Moringa Trees can be found in the tropics, world wide. It also thrives in the arid parts of the world where bad water, poor diet, and the diseases are leading killers. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nearly 80% of the world’s population relies on traditional medicine (the use of plants) for their primary healthcare. Since the Moringa Tree is already common in much of the developing world, it can meet the needs of local populations in terms of availability, accessibility, and utilization. It is already growing in areas of need, with spontaneous growth in many regions, and is a hearty and drought tolerant plant. Unlike imported medicine, foods, or other supplements, the low cost of the Moringa Tree makes it affordable to poor populations. Its potential as a cheap local supplement in the fight against malnutrition is promising. Many humanitarian organizations including the Church World Service, the Educational Concerns for Hunger Organizations, Trees for Life, and the National Science Foundation now promote the use of Moringa in poverty-stricken areas to combat malnutrition.
Amadou Ba, director of a Senegalese village health post states, “We were all trained in the classic solutions for treating malnutrition– whole milk powder, sugar, vegetable oil, sometimes peanut butter. But these ingredients are expensive and the recovery of malnourished infants can take months. Now we have replaced this with Moringa. We start seeing improvements within 10 days.”
Lack of vitamin A (due to malnutrition) causes 70% of childhood blindness around the world. 500,000 children are going blind every year due to lack of vitamin A. The Bethesda, Maryland based International Eye Foundation, is using Moringa with its high content of beta carotene, which is converted to vitamin A by the body, to combat childhood blindness around the world.
Lack of drinkable water is one of the world’s most serious threats. Water related diseases account for more than 80% of the world’s sickness. People in many developing nations simply do not have acess to clean safe water. They are left with no choice but to drink and wash with water so contaminated that we wouldn’t even dare to walk in it.
Professor Suleyman Aremu Muyibi, of the International Islamic University of Malaysia, believes Moringa seeds could potentially provide a renewable, sustainable and biodegradable material for treating global water supplies. When Moringa seeds are crushed and added to dirty, bacteria laden water, they purify the water. As part of a Nigeria-based study, Muyibi feels that such an opportunity could be especially attractive in developing countries, where roughly 1.2 billion people still lack safe drinking water, with an estimated 25,000 people dying from water-borne diseases every day.
Britain’s University of Leicester is also studying the coagulating properties of Moringa seeds for its water purifying abilities. Researchers believe the Moringa seeds would work better than the common water purifier, aluminum sulfate, which can be toxic, and have successfully replaced the imported alum system of a Malawi village with a simpler full scale system using Moringa seeds.
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:
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 Names of the 13 different species of Moringa found in the world today 
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: 
|English||Drumstick tree, Horseradish tree, Mother’s Best Friend, Radish tree, West Indian ben|
|French||Bèn ailé, Benzolive, Moringa, Ben oléifère, Arbre radis du cheval|
|German||Behenbaum, Behenussbaum, Flügelsaniger Bennussbaum, Pferderettichbaum|
|Portuguese||Acácia branca, Cedra (Brazil), Marungo, Moringuiero, Muringa|
|Spanish||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
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 
All values are per 100 grams of edible portion.
|Fresh Leaves||Dried Leaves|
|Carotene (Vit. A)*||6.78 mg||18.9 mg|
|Thiamin (B1)||0.06 mg||2.64 mg|
|Riboflavin (B2)||0.05 mg||20.5 mg|
|Niacin (B3)||0.8 mg||8.2 mg|
|Vitamin C||220 mg||17.3 mg|
|Calcium||440 mg||2,003 mg|
|Calories||92 cal||205 cal|
|Carbohydrates||12.5 g||38.2 g|
|Copper||0.07 mg||0.57 mg|
|Fat||1.70 g||2.3 g|
|Fiber||0.90 g||19.2 g|
|Iron||0.85 mg||28.2 mg|
|Magnesium||42 mg||368 mg|
|Phosphorus||70 mg||204 mg|
|Potassium||259 mg||1,324 mg|
|Zinc||0.16 mg||3.29 mg|
All values are per 100 grams of edible portion.
|Fresh Leaves||Dried Leaves|
|Arginine||406.6 mg||1,325 mg|
|Histidine||149.8 mg||613 mg|
|Isoleucine||299.6 mg||825 mg|
|Leucine||492.2 mg||1,950 mg|
|Lysine||342.4 mg||1,325 mg|
|Methionine||117.7 mg||350 mg|
|Phenylalinine||310.3 mg||1,388 mg|
|Threonine||117.7 mg||1,188 mg|
|Tryptophan||107 mg||425 mg|
|Valine||374.5 mg||1,063 mg|
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.
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 .
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 .
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 .
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.
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. 
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.
|Taste (rasa)||Pungent/katu, tikta/bitter|
|Post||Digestive metabolic state (vipak): pungent/katu|
|Guna||Light/laghu, dry/ruksha, sharp/tikshana, fluid/sara|
|Prabhava||• 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.
Dr. JV Hebbar, summarizes several interesting facts about Moringa in his blog .
There are three varieties of Moringa explained in Ayurvedic text books.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
Food Chem Toxicol. 48(1), (2010 Jan): 345-355.
Ever thought you might be in on the start of something big, well this could be it! The Moringa Tree is one of the most nutritious plants on our planet, and at this point in time is a relative secret to the rest of the world.
