Few people outside the Indian subcontinent, even some years ago, knew of the humble ‘murungai’ or Moringa Oleifera plant that grows fast and profusely in dry tropical climates. The plant is a rich source of essential nutrients and has, in recent years, gained an international reputation as a superfood unparalleled in its nutritive value. Also known as the drumstick or horseradish tree, it is famous for its ability to withstand severe droughts, which makes it the ideal plant to combat malnutrition in developing countries.
The leaves and seed-pods of moringa oleifera are highly nutritious and form an important part of South Asian cuisine. They are also commonly consumed in parts of South America and Africa. In the temperate regions of the world, where fresh moringa is hard to come by, it is often sold in the form of pills, powder, capsules, and other types of health supplements.
Moringa Oleifera – India’s Secret Superfood
The name moringa originates from ‘murungai’, the Tamil word for a twisted pod, which refers to the young fruit of the moringa tree. Moringa is an essential part of the culinary tradition of India and has been eaten for generations by the common people of the country. Multiple parts of the moringa tree are edible, including the leaves and the fruits. Some parts of the bark and the roots are also known to have medicinal properties, although they are not as commonly used in cooking.
The delicate flowers of the moringa tree are often used in South Asia to add flavor to indigenous dishes such as ‘pulao’ and ‘sambar’. Moringa was known as a medicinal herb in ancient India, while the Egyptians treasured the oil derived from the tree, using it to protect their skin against the sun. Moringa oil was at one time used in Jamaica to fuel lamps, as it provided clear light and produced little smoke.
The Growing Popularity of Moringa as a Superfood
Various studies have been conducted by researchers around the world that prove the nutritional and therapeutic properties of moringa oleifera. The presence of iron, potassium, proteins, and vitamins has made moringa products extremely popular as health supplements. Moringa was also used as an important medical herb in Ayurveda, an ancient Indian system of medicine. In recent years, it has gained an international reputation as a superfood with unparalleled nutritive benefits. It is also known to provide enhanced energy and minimize skincare issues in individuals. Moringa supplements are consumed in the form of pills and powder in countries where these trees do not grow naturally. These supplements are often consumed with teas, smoothies, and juices to enhance the taste without diminishing the health benefits. Moringa green smoothies have been popularized in the West over the past few years by health enthusiasts using social networking sites such as Facebook and Instagram.
The Multifarious Benefits of Moringa Oleifera
Moringa oleifera is also known as the ‘miracle tree’ thanks to the many nutrients and antioxidants that it contains. While every part of the tree has some nutritional value, the leaves contain over 90 nutrients such as minerals, vitamins, folic acid, magnesium, and protein. Moringa leaves are also a rich source of magnesium, zinc, pyridoxine, and calcium.
Furthermore, they are one of the few types of plants that contain all eight of the essential amino acids required by human beings. As a result, moringa leaves have often been used to treat a plethora of ailments. Moringa oleifera also contains potent antioxidants such as polyphenols, flavonoids, and ascorbic acid. These components play a crucial role in protecting the liver against the damage caused by toxicity and oxidation.
Some of the many health benefits of consuming moringa – either fresh or in supplement form – include enhanced energy levels and clearer skin. Moringa oleifera also helps treat inflammation-related ailments, thanks to the many anti-inflammatory compounds that it contains. The Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention in 2014 published a report that claimed moringa oleifera contains the same antibacterial compounds that are used to manufacture a large number of anti-inflammatory drugs.
Moringa also plays a crucial role in preventing many cardiological ailments due to the presence of two bioactive elements known as niaziminin and isothiocyanates. These components help prevent the thickening of arteries, which might lead to blockages. Moringa also reduces cholesterol, prevents diabetes, and regulates blood pressure.
Therefore, it can be said that moringa oleifera offers a number of health benefits and has a plethora of valuable nutritional properties. Hence, it should be regularly consumed by those who are conscious about their health and long-term well-being. For those who are unable to acquire fresh moringa, moringa powder can fulfill their daily nutritional needs while adding a delicious flavor to their meals.