Information, effects, deficiency, dosage, side effects
Parts of the plant of the Moringa tree, which is particularly widespread in South Asia and Africa, have been used as food and medicine for thousands of years. The high content of nutrients and a proven antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect make Moringa an important part of the diet and naturopathic treatment of diseases in Asia, Latin America and Africa. In recent years, Moringa has become increasingly popular as a healthy 'superfood' in Europe.
Moringa oleifera is the botanical name for the extremely fast-growing tree known in the German-speaking area as horseradish tree from the family of the bennuss family (Moringaceae). Other common names are horseradish tree, drumstick tree, beech tree, beech walnut tree and clarifier tree. Because of its many uses as a food and medicine, it is also known as a miracle tree
The area of origin of the Moringa tree is the southern Himalayan region in the north of India. However, the tree was quickly spread and is now growing in many tropical and subtropical areas - including Sri Lanka, the Arab region and Southeast Asia. In South India, East Africa and in some South American countries, the cultivation of Moringa oleifera is carried out in a targeted manner and partly also promoted by investors.
The planting and cultivation of moringa trees is simple and offers numerous advantages: In addition to the very fast growth - moringa trees reach a height of up to 8 m in the first year - their exceptional drought resistance and the high proportion of nutrients contained in the various parts of the plants count are, too. Practically all parts of the tree have been used for a long time for nutritional, preventive or healing purposes and are still used for this today.
From a nutritional point of view, the Moringa oleifera is a very good source of nutrients due to its high content of proteins, vitamins and minerals. In combination with its rapid growth, ease of cultivation and quickly available crop yields, it also represents an interesting alternative for securing food supplies in developing and newly industrialized countries.
Its use as a medicinal plant has its origins in Ayurvedic medicine, traditional Indian medicine. Bark, roots, leaves, seeds, flowers and fruits were mainly processed into juices, teas and oils and used for various indications. Pharmaceutical preparations made from the leaves of the Moringa tree are said to have been used to prevent more than 300 diseases.
Today, an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect of individual components of the moringa tree is largely proven, even if the exact mechanisms of action have not yet been sufficiently researched. Unfortunately, there is currently still no valid evidence for most of the promises of action in traditional medicine. Consumption in normal amounts as food is considered harmless, since the plant and most of its components are basically classified as non-toxic.
The use as a dietary supplement or for medicinal purposes in the form of teas, oils, capsules and as a powder is common today especially in the case of malnutrition, to inhibit inflammatory processes and as an antioxidant. People who eat vegan or do a lot of sport benefit from the quick and easy availability of the nutrients it contains when they eat preparations made from Moringa ingredients.
However, if moringa oleifera preparations are taken as food supplements, then you should follow the dosage instructions exactly. There are indications that an excessive intake of individual preparations can lead to genotoxic (genetic damage) effects.
The moringa tree reaches a height of up to 8 m and a width of 25 to 60 cm in the first year of growth. Even in later growth phases, the height hardly exceeds 10 to 12 m. It grows straight, its appearance is rather delicate. From a distance, it resembles legume-bearing varieties, especially during the flowering period, but it is easy to identify from the fruits.
The trunk of the moringa tree is mostly crooked and branches off near the ground. Its bark is smooth and dark gray, sometimes with a yellowish tinge. Branches and young branches are short and finely hairy. The tree top spreads out like an umbrella. The wood of the moringa trees is soft, the trunk is usually deeply rooted.
The leaves of the Moringa oleifera have a characteristic, paired or more often triple pinnation. They reach a length of up to 45 cm and are arranged alternately and spirally. They also show fine hair, are green on the surface and paler on the other side, with a clearly recognizable reddish central vein.
The moringa tree produces flowers twice a year, all year round in climatically suitable areas. They are bisexual, about 2 to 3 cm tall and each have 5 short sepals, petals, fertile stamens and staminodes (leaf organs). The fruits of the tree are 20 to 50 cm long, three-sided pods that have 9 longitudinal grooves. They are initially dark green and then take on a brownish color. When fully ripe, they split and release up to 26 oily seeds.