As volunteers for VPWA, we are using the growing of this tree to aid the poor farmers of Ghana. This video is aimed at winning a grant to establish a processing plant, which will fulfil the missing link to taking Moringa products to market.
This extremely fast growing woody species (Moringa oleifera, Moringaceae) doesn’t look like much, but it could open up a new category of crops: “vegetable trees.” Moringa produces long pods with the appearance of giant green beans and the taste of asparagus. It also produces masses of very small leaflets that are boiled and eaten like spinach. Being so small, the leaflets sun dry in just a few hours and can then be put in a jar and stored for the off-season, a time when dietary minerals and vitamins are often scarce. In addition to providing these natural supplements, the moringa tree yields seeds that clarify turbid water. Compounds in its seeds make traces of silt and clay settle out as effectively as the alum our water departments use. In the rural tropics, moringa seeds could be employed to make water safer for drinking and cooking. Taken all round, this species could be a powerful new weapon against two great scourges, malnutrition and water-borne disease.
Obviously, something must be done about all the neglected crops of Africa. Early in 1996 we at the NRC will publish a 400 page book showcasing the promising native cereals. Then we’d like to compile a volume dealing with the several dozen highly promising African fruits. Later, we hope to complete a volume covering the equal number of promising native vegetables. For all those forgotten African food plants there is presently no readily available promotional materials, let alone guides to such things as nutritional content, soil and climatic limits, varieties that yield the most nutritious parts, or the best ways to prevent pests. Given a little attention, however, these plants are potential wonder weapons against hunger. This is particularly because they are adapted to the challenging conditions and to the needs of Africans.
Moringa [Ben/Behen], is known as the miracle tree – and with good reason. It grows to a height of only 7 – 12 m and has a lifespan of a mere 20 years. Though not as impressive in stature or longevity as the beloved baobab, it can more than hold its own in the impressive stakes.
Moringa has a short, but intense life, growing like the clappers. It can grow up to 4 m in in a season – taking a mere 10 months from seed to tree! As the maxim goes ‘Dynamite comes in small packets’ – and the mighty moringa sure validates this claim, and then some.
Naturally Healthy Moringa now has stocks avaailable from various suppliers like Zija International also :
Moringa grows in over 80 countries, is known by over 200 different common names, and is referenced in over 300 folk medicine remedies. Also known as the Drumstick Tree, and Famine Tree, Moringa’s virtues have even been passionately extolled by Dr Oz on TV, and lauded in print in the National Geographic [Nov 2012] magazine.
Moringa is one of the most ancient oils known to humans and its healing properties, which have been documented by ancient cultures [Greeks, Romans, Egyptians], have stood the test of time – and still come out with flying colours to this day.
All parts of this revered tree, native to Africa and India, are used for their pharmacological and nutritional properties, hence the ‘Miracle tree’ appellation. Moringa’s leaves and seeds are full of health-giving nutrients and skin-loving fatty acids. It is used in cooking, cosmetics, medicine and lubrication – and even has potential as a biofuel.
Along with the other unique African oils, Moringa has become the latest darling of the natural and commercial cosmetic industries, due to its remarkable skin-smoothing, radiance-boosting, decongesting, detoxifying, moisturising, conditioning and anti-ageing properties.
Besides its many other virtues, Moringa oil possesses exceptional oxidative stability, which may explain why the Egyptians placed vases of this oil in their tombs to assist them in the afterlife – so chance is a good thing that Cleopatra knew all about this facet of Moringa’s impressive profile!
Here is a picture of the Moringa Amphora from the Tomb of Maiherpri * [his name can be translated as Lion of the Battlefield]. Some of the dockets attached to the jars indicated that they had contained b3k-oil, a very expensive commodity made from Moringa nuts.
* Maiherpri was an Ancient Egyptian noble of Nubian origin buried in the Valley of the Kings, in tomb KV36. He probably lived during the rule of Thutmose IV, [the 8th Pharoah of the 18th dynasty of Egypt, who ruled in approximately the 14th century BC.
For the aromatic perfumers out there ..…..…
Did you know that Moringa oil was used for perfumery long before the advent of alcohol distillation and other modern day diluent chemicals?
Distillation dates back to more or less the 4th century BC.
During these times aromatics were extracted by steeping plant material or splinters of fragrant wood in oil to extract the essential oils. The macerated material would eventually be placed in cloth and wrung out until the last vestiges of aroma had been retrieved. Alternatively the material was boiled with oil and water and the aromatic essential oil skimmed off. Besides Moringa, other oils like balanos [from the seeds of the Balanites aegyptiaca tree], castor, linseed, olive, sesame, safflower and sometimes almond were used.
Traditional perfumers however held [and hold] Moringa oil in esteem for its exceptional fixative powers i.e. it can absorb and retain even the most elusive scents, locking the aromatic molecules into the oil. Another one of the reasons for my enduring love affair with this divine oil.
There are reports of Moringa being used in cosmetic preparations as far back as 1400 BC, wherein an allegedly successful remedy to treat wrinkles consisted of: gum of frankincense wax; fresh Moringa oil and Cyprus grass [Cyperus alternifolius] – a grass-like marsh plant of the Cyperaceae [or sour grasses] family that is also used to make papyrus. The mixture was ground finely, mixed with fermented plant juice, and applied daily. Let me know if you try it and it works!
These days Moringa seed oil is in much demand for natural and luxury cosmetics because of its stability profile and resistance to rancidity, which is due to high levels of powerful antioxidants.
