Moringa: Health Benefits and Side Effects You Need to be Aware of
The world is slowly waking up to a new superfood, one that’s native to India and that we have consumed for centuries. Moringa oleifera – better known as the drumstick tree and also known as the horseradish/ben tree – has been used in Ayurveda for years now. Moringa health benefits include treating and preventing diseases such as diabetes, anemia, arthritis, liver and heart disease, and respiratory, skin and digestive disorders. The bark, leaves, flowers, fruit, seeds and oil of this tree can be used. In India, drumstick pieces are used to make curries and can be added to sambar, etc. It can also be consumed as a powder – fresh leaves are dried and then crushed to a powder.
Moringa is an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals. Research has shown that moringa in the powder form has:
9 times more protein than yogurt
10 times more Vitamin A than carrots
15 times more potassium than bananas
17 times more calcium than milk
50% more Vitamin C than oranges
25 times more iron than spinach
Here are some more benefits:
Moringa is packed with nutrients
Apart from containing vitamins, minerals, calcium and potassium, moringa is rich in amino acids. United States Department of Agriculture research has shown that moringa contains 18 of the 20 amino acids – building blocks of proteins found in the human body. In her book, Miracle Tree, Dr Monica Marcu writes that moringa is one of the few plants that contains “all of the 9 essential amino acids the body cannot produce”.
It fights free radicals
The antioxidants – flavonoids, polyphenols, and ascorbic acid – fight free radicals, the molecules that lead to inflammation, cell damage and oxidative stress.
Symptoms of diabetes can be reduced
In the powdered form, moringa has been found effective in reducing lipid and glucose levels, regulating oxidative stress and reducing blood sugar.
It’s a heart-healthy food
Since it helps in lipid control, moringa can prevent formation of plaque in the arteries and reduce cholesterol levels. This reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Can fight common infections
The antibacterial and antifungal properties of moringa help fight infections. It works against certain fungi that cause skin infections, and bacteria responsible for blood and urinary tract infections.
Helps wounds heal faster
Moringa leaves have blood-clotting properties. Taken regularly, it reduces clotting time, ensures bleeding stops faster, and enhances healing.
Boosts brain health
The antioxidant qualities reduce neuron degeneration and improve brain function. Studies suggest that moringa leaves can provide protection against symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and may even delay its onset.
Protects liver health
The high concentrations of polyphenols keeps the liver safe against toxicity, oxidation and damage.
How can you have moringa?
The powder is mildly flavoured and can be added to a green smoothie or tea. In India, moringa pods give sambar its unique flavour; dal or soup are other popular preparations. The leaves of this plant can be sauteed and served as a side dish with your rice and curry.
How much moringa should you consume?
Experts recommend between half to one teaspoon per day.
Are there any side effects?
- Moringa has laxative properties. In large quantities, it can cause stomach upsets, gaseous distension, diarrhoea and heartburn.
- If you don’t like the taste it may activate your gag reflex. Avoid consuming too much as it can cause nausea.
- Certain chemicals found in the roots, flowers and bark could cause uterine contractions in pregnant women. They may increase the risk of a miscarriage.
- Women who are breastfeeding should avoid moringa as some of the ingredients may not be good for infants.
- People on blood-thinning medications such as Warfarin should desist from consuming moringa regularly.
- Seed extracts should be avoided as they can lead to toxicity in immune cells.
Consult your doctor before starting young children, pregnant women or elders on moringa.