Moringa oleifera, commonly referred to as the drumstick tree or horseradish tree, is among the most extensively grown species belonging to the genus Moringa, which is the sole member of the family Moringaceae. This species grows rapidly and possesses the aptitude to resist drought. Moringa oleifera has its origin in northwest India in the southern foothills of the Himalayan range. This species is extensively cultivated in places having tropical and sub-tropical climatic conditions. People in these areas consume the young leaves and seed pods of this tree in the form of a vegetable. In addition, the leaves of this plant can also be employed for purifying water and hand washing. Occasionally, moringa is also used in the form of an herbal remedy.
A deciduous tree, Moringa oleifera can often group up to a height of 10 meters to 12 meters (32 feet to 40 feet), while the tree's trunk can measure about 45 cm (1.5 feet) in diameter. The bark of moringa tree is whitish-grey and is enclosed by a dense cork. When the trees are young, they have a greenish-white or purplish hairy bark. The open crown of this tree is drooping, while its branches are very fragile. The feather-like foliage of moringa comprises tripinnate leaves.
Moringa bears fragrant, bisexual flowers, which are encircled by five irregular, delicately veined petals having a yellowish-white hue. Each flower is roughly 1 cm to 1.5 cm in length and 2 cm across. The flowers appear on very thin, hairy stalks in drooping or spreading clusters, which are about 10 cm to 25 cm in length.
Moringa oleifera trees start flowering just six months from the date of their planting. When grown in cool regions, the trees bloom only once annually between April and June. In places where the seasonal temperatures as well as rainfall are constant, the trees may flower twice in a year or even throughout the year.
The fruits of moringa trees are three-sided hanging brown capsules measuring anything between 20 cm and 45 cm in length. These elongated capsules enclose deep brown, spherical seeds measuring about 1 cm in diameter. The seeds come with three whitish paper-thin wings, which help them to be dispersed to faraway places by wind and water.
Usually, the cultivated trees are cut back once every year to about 1 meter to 2 meters (3 feet to 6 feet) above the ground to facilitate their re-growth as well as to ensure that the leaves and pods remain within one's arm's reach.
The vitamin C content of moringa fruits is seven times more compared to oranges. At the same time, its vitamin A content is four-fold more compared to carrots, while its calcium content is four time than that of milk. Moringa fruits also contain protein, which is twice as much as that of milk. The iron content of these fruits is thrice more compared to almond, while they contain thrice the amount of vitamin E found in spinach. In several circles, moringa is considered to be the best treatment for high blood pressure (hypertension) and diabetes - two most common health conditions endured by Jamaicans.
The leaves and fruits of moringa oleifera help to augment the natural defences of our body, thereby making our skin look beautiful, give a sense of wellness, promote energy and reinforce our immune system. At the same time, they keep the blood sugar levels in check, supply necessary nutrients to the brain and eyes, serve the purpose of antioxidants and also promoted good or HDL cholesterol. The leaves and fruits of this tree also ensure the normal functioning of the liver and kidneys.
Aside from the nutrients mentioned above, moringa is a wonderful natural resource of riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin B6, magnesium, iron, calcium and phosphorus. This tree also provides us with niacin (vitamin B3), thiamine (vitamin B1) and several other essential vitamins as well as minerals that help to generate energy during the metabolic process.
Moringa also contains elevated amounts of antioxidants and vitamin A, which is essential for the health of our skin. The zinc content of moringa helps to promote the health of our skin, thereby keeping it radiant.
The protein content of moringa is nearly 25 percent, including the entire nine essential amino acids that aid in supporting the protein building blocks necessary for best possible growth, repair as well as sustenance of healthy skin cells. In addition, moringa is also a wonderful natural resource of phosphorus, which promotes the normal functioning of our skin, counting its ability to repair the damaged cells by itself. Often the skin cells are damaged due to external aggressions.
The antioxidant profile of moringa is outstanding. It contains six times more antioxidants than those of goji berries, while its antioxidant content is significantly more compared to acai, blueberries, pomegranates and green tea. It is worth mentioning here that the antioxidants, riboflavin, vitamin E and zinc present in moringa aid in protecting the cells of our body from oxidative stress, thereby helping them to combat the aging process.
In present times, most of us lead a fast and busy life, which can often give us a rundown feeling. Since moringa is a wonderful resource of vitamin A and vitamin B6, in addition to zinc and iron, it helps in promoting the normal performance of our immune system.