Moringa seed powder can be used as a quick and simple method for cleaning dirty river water. Studies showed that this simple method of filtering not only diminishes water pollution, but also harmful bacteria. The moringa powder joins with the solids in the water and sinks to the bottom. This treatment also removes 90-99% of bacteria contained in water.
Using natural materials to clarify water is a technique that has been practiced for centuries and of all the materials that have been used, seeds of moringa tree have been found to be one of the most effective.
Studies have been conducted since the early 1970’s to test the effectiveness of moringa tree seeds for treating water. These studies have confirmed that the moringa seeds are highly effective in removing suspended particles from water with medium to high levels of turbidity (moringa tree seeds are less effective at treating water with low levels of turbidity).
Solutions of moringa tree seeds for water treatment may be prepared from moringa seed kernels or from the solid residue remaining after oil extraction (presscake). Moringa tree seeds, seed kernels or dried presscake can be stored for long. Water purification methods using seeds from the Moringa tree have been known about for centuries, but their use has been limited geographically.
In order to make an effective water purification system, the Moringa tree seeds are dried and then ground into a powder. Unlike other particles in the water such as clay, bacteria, and other toxic materials which are negatively charged, the protein in the Moringa tree seed powder is positively charged, thereby attracting the negatively charged particles like a magnet. The flocs formed by the floculation process can then be easily removed by allowing the water to settle, or removed by filtration.
Moringa tree seeds treat water on two levels, acting both as a coagulant and an antimicrobial agent. It is generally accepted that moringa tree works as a coagulant due to positively charged, water-soluble proteins, which bind with negatively charged particles (silt, clay, bacteria, toxins, etc) allowing the resulting “flocs” to settle to the bottom or be removed by filtration.
Application of plant flocculants such as Moringa tree is highly recommended for domestic water purification in developing countries, where people are used to drink contaminated turbid water. Moringa tree does not guarantee that the raw water ends up completely (100%) free of pathogenic germs. It is cleaned and drinkable but not completely purified.
Within the past ten years, the Moringa tree has grown from being practically unknown, even unheard of, to being a new and promising nutritional and economic resource for developing countries. The Moringa tree leaves, which are easy to grow and rich in proteins, vitamins and minerals, are becoming widely used in projects fghting against malnutrition. Producing Moringa tree leaves is also a means of generating agricultural income, developing the food processing industry and founding new businesses.
What could be easier than walking into your yard, and gathering healthy leaves from your own grown Moringa plants to put on the table?
The Moringa plant is a fast-growing, drought resistant tree that can reach up to 3 meters in its first year.
The Moringa tree is very easy to grow. Simply plant seeds or cuttings in a sunny spot. The moringa tree is a plant that grows mainly in semiarid, subtropical areas.
Learn how to grow your own multivitamin and have a Moringa farmacy at your doorstep. Grow Many Moringa’s in a Square Meter
The Moringa tree is very easy to grow. Simply plant seeds or cuttings in a sunny spot.
Moringa is a fast-growing, drought resistant tree. The moringa tree is a plant that grows mainly in semiarid, subtropical areas. Moringa can grow in dry, sandy or poor soils.
Moringa oleifera is believed to be native to sub-Himalayan tracts of northern India but is now found worldwide in the tropics and sub-tropics. It grows best in direct sunlight under 500 meters altitude. It tolerates a wide range of soil conditions, but prefers a neutral to slightly acidic (pH. 6.3-7.0), well-drained sandy or loamy soil. Minimum annual rainfall requirements are estimated at 250mm with maximum at over 3,000mm, but in waterlogged soil the roots have a tendency to rot. (In areas with heavy rainfall, trees can be planted on small hills to encourage water run-off). Presence of a long taproot makes it resistant to periods of drought. Trees can be easily grown from seed or from cuttings. Temperature ranges are 25-35 degrees Celsius (0-95 degrees Fahrenheit), but the tree will tolerate up to 48 degrees in the shade and it can survive a light frost.
Moringa seeds have no dormancy period, so they can be planted as soon as they are mature and they will retain the ability to germinate for up to one year. Older seeds woll only have spotty germination. Moringa trees will flower and fruit annually and in some regions twice annually. During its first year, a Moringa tree will grow up to five meters in height and produce flowers and fruit. Left alone, the tree can eventually reach 12 meters in height with a trunk 30cm wide; however, the tree can be annually cut back to one meter from the ground. The tree will quickly recover and produce leaves and pods within easy reach. Within three years a tree will yield 400-600 pods annually and a mature tree can produce up to 1,600 pods. Copicing to the ground is also possible, and will produce a Moringa bush is no main new growth is selected, and the others eliminated.