Moringa seeds have a diameter of about 1 cm. They are dark brown, round and have 3 white or yellowish wings that facilitate their distribution by the wind. On average, moringa trees produce applicable seeds for about 12 years. The entire lifespan of the tree is only about 20 years, which is balanced by the high reproduction rate and the rapid growth.
In addition to the use as a medicinal plant and as a food product, which has been known for a long time, there is another important application for the ingredients of the moringa tree, which was only recently discovered: moringa seeds act as natural coagulant (substances that bind proteins) and can therefore be used to purify water.
A study from the year 2014 came to the conclusion that by using a water-soluble extract of the moringa seeds in a suspension, that almost 100% of the bacteria present in the polluted water and other microbial contaminants can be removed. A Canadian study from 2016 came to similar results.
Fruits, leaves and seeds of the Moringa oleifera have a particularly favorable nutrient profile. Depending on the type of processing in different concentrations, they contain a large number of important minerals, vitamins and amino acids, which are essential for a balanced diet. The advantageous composition of its ingredients, combined with its rapid growth, make it an important source of nutrients, especially in countries where there are occasional food shortages.
If you take a closer look at the ingredients of the Moringa oleifera components, the high amount of amino acids stands out. These are needed in the human organism to produce proteins from them. Some amino acids are essential for humans - this means that the body can't produce them from other substances through conversion processes.
The leaves and seeds of the Moringa oleifera contain all of the amino acids that are essential for humans and a few others, which are also required for building proteins. This favorable amino acid profile is also one of the reasons that tree extracts in the form of shakes are so popular with athletes - they offer a quickly available supply of energy and protein.
The proven antioxidant effect of preparations from the Moringa oleifera is one of the other reasons why the plant is so important, especially in naturopathy. Antioxidants are substances that are able to neutralize the so-called 'free radicals' in the body - substances that cause cell damage due to their high reactivity with oxygen.
Subsequently, fresh components of the Moringa tree contain a high proportion of minerals and vitamins, the beneficial polyunsaturated omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and other important vital substances. However, when comparing vital substances in the Moringa tree with those of other plants, caution is always advised: fresh ingredients should not be compared so easily with extracts (powder).
The following informationrefers to 100 g of the leaf or fruit (pods) of the Moringa tree.
Average mineral content of the Moringa oleifera pods:
Average mineral content of the Moringa leaves:
The total protein content in the Moringa tree pods is about 2.1 g per 100 g and about 9.4 g per 100 g in the leaves. The information below refers to the proportion of the essential amino acids per 100 g of fresh leaves. In Europe, moringa leaves are almost exclusively available in dried form. It should be noted that the amount of amino acids in these products can vary considerably.
Average amino acid content of fresh Moringa leaves:
Antioxidants include various active substances - mostly small molecules or enzymes - which both protect the organism from oxidative stress. These are vitamins, trace elements or secondary plant substances.
Antioxidants found in the various components of Moringa oleifera include ascorbic acid (vitamin C), riboflavin (vitamin B2) and niacin (vitamin B3).
Average ingredients per 100 g leaves/pods:
In addition to their antioxidative effects, vitamins have other vital functions in the human body, but cannot be synthesized from other substances. They must therefore be ingested through food just like essential amino acids.
Fruits and leaves of the Moringa oleifera always ensure a good supply of many important vitamins due to their ingredients. However, the following also applies here: The proportion of vital substances contained in the different plant components is not the same and can't simply be transferred to other products made from the Moringa oleifera components.
Vitamins in the Moringa leaves:
Vitamin content in the fruits of the Moringa oleifera:
The range of uses of the Moringa oleifera components in natural medicine and various traditional medical schools is very large. The promises of the effects that are often given for preparations made from the Moringa oleifera are no less extensive. The terms 'miracle tree' and 'superfood' are therefore particularly popular for emphasizing the promised effects
Components of the moringa tree are both for the treatment of illnesses as well as for the improvement of the nutrition in the Tricont countries in the hopes of an affordable and effective use. As a possible treatment option, possibly also as a supplement to evidence-based medical treatments, preparations made from Moringa components have largely not yet been adequately investigated.
This inadequate study situation means that many promises for medical applications are based on empirical values from naturopathy that are difficult to check or on individual anecdotal experiences. The antioxidative and anti-inflammatory (antiphlogistic) effects of certain active ingredients of Moringa oleifera have been proven.
