove the anti-diabetic and anti-oxidant effect of Moringa.
Oil prepared with Moringa is useful to relieve headache, pungent, useful in skin diseases and diabetes.
Moringa flowers are useful in intestinal worms. It balances Pitta and kapha.
Moringa Side Effects:
As explained above, it causes increase in burning sensation and is pungent. Hence, people with gastritis or sensitive stomach should use this vegetable carefully.
It is not ideal to be taken during periods, since it increases Pitta and vitiates blood.
It is also not ideal to be taken during bleeding disorders.
Moringa during pregnancy and lactation:
Moringa fruit is rich in protein, vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. Hence it can be used during pregnancy. But Moringa leaves, root bark and flowers are not indicated during pregnancy.
Thus we can see that this humble tree is loaded with wonderful qualities that can be used for healing by an Ayurvedic practitioner. Several scientific studies have documented its great properties of healing like anti-bacterial, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal etc. and has been used successfully for hundreds of years.
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