Moringa Plant, Grow, Cultivation – IN THE NURSERY
Use poly bags with dimensions of about 18cm or 8″ in height and 12cm or 4-5″ in diameter. The soil mixture for the sacks should be light, i.e. 3 parts soil to 1 part sand. Plant two or three seeds in each sack, one to two centimeters deep. Keep moist but not too wet. Germination will occur within 5 to 12 days, depending on the age of the seed and pre-treatment method used. Remove extra seedlings, leaving one in each sack. Seedlings can be out-planted when they are 60-90cm high. When out-planting, cut a hole in the bottom of the sack big enough to allow the roots to emerge. Be sure to retain the soil around the roots of the seedling. To encourage rapid germination, one of three pre-seeding treatments can be employed:
1. Soak the seeds in water overnight before planting.
2. Crack the shells before planting.
3. Remove shells and plant kernels only.
Moringa Plant, Grow, Cultivation – IN THE FIELD
If planting a large plot it is recommended to first plough the land. Prior to planting a seed or seedling, dig a planting pit about 50cm in depth and the same in width. This planting hole serves to loosen the soil and helps to retain moisten in the root zone, enabling the seedlings’ roots to develop rapidly. Compost or manure at the rate of 5kg per pit can be mixed with the fresh topsoil around the pit and used to fill the pit. Avoid using the soil taken out of the pit for this purpose: fresh topsoil contains beneficial microbes that can promote more effective root growth. The day before out planting, water the filled pits or wait until a good rain before out-planting seedlings. Fill in the hole before transplanting the seedling. In areas of heavy rainfall, the soil can be shaped in the form of a mound to encourage drainage. Do not water heavily for the first few days. If the seedlings fall over, tie them to stick 40cm high for support.
Moringa Plant, Grow, Cultivation – DIRECT SEEDING
If water is available for irrigation (i.e., in a backyard garden), moringa trees can be seeded directly and grown anytime during the year. Prepare a planting pit first, water, and then fill in the pit with topsoil mixed with compost or manure before planting seeds. In a large field, trees can be seeded directly at the beginning of the wet season.
Moringa Plant, Grow, Cultivation – GROWING MORINGA FROM CUTTINGS
Use hard wood, not green wood, for cuttings. Cuttings should be 45cm to 1.5m long and 10cm thick. Cuttings can be planted directly or planted in sacks in the nursery. When planting directly, plant the cuttings in light, sandy soil. Plant one-third of the length in the ground (i.e., if the cutting is 1.5m long, plant it 50cm deep). Do not over water; if the soil is too heavy or wet, the roots may rot. When the cuttings are planted in the nursery, the root system isslow to develop. Add phosphorus to the soil if possible to encourage root development. Cuttings planted in a nursery can be out-planted after 2 or 3 months.
Moringa Plant, Grow, Cultivation – SPACING
For intensive Moringa production, plant the tree every 3 meters in rows 3 meters apart. To ensure sufficient sunlight and airflow, it is also recommendedto plant the trees in an east-west direction. When the trees are part of an alley-cropping system, there should be 10 meters between the rows. The area between trees should be kept free of weeds.
Trees are often spaced in a line one meter or less apart in order to create living fence posts. Trees are also planted to provide support for climbing crops such as pole beans, although only mature trees should be used for this purpose since the vine growth can choke off the young tree. Moringa trees can be planted in gardens; the tree’s root system does not compete with other crops for surface nutrients and the light shade provided by the tree will be beneficial to those vegetables which are less tolerant to direct sunlight. From the second year onwards, Moringa can be inter-cropped with maize, sunflower and other field crops. Sunflower is particularly recommended for helping to control weed growth. However, Moringa trees are reported to be highly competitive with eggplant (Solanum melongena) and sweet corn (Zea mays) and can reduce their yields by up to 50%.
Moringa Plant, Grow, Cultivation – PINCHING THE TERMINAL TIPS
When the seedlings reach a height of 60cm in the main field, pinch (trim) the terminal growing tip 10cm from the top. This can be done using fingers since the terminal growth is tender, devoid of bark fiber and brittle, and therefore easily broken. A shears or knife blade can also be used. Secondary branches will begin appearing on the main stem below the cut about a week later. When they reach a length of 20cm, cut these back to 10cm. Use a sharp blade and make a slanting cut. Tertiary branches will appear, and these are also to be pinched in the same manner. This pinching, done four times before the flowers appear (when the tree is about three months old), will encourage the tree to become bushy and produce many pods within easy reach. Pinching helps the tree develop a strong production frame for maximizing the yield. If the pinching is not done, the tree has a tendency to shoot up vertically and grow tall, like a mast, with sparse flowers and few fruits found only at the very top.
For annual Moringa types, directly following the end of the harvest, cut the tree’s main trunk to about 90cm from ground level. About two weeks later 15 to 20 sprouts will appear below the cut. Allow only 4-5 robust branches to grow and nib the remaining sprouts while they are young, before they grow long and harden. Continue the same pinching process as done with new seedlings so as to make the tree bushy. After the second crop, the trees can be removed and new seedlings planted for maximum productivity.
For perennial Moringa types, remove only the dead and worn out branches every year. Once in four or five years, cut the tree back to one meter from ground level and allow re-growth. Complete copicing is.
Moringa Plant, Grow, Cultivation – WATERING
Moringa trees do not need much watering, which make them ideally suited for the climate of places such as Southern California. In very dry conditions, water regularly for the first two months and afterwards only when the tree is obviously suffering. Moringa trees will flower and produce pods whenever there is sufficient water available.
If rainfall is continuous throughout the year, Moringa trees will have a nearly continuous yield. In arid conditions, flowering can be induced through irrigation.
Moringa Plant, Grow, Cultivation – FERTILIZING
Moringa trees will generally grow well without adding very much fertilizer. Manure or compost can be mixed with the soil used to fill the planting pits. Phosphorus can be added to encourage root development and nitrogen will encourage leaf canopy growth. In some parts of India, 15cm-deep ring trenches are dug about 10cm from the trees during the rainy season and filled with green leaves, manure and ash. These trenches are then covered with soil.