Moringa is particularly rich in vitamin A content. Every 100 grams of the fruit provides us with 325 percent of our RDA, while its iron content is 468 percent of RDA per 100 grams. Both these nutrients help to reduce fatigue and exhaustion.
Vitamin A is essential for the regular production of red blood cells (erythrocytes), while iron helps to promote the normal formation of hemoglobin and red blood cells. Hemoglobin present in the red blood cells is responsible for transportation of oxygen throughout our body. People suffering from iron deficiency find it more difficult to obtain the energy required by their body to carry out its normal functions. As a result, such people are usually fatigued and tired. Since moringa contains elevated levels of iron, it is perfect for vegetarians, and vegans to overcome iron deficiencies and fatigue.
If you wish to maintain a healthy lifestyle, it is necessary to undertake exercise on a regular basis. At the same time, it is essential to ensure that we provide our body with the correct nutrients to help it combat various ailments and also to recuperate faster.
Moringa is also a wonderful natural resource of essential minerals like calcium, potassium, magnesium and zinc. The dietary fiber content of this plant is very high, nearly 25 percent of plant protein. Essential minerals like calcium, potassium and magnesium help to promote the normal functioning of the muscles, while protein aids in muscle mass growth.
As discussed earlier, this tree also offers elevated levels of vitamin B6, potassium and magnesium, in addition to offering thiamine (vitamin B1) and niacin (vitamin B3). The last two essential nutrients promote the usual functioning of our nervous system. Moringa is also an excellent resource of zinc, which is useful for maintaining the normal health of our hair and nails.
In present-day fast paced life, our lifestyle is mostly unhealthy, as most of us have to take a lot of mental and physical stress. In such cases, detoxification of the body helps to rejuvenate it. Precisely speaking, detoxification is a method that enables the body to get rid of all dietary and environmental toxins, thereby ensuring that our entire systems are cleansed, rejuvenated and enables them to function optimally.
Moringa is also a wonderful natural resource of 13 essential vitamins as well as minerals, counting vitamin B6, which aid in repairing damages and healing the body. The elevated levels of essential minerals aid in accelerating the detoxification process by means of generating energy.
The dietary fiber content of moringa is also very high. As a result consuming the leaves and fruits of this tree improves our digestive health and, at the same time, encourages the presence of healthy bacteria in our gut. Presence of beneficial bacteria is necessary during the cleansing of the body and its systems. Vitamin B6 present in moringa is helpful for detoxifying the liver. This, in turn, helps to get rid of several environmental toxins that may have accumulated in the body.
It is important to note that high blood pressure or hypertension is not a condition that one can notice or feel.
Often, lifestyle factors are responsible for high blood pressure, which can increase the chances of suffering a stroke or heart attack. Since moringa is a wonderful natural resource of vitamin K, vitamin B6, riboflavin (vitamin B2), calcium, potassium and iron, it is useful for people enduring this condition. While vitamin B6 and riboflavin help in the normal production as well as preservation of red blood cells (erythrocytes), potassium is important for maintaining normal blood pressure. Similarly, calcium and vitamin K help in maintaining normal blood clotting, while iron is responsible for transporting adequate amounts of oxygen throughout our body.
Moringa is also effective for weight loss. People trying to shed some extra flab will find the leaves of this tree very beneficial. It is advisable that obese or overweight people should try to ingest moringa leaves. These leaves can be consumed raw, after cooking or by adding their juice to juice of other fruits and vegetable and also to various teas. Moringa leaves are almost fat-free and have very low carbohydrate content. On the other hand, they are very rich in vitamins, protein and minerals. Owing to their very high nutritional value, one can take moringa leaves in the form of a nutritional supplement. Consumption of moringa leaves also helps to quickly convert ingested foods into energy. This will eventually help in lessening the chances of fat accumulation in the body.
The moringa or Moringa oleifera trees are mainly cultivated in partially arid, tropical as well as sub-tropical regions. This tree can endure a great variety of soil conditions, but it has a preference for a soil whose pH varies from neutral to somewhat acidic - generally having a pH between 6.3 and 7.0. A loamy or well-drained sandy soil is ideal for growing moringa. This plant finds it difficult to survive in water-logged conditions, as its roots tend to rot. The moringa tree has a preference for sun as well as heat and, hence, it is unable to endure frost or freezing conditions. It is worth mentioning here that the moringa tree is especially suited for cultivation in arid regions. In fact, this plant can be cultivated making use of rainwater and does not require any costly irrigation methods.