Among other things, it is said to have positive effects on the metabolic situation in diabetes mellitus as well as blood pressure and cholesterol-lowering, immunomodulatory, analgesic, tissue-protecting, neuroprotective and gastric acid-inhibiting effects. It is undisputed that the individual ingredients of Moringa oleifera have a wide range of physiological and pharmacological effects, which for the most part must be examined in more detail before targeted therapeutic use.
A severely restricted food intake and/or adhering to a very one-sided diet with the aim of reducing weight can also lead to some undesirable effects. This includes a lack of important nutrients as a result of the reduced food intake.
Similar to fresh pods or leaves and depending on the production process, the extracts and powders from the components of the Moringa oleifera show a very favorable nutrient profile. For this reason, they are also used to fix malnutrition symptoms. However, this proven variety of biologically active substances can't completely compensate for a one-sided or insufficient nutrition. Appropriate preparations should therefore only be considered as a supplement to a balanced diet.
So far, there is no evidence that active ingredients from the components of the Moringa oleifera have a direct affect on the metabolic processes that lead to accelerated weight loss. Any promises made by manufacturers of these preparations should therefore be met with skepticism.
If you want or have to lose weight for aesthetic reasons or for health reasons, you may be able to benefit from other modes of action of the moringa preparations. Obesity is often associated with the so-called 'metabolic syndrome', which is characterized by 4 factors: obesity, high blood pressure, hypercholesterolemia and impaired glucose tolerance or insulin resistance.
The last 3 factors belong to the symptoms which are being tested on the positive effects through the targeted supply of ingredients of the Moringa oleifera - even if there are still no clear results. It remains to be seen if the assumed effects can be confirmed in additional studies.
The pods and leaves of the moringa tree have been used as food for a long time. Despite its sharp, pungent taste, which is somewhat reminiscent of horseradish (hence the name horseradish tree), it is very popular in large parts of Africa, India and South Asia. The characteristic 'drumsticks' can be found in a wide variety of meals - as an addition to a soup, fried, in stews as well as snacks and curries.
In addition to their culinary importance, the fruits and leaves of the moringa tree make an important contribution in the fight against malnutrition in the Tricont countries. The rapid growth of the tree, the safe harvest even in unfavorable climatic conditions such as longer periods of drought and the good nutrient balance make it a suitable candidate in the fight against food shortages and nutrient deficiency.
This rapid growth is likely to be associated with a substance that has recently aroused the interest of the food industry: zeatin, a so-called cytokinin that is involved in many plant cell division and growth processes. It is now used in agriculture to increase plant growth and yield.
Nutritional studies show that especially women who are breastfeeding and children can benefit from taking Moringa ingredients. Breastfeeding mothers who were also given Moringa oleifera, had a significantly increased amount of breast milk. On average, the babies had a higher weight than infants who were not given additional moringa.
Malnutrition is also often a problem for patients who are weakened by serious illnesses and long-term hospitalization. However, it has not yet been sufficiently examined whether the use of extracts from Moringa oleifera could be beneficial for this group of people.
The best source of nutrients in nutritional science is always a combination of fresh, unprocessed foods. The reason for this is simple: many of the ingredients in food only have a physiological effect if they are ingested with other substances. For this reason, certain nutrients which can be taken to compensate for deficiency symptoms should only be taken in consultation with a doctor.
Caution should also be exercised when comparing the ingredients of industrially processed moringa preparations that are not done correctly. Often, very specific amounts of nutrients in the powdered product are compared with fresh foods. Such comparisons are misleading because the amounts of nutrients in fresh fruits or vegetables appear naturally less due to the water content they contain.
Comparisons with foods that are considered to be particularly healthy or nutrient-rich are also problematic - often these are just common nutritional myths. Perhaps the best-known example is the supposedly extremely high iron content of spinach, which turned out to be the result of an error in a nutritional calculation.
Nevertheless, the iron content of the spinach is repeatedly used to compare it with that of the Moringa oleifera. In fact, Moringa contains a good third more iron than spinach - but that's not an amount that would be exceptionally high as compared to other vegetables.