This approach is said to promote higher pod yields. Research done in India has also showed that applications of 7.5kg farmyard manure and 0.37kg ammonium sulfate per tree can increase pod yields threefold.
Biodynamic composts yield the best results, with yield increases of of to 50% compared to ordinary composts.
Moringa Plant, Grow, Cultivation – PESTS AND DISEASES
Moringa is resistant to most pests. In very water-logged conditions, Diplodia root rot can occur. In very wet conditions, seedlings can be planted in mounds so that excess water is drained off. Cattle, sheep, pigs and goats will eat Moringa seedlings, pods and leaves. Protect Moringa seedlings from livestock by installing a fence or by planting a living fence around the plantation. A living fence can be grown with Jatropha curcas, whose seeds also produce an oil good for soap-making. For mature trees, the lower branches can be cut off so that goats will not be able to reach the leaves and pods. Termites can be a problem, especially when cuttings are planted.
Among approaches recommended to protect seedlings from termite attack:
· Apply mulches of castor oil plant leaves, mahogany chips, tephrosia leaves or Persian lilac leaves around the base of the plants.
· Heap ashes around the base of seedlings.
· Dry and crush stems and leaves of lion’s ear or Mexican poppy and spread the dust around the base of plants.
In India, various caterpillars are reported to cause defoliation unless controlled by spraying. The budworm Noordia moringae and the scale insects Diaspidotus sp. and Ceroplastodes cajani are reportedly able to cause serious damage. Also mentioned as pests in India are Aphis craccibora, the borer Diaxenopsis apomecynoides and the fruit fly Gitonia sp. Elsewhere in the world, where Moringa is an introduced tree, local pests are less numerous.
Moringa Plant, Grow, Cultivation – HARVESTING
When harvesting pods for human consumption, harvest when the pods are still young (about 1cm in diameter) and snap easily. Older pods develop a tough exterior, but the white seeds and flesh remain edible until the ripening process begins.
When producing seed for planting or for oil extraction, allow the pods to dry and turn brown on the tree. In some cases, it may be necessary to prop up a branch that holds many pods to prevent it breaking off. Harvest the pods before they split open and seeds fall to the ground. Seeds can be stored in well-ventilated sacks in dry, shady places.
For making leaf sauces, harvest seedlings, growing tips or young leaves. Older leaves must be stripped from the tough and wiry stems. These older leaves are more suited to making dried leaf powder since the stems are removed in the pounding and sifting process.
Adapted from Lowell J. Fuglie and K. V. Sreeja by Dr F. Annenber
Moringa is one of the world’s most useful plants. This fast-growing tree is grown throughout the tropics for human food, livestock forage, medicine, dye, and water purification. It is known by several names in different countries, but is popularly called the “drumstick tree” for its pods that are used by drummers and the “horseradish tree” for the flavor of its roots.
Moringa is one of the world’s most nutritious crops. Ounce for ounce, the leaves of moringa have more beta-carotene than carrots, more protein than peas, more vitamin C than oranges, more calcium than milk, more potassium than bananas, and more iron than spinach. Native to South Asia, this tree is becoming a vital source of nutrition in this region, where most of the world’s poor people live. The multiple uses of moringa have attracted the attention of researchers, development workers, and farmers.
The following suggested cultural practices were developed at AVRDC in the Taiwan lowlands. Growers may need to modify the practices to suit local soil, weather, pest, and disease conditions.
Moringa Plant, Grow, Cultivation – Climate and soil requirements
Moringa tolerates a wide range of environmental conditions. It grows best between 25 to 35oC, but will tolerate up to 48oC in the shade and can survive a light frost. The drought-tolerant tree grows well in areas receiving annual rainfall amounts that range from 250 to 1500 mm. Altitudes below 600 m are best for moringa, but this adaptable tree can grow in altitudes up to 1200 m in the tropics.
Moringa prefers a well-drained sandy loam or loam soil, but tolerates clay. It will not survive under prolonged flooding and poor drainage. Moringa tolerates a soil pH of 5.0–9.0.
Moringa Plant, Grow, Cultivation – Preparing the field
Moringa requires thorough land preparation and a well-prepared seedbed. At AVRDC, moringa is planted on 30-cm-high raised beds to facilitate drainage. Bed widths being tested at the Center vary from 60–200 cm.
Moringa Plant, Grow, Cultivation – Choosing a Moringa variety
Among moringa species, Moringa oleifera and Moringa stenopetala are most commonly grown. Moringa oleifera is most widely cultivated and the focus of this guide. Varieties within Moringa oleifera differ in growing habit, leaf, flower, and pod characteristics (Fig. 3). Numerous accessions are being evaluated at AVRDC for superior production and nutrition qualities. Currently we recommend growers to use locally adapted lines. Characteristics of superior types include wide and dark green leaves, long and tender pods, bushy habit, and rapid regeneration after trimming.
Moringa Planting methods
Moringa is planted either by direct seeding, transplanting, or using hard stem cuttings. Direct seeding is preferred when plenty of seed is available and labor is limited. Transplanting allows flexibility in field planting but requires extra labor and cost in raising seedlings. Stem cuttings are used when the availability of seed is limited but labor is plentiful.
Moringa Plant, Grow, Cultivation – Direct seeding
Sow two or three seeds per hill at a depth of 2 cm. Two weeks after germination, thin to the strongest seedling per hill.
