Moringa is a superfood. I was first introduced to it in Guatemala, where it was beginning to make a name for itself as a way of combating malnutrition in a country that suffers greatly from it. Little bottles of moringa powder were popping up everywhere, but mostly — ironically — in trendy cafes and eateries, where patrons would pay an extra dollar or more for a tablespoon of magical dust to be added to their smoothies.
Nonetheless, the movement was moving, and I met several people working to introduce moringa, the plant, to farmers throughout the country, allowing them to grow their own sustainable source of nutrients right next to the house. And, the powders were being shared with rural schools, where the children could really use a boost. Everybody was set to benefit. Personally, I’ve remained excited about moringa since that first meeting, and there have been many more to come. Read on to learn about this superfood and why you should try it.
A Brief Rundown
Originally, moringa comes from India, where it has long been used as a medicinal plant as well as nutritional booster. It is now present in many tropical and subtropical countries and on five different continents. In English, it is referred to as the drumstick tree (due to the shape of its seed pods), the horseradish tree (due to its spicy flavor), or often the miracle tree (due to its many health benefits). For those working to combat malnutrition this is very exciting, because as Trees for Life puts it, “The moringa tree grows precisely where people need it most.”
- Here’s a link for getting involved with Trees for Life International, a group really worth investigating.
Pretty much the entire tree is edible, from roots to trunk to flowers to leaves – the most nutritious of all. It’s a legume, so it enriches the soil. And, it’s a drought-resistant plant that grows quickly and nearly forty feet high. It propagates easily, either by planting the seeds or using cuttings. This is very, very encouraging, because moringa is offering a way for malnourished populations to get themselves healthy again without a constant influx of food provisions from outside sources.
The Health Benefits
Moringa is one of those foods that’s just stocked with an unbelievable amount of nutrients. Milligram for milligram, it outperforms many of the classic sources of vitamins and minerals by multiples, such as 25 times the amount of iron as spinach or seven times the amount of vitamin C as oranges. It is also thick with vitamin A (more than carrots), several B vitamins (more than peanuts), calcium (more than milk), protein (more than yogurt), and potassium (more than bananas). And on it goes. Of course, the reality is that 100 grams of moringa looks like a lot more than 100 grams worth of orange slices. Still, for every bite, something very special is getting into the body.
The list of medicinal qualities is also amazing, helping with all sorts of things, from skin ailments to headaches to intestinal worms to ulcers, tumors, diabetes, malaria, and on and on and on. These medicinal properties are not only from indigenous sources, but have also been proven and expanded by scientific research. The miracle tree contains upwards of 46 different antioxidants, 36 anti-inflammatories, and 90 nutrients.
Eating It Daily
The most readily available way to consume moringa, if you are not in one of these tropical/sub-tropical environments where it grows, is in powder form. The powder comes from dried leaves, and other than vitamin C, it actually boasts higher amounts of nutrients than fresh leaves. The powder has mild, somewhat spinach-like taste and works well in smoothies, green juices, soups or sprinkled over most anything.
Then, if you do live in an environment where it will grow (or try a dwarf tree as a pot plant), then you can use the leaves like a fresh herb, sprinkled over soups or salads. You can also eat the seeds and pods just as you would green beans, and the flowers and buds are edible — and make a nice tea — but can have a laxative effect. The plants have also been used, as far back as the Greeks and Romans, to make oil, which works well for cooking as well as a medicine and an ingredient for beauty products.
Getting Some of That
I Love Moringa is a comprehensive site that provides the powder, seeds and cuttings, so it would be an easy way to try moringa right away while you get some of your own growing. Other certified organic sources are Miracle Trees (extract, oil, capsules, powder and tea), Moringa Source (powder leaves, oil, and seeds) and Moringa Farms (seedlings, powders from all parts of the plant, and germinable seeds). The craze has definitely caught on, and I’m happy to have my own dozen or so trees out the garden now. Good luck with yours.
Image source: Tatters ❀/ Flickr