Despite such misleading comparisons, the entire nutrient profile of Moringa oleifera can be assessed as positive. It can't be denied that preparations made from components of the Moringa can contribute to helping malnutrition and promoting health if used appropriately.
Diabetes mellitus ('diabetes') is a disease that affects more and more people worldwide and is responsible for a variety of serious damages if not treated sufficiently. In addition to the much rarer, genetically determined form of diabetes (also known as type I diabetes or juvenile diabetes), it is primarily the so-called type II diabetes, the so-called adult diabetes, that spreads endemically. It is largely due to an unhealthy lifestyle.
The term 'adult diabetes' is actually misleading, because this form of diabetes is increasingly affecting young to very young people. The increase in new cases in adolescents appears to be mainly related to a changed lifestyle associated with little exercise, consumption of large amounts of denatured foods and early obesity.
Different concepts are available for the prevention and treatment of type II diabetes mellitus. In addition to targeted weight loss, diet, exercise and lifestyle changes, it is necessary in many cases to bring blood sugar levels back to normal with medication.
There are many naturopathic treatment approaches for diabetes or diabetes-related complications. For very few of them, however, there is scientific evidence that confirms their therapeutic effectiveness. This also applies to food supplements based on active ingredients of Moringa oleifera, which is advertised for this purpose.
Studies that suggest that blood glucose lowering effects of moringa preparations receive their information almost exclusively from animal experiments and are therefore not very meaningful. The few clinical studies about this question all have in common that their informative value is not very great due to the low number of participants.
Due to this lack of evidence, moringa preparations have not yet received approval as a medicinal product - for this reason, a possible therapeutic application in diabetes is questionable, especially since many tried and tested therapeutic agents are available here.
Diabetics could also benefit from the proven antioxidant effects of the moringa tree and its components. Many complications are related to cell damages caused by oxidative stress, induced by inflammation, which is also a result of the disease.
Arterial hypertension (high blood pressure) is one of the most common diseases in the industrialized world. In addition to a genetic susceptibility, risk factors include smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, stress and high salt and alcohol consumption. The likelihood of developing high blood pressure increases significantly with age.
There are many causes of high blood pressure. So-called essential hypertension, which affects 85% of high blood pressure patients, has no recognizable cause. Secondary hypertension, on the other hand, arises as a result of an underlying disease, for example with impaired kidney functions, endocrine disorders, vascular diseases, tumors or chronic pain.
The WHO defines hypertension as permanent, situation-independent blood pressure that is systolic over 140 mmHg and diastolic over 90 mmHg. It divides arterial hypertension into 3 stages: grade I does not show any organ damage, grade II is associated with end organ damage (e.g. vascular plaque) and grade III shows cardiovascular complications such as angina pectoris, heart attack or similar.
Several treatment options are available for the treatment of arterial hypertension. The most important is to largely eliminate risk factors, such as giving up smoking, reducing salt consumption, exercising more and reducing body weight. If these measures are not sufficient, the blood pressure must be lowered with medication to prevent consequential damage.
Moringa oleifera is also used in traditional medical schools in many countries to lower blood pressure and prevent cardiovascular diseases. So far, an anti-hypertensive effect of Moringa oleifera has only been verified in animal experiments. Clinical studies that prove this effect in humans do not exist yet.
Anemia means either a low share of red blood cells (erythrocytes) in the blood volume or a reduced hemoglobin content in the blood. Hemoglobin is an iron-rich, oxygen-binding protein that is responsible for the red color of the erythrocytes and the oxygen transport in the blood.
The symptoms of anemia are mostly non-specific and can be seen as a lack of concentration, a tendency to freeze, increased fatigue, headache or a general feeling of weakness. There are many causes. In addition to immune deficiencies, bleeding, various chronic diseases, enzyme defects and infections with parasites, anemia is often the result of malnutrition.
One of the most common causes of anemia is iron deficiency and sometimes a lack of vitamin B12 or folic acid is responsible for the disease. Anemia caused by a lack of substrate is easy and good to treat by replacing the missing substances.
Substrate deficiency anemia is often the result of chronic malnutrition. Children and pregnant women who have a higher need for certain nutrients are particularly affected. In countries where there is not a lot of food available, food and preparations made from Moringa oleifera components make an important contribution to food security.