For leaf, pod and seed production, space plants 3–5 m apart between rows and plants. If using raised beds, form beds with 2-m-wide tops, and space plants 3–5 m apart in a single row.
For production of leaves only, space plants 50 cm within rows spaced 1 m apart. If using raised beds, form beds with 60-cm-wide tops and space plants 1 m apart in a single row. For intensive production of leaves, space plants 10–20 cm within rows 30–50 cm apart.
Closer spacing allows harvest of young edible shoots every two to three weeks.
Moringa Plant, Grow, Cultivation – Transplanting
Transplanting moringa consists of two steps: seed- ling production and field planting. Seedlings can be grown in divided trays, individual pots, plastic bags, or seedbeds. Use of divided trays and individual containers is preferred because there is less damage to seedlings when they are transplanted.
A 50-cell tray with cells 3–4 cm wide and deep is suitable. Fill the tray with a potting mix that has good water-holding capacity and good drainage. Use peat moss, commercial potting soil, or a pot- ting mix prepared from soil, compost or rice hulls, and vermiculite or sand. AVRDC uses a mixture of 67% peat moss and 33% coarse vermiculite. If you use non-sterile components, sterilize the mix by autoclaving or baking at 150Grow seedlings under shade or in a screenhouse with 50% shade. Sow two or three seeds per cell. One week after germination, thin to the strongest seedling. Irrigate seedlings thoroughly every morning or as needed (moist, but not wet), using a fine mist sprinkler to avoid soil splash and plant damage. Transplant seedlings one month after sowing.
Pots or bags may be used to grow larger trans- plants. Fill the containers (0.5–1.0 kg by volume) with potting mix similar to that used in seedling trays. If potting mix is not available, use 3 parts soil to 1 part sand. Sow two or three seeds per pot or bag. One week after germination, thin to the strongest seedling. These plants are transplanted in the field after they reach 50 cm high.
If seedlings are started in a raised seedbed, the soil should be partially sterilized by burning a 3–5 cm layer of rice straw or other organic matter on the bed. The burned ash adds minor amounts of P and K to the soil. Sow two or three seeds in holes spaced 10 cm apart in furrows spaced 25 cm apart. Cover seedbed with a fine-mesh nylon net to protect seedlings from pests, heavy rain, and harsh sunlight. Transplant seedlings one month after sowing or when they reach 20–30 cm high. Dig seedlings using a trowel taking care that roots are not damaged. Place the bare-root seedlings in a bucket containing water and transplant them as soon as possible.
Field planting. Spacing’s are similar to those recommended in the direct seeding method.
Moringa may also be planted 1 m apart or closer in a row to establish living fence posts. Trees can be planted in gardens to provide shade to vegetables less tolerant to direct sunlight. Moringa trees are also used to support climbing crops such as yam and pole beans. Trees are also planted in hedgerows forming wide alleys where vegetables are planted within. Choose vegetables that are adapted to alley cropping, such as shade-tolerant leafy vegetables and herbs, since moringa hedgerows are highly competitive and can reduce yields of companion plants significantly.
Moringa Plant, Grow, Cultivation – Using stem cuttings
Compared to trees planted from seed, trees from stem cuttings grow faster but develop a shallow root system that makes them more susceptible to moisture stress and wind damage.
Make stem cuttings using branches of a tree that is at least one year old. Use hard wood and avoid using young green stem tissue. Cuttings can be 45–150 cm long with diameters of 4–16 cm. Cuttings can be dried in the shade for three days before planting in the nursery or in the field. Cut- tings are then planted directly or planted in plastic pots or bags in the nursery or screenhouse. When planting directly, plant cuttings in light, sandy soil. Plant one- third of the length in the soil (i.e., if the cutting is 90 cm long, plant it 30 cm deep). Add a balanced fertilizer or compost to infertile soils to en- courage root development. Irrigate regularly to keep the soil moist but not wet. Cuttings planted in a nursery are ready for field planting after 2– 3 months. Follow the field planting recommendations mentioned for direct seeding and transplanting.
Moringa Plant, Grow, Cultivation – Controlling pests and diseases
Moringa grows well in most soils without additions of fertilizer. Once established, the extensive and deep root system of moringa is efficient in mining nutrients from the soil.
For optimum growth and yields, fertilizers are applied at planting time. Dig trenches around the base of the plant (10–20 cm from the base) and apply approximately 300 g of a commercial nitro- gen fertilizer per tree. If commercial nitrogen fertilizer is not available, use compost or well-rotted farmyard manure at the rate of 1–2 kg/tree.
Irrigate newly transplanted trees immediately after transplanting to promote early root development. In dry and arid climates, irrigate regularly for the first two months. Once established, moringa rarely need watering. The well-rooted tree tolerates drought and needs irrigation only when persistent wilting is evident.
Cultivate the soil thoroughly before planting to sup- press early weed growth. Apply straw and/or plastic mulch around the base of each young tree. Maintain a weed-free planting by regularly cultivating between beds and rows.
Moringa is resistant to most pests and diseases, but outbreaks may occur under certain conditions. For example, diplodia root rot may appear in waterlogged soils, causing severe wilting and death of plants. Mite populations can increase during dry and cool weather. These pests create yellowing of leaves, but plants usually recover during warm weather. Other insect pests include termites, aphids, leafminers, whiteflies, and caterpillars.
