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No matter what you call Moringa oleifera — also known as “drumstick tree,” “tree of life,” and “miracle tree” — it’s one of the most nutritious plants in the world. It has a wide range of nutritional and bioactive compounds, including essential amino acids, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, making this plant a powerful one.
Native to Northern India and East Africa, you’ll find the two most popular species in those regions, although there are 13 different species in total. Even when it comes to the latest research, a few varieties of this popular plant are commonly highlighted. “Among the 13 species, current studies are limited to Moringa oleifera, Moringa stenopetala, Moringa concanensis and Moringa peregrina,” says Jerlyn Jones, MS, MPA, RDN, registered dietitian, certified LEAP therapist and owner of The Lifestyle Dietitian.
Moringa goes way back to ancient times and has been used in phytomedicine and ayurvedic healing for centuries. “The benefits of moringa were recognised long ago when used in Ayurveda medicine over 4,000 years ago,” says Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN, Integrative Dietitian and Founder of Isabel Smith Nutrition.
Moringa was used by the ancient Greeks, Romans and the ancient Mauryan warriors of India who reportedly consumed moringa leaves to give them more energy and strength, especially during war. Today, moringa trees are grown and consumed all over the world.
What is moringa?
Every part of the Moringa plant is edible. “Moringa oleifera leaves, seeds, bark, roots, sap and flowers are widely used in traditional medicine and the leaves and immature seed pods are used as food products,” says Jones. The most used part of the plant is the edible leaves and in the United States, the dried leaves are sold as dietary supplements either in a powdered or capsule form.
Benefits of moringa
Modern medicine continues to confirm many of its nutritional and health benefits. Here are the top health benefits of moringa and creative ways to use it:
- It’s extremely nutritious
“Moringa leaves are one of the most nutrient-dense greens on the planet, packed with protein, essential amino acids, 27 vitamins and 46 antioxidants,” says Lisa Curtis, Founder and CEO of Kuli Kuli Foods. That includes key nutrients like calcium, iron, B vitamins, potassium, magnesium and vitamin C. Overall, moringa is rich in macro- and micronutrients and other bioactive compounds which are vital for the normal functioning of the body and prevention of many diseases.