Even though there is still not enough scientific evidence to back up the information on the positive effects of Moringa oleifera components on combating malnutrition, the plant's high-quality nutrient profile is undisputed from a nutritional point of view. The proven ingredients include iron and folic acid. It is therefore obvious that a sufficient intake of Moringa oleifera could prevent or reduce anemia caused by these two important nutrients.
Inflammation is the term used in medicine for processes that occur as a local or systemic reaction to an internal or external stimulus. They are the body's first defense reaction and are intended to prevent possible damage from this stimulus. These defense processes are mediated by cytokines - proteins that transmit signals between cells.
As a result, the human body increasingly produces leukocytes (white blood cells) and so-called acute-phase proteins, which serve as a defense. Acute inflammation can be identified by the 5 classic signs of inflammation: redness, swelling, pain, overheating and functional impairment. It is initially treated symptomatically - usually with analgesic and anti-inflammatory drugs.
Inflammation can occur anywhere in the body. You can experience chronic development if the triggering stimulus is not eliminated by the body's own defenses or medical intervention. Chronic inflammations often go unnoticed for a long time because the classic symptoms are missing - but that makes them all the more dangerous.
The trigger is often a weakened immune system that is unable to fully fight an acute infection. One then speaks of a secondary chronic inflammation. If this is not recognized in time, serious consequences can be expected: Frequent secondary chronic inflammations are, for example, periodontitis (gingivitis), tonsillitis (tonsillitis) or bronchitis (inflammation of the bronchial mucosa).
Traditional medical applications of Moringa oleifera extracts, teas, oils and powdered leaves or seeds have long been used against inflammation. Here too, the mechanisms of action are largely unclear and clinical studies that prove the effects on the human body are largely lacking. However, studies of the diverse bioactive components of Moringa oleifera allow the conclusion that there is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effect.
Inflammatory events continue to create so-called free radicals in the body - highly reactive compounds that lead to cell damage. The antioxidant agents of Moringa oleifera are able to neutralize these free radicals and thereby minimize damage to tissues and organs.
Substances that are proven to be anti-inflammatory and/or antioxidant and are contained in various components of the Moringa plant include:
The green leaf dye chlorophyll has an antioxidant effect. Chlorophyll is present in high concentration in the fresh leaves of the moringa tree.
Respiratory diseases can affect either the upper respiratory tract (nose, mouth and throat), the lower respiratory tract (trachea, bronchial tubes, pulmonary alveoli) or the lining around the lung, consisting of the visceral pleura and the pleura. The causes of respiratory diseases are diverse, but there is often an inflammatory process behind the action. This is the case, for example, with classic bronchial asthma or acute bronchitis.
Bronchial asthma causes seizures and overreaction to stimuli. Shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath are typical symptoms. Affected children usually fall ill in the first years of life. Environmental factors, stress and also allergies are possible triggers. The treatment is usually with inhalers or asthma sprays.
The acute bronchitis, on the other hand, is usually short-lived, often caused by viral infections and less often by bacteria or fungi. The bronchial mucous membranes are damaged by the infection, and their cilia are consequently no longer able to remove mucus and pathogens so easily. This creates the persistent and often painful cough. Treatment is usually with expectorants.
Preparations from Moringa oleifera are used in traditional Indian medicine, among other things, for the treatment of diseases of the upper respiratory tract in children.
The mode of action of the Moringa preparations should be based on principles similar to those of the ephedrine, which enlarges the bronchial tubes. This is justified by the structural similarity of the alkaloid moringin, which occurs in Moringa oleifera, with the ephedrine.
The anti-asthmatic properties, which were examined in an Indian clinical study from 2008, suggest an anticholinergic and anti-inflammatory effect in the airways.
Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep are a common phenomenon, particularly when there is a high level of occupational or personal stress and permanent stress. If they persist for a long time, serious health effects are possible. Prolonged sleep disorders should therefore be clarified by a doctor.