Chemical control of insect pests should be used only when severe infestations occur. Choose a pesticide that targets the specific pest causing the damage, and avoid pesticides that kill or inhibit the development of beneficial organisms. Choose pesticides that last only a few days.
Cattle, sheep, pigs, and goats will eat moringa seedlings, pods and leaves. Protect moringa seedlings from livestock by installing fence or by planting a hedge around the plot.
Moringa Plant, Grow, Cultivation – Pruning
Moringa should be trimmed to promote branching, increase yields, and facilitate harvesting. If left to grow without cutting the main trunk, the fast-growing tree will grow straight and tall producing leaves and pods only on the primary stem. To encourage the development of many branches and pods within easy reach from the ground, prune the apical growing shoot when the tree is 1.0–2.0 m high. Use a sharp cutting knife, machete, or pruning saw to make smooth cuts. New shoots will emerge from just below where the cut is made. Thereafter, cut the growing tips of the branches so that the tree will become bushier. Another pruning strategy is to cut back each branch by 30 cm when it reaches 60 cm in length. This will produce a multibranched shrub.
If the tree is being grown for pod production, remove flowers during the first year. This will channel all of the young tree’s energy into vegetative and root development (rather than energy- draining pods), leading to more vigorous growth and productive yields in the future, to making dried leaf powder, since stems can be removed during the sifting process.
For fresh vegetables, tie harvested leaves in bundles and place them under shade to maintain freshness. Moringa leaves can easily lose moisture after harvesting, therefore, harvest early in the morning and sell the same day, if possible.
The leaflets can also be dried in the sun for a few hours and then stored for consumption during the hot-wet season, a time when minerals and vitamins are most lacking in diets.
Flowers and pods are normally produced during the second year of growth. Harvest pods when they are young, tender, and green. They are eaten as green beans. Older pods are fibrous and develop a tough shell, but their pulp and immature seeds remain edible until shortly before the ripening process begins. Immature seeds can be used in recipes similar to green peas. Fresh or dried flowers are used for making teas.
Older trees that are unproductive or too high for easy harvesting can be pruned at ground level. New shoots will emerge quickly from the base.
Moringa Plant, Grow, Cultivation – Harvesting
Leaves can be harvested after plants grow 1.5–2.0 m, which usually takes at least one year. Harvest leaves by snapping leaf stems from branches. Harvesting young shoot tips will promote development of side branches where cuts along the main branches are made. Allow plants to develop new shoots and branches before subsequent harvests. If plants are grown at closer spacing and higher density, cut plants about 10–20 cm above ground.
Older leaves will need to be stripped from their tough and wiry stems. These leaves are more suited
Moringa Plant, Grow, Cultivation – Collecting and storing ripe Moringa seeds
Mature pods contain ripe seeds that are used for planting the next crop or for extracting oil. When producing seed for oil extraction, allow the pods to dry and turn brown on the tree. Harvest pods be- fore they split open and fall to the ground. Store seeds in well-ventilated sacks in a cool, dry, and shaded area. Seeds remain viable for planting for two years.
Malunggay tree is know for its rich nutrients, proteins and vitamins such as vitamin A which is important for the development of eyes from growing children.
Another name is Mothers Best Friend.
The tree can be found in Asia, Africa and South America.
Products from the leaves and roots are vitamin capsules as food supplements, tea, shampoo, soap and can used for water purification purposes.
by Ansel Oommen
Friday, 23rd January 2015
The Moringa Tree, also known as the Drumstick tree is nearly entirely edible. It can grow with little water, has multiple times the amount of nutrients as oranges, carrots and milk, plus grows very well in regions of malnutrition. Could this tree solve the world’s food crisis?
In the foothills of the Himalayas in northern India, a certain tree has long graced the region with its miraculous fruit. Hanging from its wiry branches are clusters of ribbed pods, each a foot in length. These pods, or drumsticks, have attracted the attention of mankind for millennia, and for good reason.
While the aptly named Drumstick tree has a rather slender appearance, it is anything but frail. A tropical native, this prolific powerhouse has spread its roots across Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the Caribbean. And now, it seems to have anchored itself in American soil.
Part of a new wave of exotic vegetables, Moringa oleifera (MO) is a botanical platypus. A member of the order Brassicales, it’s a distant relative of both the cabbage and papaya. Its roots taste so much like its cousin horseradish, that it’s earned the title ‘horseradish tree’. Its fruit, a popular Indian vegetable, looks like a cross between an okra and a pole bean with the flavor of asparagus. Its cooked flowers mimic mushrooms in taste, while its leaves hint at spinach and lettuce. Its immature seeds are used like peas and if fried when mature, resemble peanuts.
In fact, it’s hard to find a part of Moringa that isn’t edible. Even the bark is sometimes taken internally for diarrhea. But that doesn’t come as a surprise to the locals, who consider it a living pharmacy. Moringa has proven to be a multipurpose arsenal that dispenses some of the best secrets nature has to offer. For centuries, it has been used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat a host of ailments including anemia, bronchitis, tumors, scurvy, and skin infections.
Drought hardy and disease resistant, MO is a godsend during the dry season, when little food is available. The fresh leaves and branches serve as an excellent source of forage. Indeed, a Nicaraguan study confirms MO’s ability to boost milk production in cows without affecting its taste, smell, or color.
