Moringa, (Moringa oleifera, Moringaceae), also known as horseradish tree, is fast growing and drought resist, grows in a variety of climates, and can be found in India, Pakistan, Africa, the Philippines, North, South, and Central America, and the Caribbean.1,2 The leaves, fruit, flowers, and immature pods of the tree are all highly nutritious foods. Chemical compounds found in moringa include rhamnose, glucosinolates, and isothiocyanates.1 The stem bark contains two alkaloids: moringine and moringinine. The stem contains vanillin, beta-sitosterol, and octacosanoic acid. The flowers contain compounds including nine amino acids, sucrose, quercetin, and flavonoid pigments. Cytokinins are found in the fruit.
Isothiocyanate and thiocarbamate glycosides, found in the leaves, have been shown to lower blood pressure. Moringa seeds have been shown to be hypotensive. In addition, two other compounds found in the pods demonstrated hypotensive effects: methyl-p-hydroxybenzoate and beta-sitosterol. Moringa tree roots, leaves, flowers, gum, and aqueous seed extracts are diuretic, which complement the blood pressure-lowering abilities. Tree roots and leaves have been shown to be antispasmodic. The leaf extract demonstrated antiulcerogenic and hepatoprotective effects. The roots and flowers can be hepatoprotective as well. The tree's leaves contain several constituents that inhibit the Epstein-Barr virus, indicating antitumor activity. Aqueous leaf extracts have are antioxidant and can function as a regulatory capacity on the thyroid hormone. An in vivo study has shown that a methanol leaf extract may be protective against radiation.
Morniga roots and flowers have antibacterial activity. The root bark, bark extract, stem bark juice, and fresh leaf juice possess antimicrobial effects, including antibacterial and antifungal abilities. The young seed pods and leaves are used to purify water, as they acts against a wide variety of pathogens.2 The crude seed extract has traditionally been used to clear turbid water along the Nile River.1 The tree seeds soften and buffer the pH of water.
In addition to moringa's various medicinal uses, it also has cosmetic applications. One product, Purisoft® (Laboratoires Serobiologiques SA; Nancy, France) contains peptides isolated from the seeds which have purported anti-aging effects. The seed extract is used to protect, condition, and strengthen hair, and is thought to protect hair against pollution damage.
1Anwar F, Latif S, Ashraf M, Gilani AH. Moringa oleifera: a food plant with multiple medicinal uses Phytother Res. January 2007;21(1):17-25.
2Torondel B, Opare D, Brandberg B, Cobb E, Cairncross S. Efficacy of Moringa oleifera leaf powder as a hand-washing product: a crossover controlled study among healthy volunteers. BMC Complement Altern Med. February 14, 2014;14:57. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-14-57.