Preparations from Moringa oleifera are also touted - especially as teas - for relaxation and to promote sleep. However, whether this relaxing effect actually exists and what it should be based on is still completely unclear. If Moringa teas are used to treat sleep problems, this should only be done for a limited period of time and an alternative should be sought if symptoms persist.
There is some evidence that the use of Moringa oleifera active ingredients can have a protective effect against damage to the liver from toxic substances. Furthermore, an intake also seems suitable to reverse certain liver damage at an early stage. However, there are still no clinical studies to prove these assumed effects in the human organism.
Moringa oleifera has also been studied for possible interactions with the metabolism of cancer cells due to its high antioxidative potential and favorable drug profile. These are investigations in vitro, e.g. on cell culture and not on humans.
Cancer cells from the pancreas showed a reduced lifespan under the influence of an extract from Moringa oleifera leaves. This is attributed to an interaction with various signaling molecules that play an important role in the development and spread of cancer.
Similar effects with different molecular interactions were shown in vitro on melanoma cells that cause skin cancer, on cancer cells of the cervix and on cells that are involved in the development of colon cancer.
It remains to be seen whether immunomodulating ingredients of Moringa oleifera can contribute to the treatment of cancer in the future.
In Europe, products that contain active ingredients of the Moringa oleifera are not approved as medicinal products. They are therefore only offered as food supplements or in fresh form - but this rarely happens due to the limited availability - as food.
Moringa oleifera preparations are available in the standard forms as dietary supplements. The proportion of ingredients can be very different. If Moringa oleifera is taken for a specific purpose, the information on nutrient content, the recommended daily dose and other ingredients should be observed.
Moringa powder can be taken as a shake or smoothie or used for cooking and baking. The advantage lies in the good dosage and the clear information on the ingredients.
Either the dried leaves or finished teas and tea blends can be used to prepare Moringa teas. The disadvantage of this form of administration is the poor dosage and the lack of clarity about the ingredients it contains.
Moringa oil has a favorable fatty acid profile and, in addition to being used as a food, is also used industrially, for example as a lubricant in watches. It is also known as behen oil and is extracted from the seeds of the tree. Today it is mainly used as an edible oil, for example on salads.
Moringa capsules have the advantages of good dosing and easy intake. Their ingredients must also be clearly stated.
Studies on the use of Moringa oleifera ingredients against nutrient deficiency and on nutritional supplements have shown that pregnant women, breastfeeding women and their babies particularly benefit from this. There are no separate results for other groups of people. However, it seems logical that taking moringa supplements can provide a balance with some important nutrients if there is insufficient food intake.
In pregnant and lactating women, there was an increase in the production of breast milk and an improvement in the general nutritional status.
Children and the elderly often consume insufficient nutrients for various reasons, although they generally have a slightly higher requirement. Moringa preparations can compensate for the insufficient intake. Especially in the form of smoothies or shakes that are easy to take, they offer an advantage here.
Athletes also have a fundamentally higher need for certain minerals and proteins. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that they lose more minerals through sweating, and on the other hand, the fact that a good supply of high-quality proteins is necessary for effective muscle building.
People who eat vegan a diet must take special care to consume a sufficient amount of certain nutrients. Among other things, sufficient protein intake is important. Taking Moringa oleifera supplements can be helpful.
General dosage recommendations can't be made because the ingredients of the different products differ considerably, standardized preparations do not exist and there are no clear indications for treatments with Moringa oleifera.
If the decision to take a Moringa preparation is made, it is therefore all the more important to pay attention to trustworthy manufacturers and importers when choosing a product and, if necessary, to have the quality and ingredients of the product checked.
For food supplements that are sold in the European Union, exact amounts of the ingredients of the product are required by law. The maximum daily dose stated on the respective product should not be exceeded.
In studies made so far in humans, either 500 mg of the leaf extract or 3 mg of the seeds were used. There were no negative effects at these doses.
Possible side effects and interactions of Moringa oleifera have not been sufficiently investigated in humans. However, no undesirable effects are known when taking the recommended amounts.
Toxic effects were only shown in animal experiments when the intake was three to four times higher than the recommended maximum dosage. For this reason, it is assumed that doses at this level could lead to genotoxic damages and much higher doses to organ damages. However, the results in animal studies can in no way be used to infer a possible identical effect in the human organism.
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