The leaves offer a spectrum of nutrition, rich in vitamins A, B, and C, as well as protein, calcium, and iron. They are so nutritious in fact, that they contain more vitamin A than carrots, more vitamin C than oranges, more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach, more potassium than bananas, and more protein than either milk or eggs! A traditional item in pickles and curries, the raw leaves are also perfect for salads.
As a result, Moringa could play a key role as a wholesome food source in impoverished nations, where malnutrition is often rampant. The World Health Organization has stressed the importance of amino acids and protein for growing children. Luckily, Moringa leaves are rich in these nutrients, with the added benefit of omega-3 fatty acids and a host of protective phytochemicals.
When mixed in with different cereals, children regained normal weight and health status in 30-40 days, while the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) recipe for malnourished children took 80 days, double the difference.
“[It] is a very healthy satisfying food that meets all nutritive needs. It is cheap to produce, can be cooked or eaten raw, sold in the market, or dried as a powder to be sold over long distances,” added Nikolaus Foidl, a world leading agricultural researcher on Moringa.
Foidl has been studying the tree for over a decade in conjunction with the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart, Germany. He has traveled to many countries, including Senegal, Honduras, Guinea Bissau, and Argentina, promoting the miracle tree’s cultivation by working with the locals.
In Nicaragua, he helped farmers utilize the leaf extract as a growth spray for other crops.
“Moringa leaves contain the growth factors gibberellin, kinetin, and some lower levels of auxin. We got up to a 25% increase in sugarcane and turnips, onions and radish.”
Such a bountiful increase should not be ignored, especially in areas where food shortage is an issue. Foidl, who has the financial support of the Austrian government, first came across the tree by accident.
He recounted, “By chance, I had a Jatropha plantation with rows of Moringa as windbreaks and the damn cows were always breaking down my fences to get to them. So I wondered, what is so special about this tree that the cows are willing to risk injury?”
That question has now led to a new understanding of MO’s multifaceted potential. As a vigorous hardy grower, it surprisingly does not require much water or soil nutrients once established. This makes it one of the most valuable tropical trees in terms of overall utility.
Like the leaves, the flowers too are edible when cooked, packed with calcium and potassium. As a bonus, they are not only incredibly fragrant, but also support native bee populations.
MO roots and bark, on the other hand, are used with caution. The bark contains the toxic chemicals moringinine and spirochin which can alter heart rate and blood pressure. However, they do show promise in the medical field. The inner flesh of the root is less toxic, and those of young plants are picked for a hot sauce base while the resin is added as a thickener. Interestingly, blue dye can be obtained from the wood, which is also used in paper production.
But if Moringa were a magician, it has certainly saved its best trick for last. The famed drumsticks contain all nine essential amino acids that humans must obtain exclusively from their diet. Often, they’re chopped into logs, boiled, and split into thirds lengthwise. The fibrous rind is inedible – rather it’s the soft jellied pulp and seeds that are sought after. These can be scooped out or scraped away by the teeth.
Hidden within the drumsticks are even more remarkable seeds. Loaded with protein, they also contain special non-toxic polypeptides that act as natural Brita filters. When ground into powder and mixed with water, they cause sediments to clump together and settle out. Then when strained through a cloth, they provide cheap access to clean water. Amazingly, just two seeds are enough to purify a dirty liter.
“It has been widely used at the village level in Africa to transform river water into drinking water,” shared Foidl. “I had a project working with the seeds in a wastewater treatment plant in Nicaragua (wastewater from 4,000 people). It was very effective – about 99.5% separation of turbidity in 30 minutes.”
In turn, the seeds themselves yield a valuable yellow oil called ben oil. Sweet, clear, and odorless, it doesn’t spoil easily – perfect for perfumes, cosmetics, and lubrication. It has also found use in cooking due to its high levels of healthy unsaturated fats.
For such a versatile tree, it’s almost hard to believe that Moringa is easily grown via seeds or cuttings. Foidl remarked, “It grows virtually better than willow.”
As agriculture becomes more expensive, managing the long-term productivity of the land is essential. Moringa solves this issue through a practice called high-density planting. The trees are grown closely together to increase the yield per given area, while at the same time reducing the need for herbicides. Because MO grows rapidly, it crowds out and suppresses neighboring weeds.
“The optimal density is 1 million plants per hectare (10 x 10cm spacing), where the losses of plants per cut are around 1% and the losses are compensated through vigorous sprouting,” explained Foidl. “Moringa is cut at a height of 15 to 25cm for vigorous regrowth.”
Moringa just before harvest. Foidl either harvest at 35 days of growth or 75.
Moringa harvested on rotation.
This practice allows for cutting every 35 days, totaling 10 harvests per year. In fact, 120 tons of dry matter can be harvested per hectare a year, 10 times more than corn and several times more than soy. As a result, there is a constant supply of fresh food, with little need for storage.
Moringa is in a unique position to address the issues of hunger, malnutrition, poverty, and lack of clean water all at once, something no other plant can boast. It is even more valuable considering it is found widely throughout the tropics, in the regions where it is needed most, making this ancient tree a true modern day miracle.
Moringa’s growing regions and regions of malnutrition.
About the Author: Ansel Oommen is a garden writer, citizen scientist, and medical transcriptionist whose works have been published in magazines such as Atlas Obscura, Well Being Journal, and Entomology Today, among others. Discover more at www.behance.net/Ansel.
All images thanks to Nikolaus Foidl apart from Moringa root, thanks to Crops for the Future.