Moringa under the microscope
What is the hot topic in Barbados at this moment? No, I ain’t going there; this is a column devoted to medicines and their uses, not politics –– or politricks, as some may say. The hot topic now is Moringa.
Moringa is a plant that is native to the sub-Himalayan areas of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. It is also grown in the tropics. The leaves, bark, flowers, fruit, seeds, and root are used to make medicine.
Moringa is used for anemia; arthritis; asthma; stomach pain; stomach ulcers; intestinal spasms; headache; heart problems; hypertension; kidney stones; fluid retention; thyroid disorders; and bacterial, fungal, viral, and parasitic infections. Moringa is also used to reduce swelling, to increase the sex drive, to boost the immune system, and increase breast milk production. Some people use it as a nutritional supplement or tonic.
Moringa is sometimes applied directly to the skin as a germ-killer or an astringent. It is also used topically for treating abscesses, athlete’s foot, dandruff, gum disease, snakebites, warts, and wounds. Oil from Moringa seeds is used in foods, perfume, and hair care products, and as a machine lubricant.
Because it can be grown cheaply and easily, and the leaves retain lots of vitamins and minerals when dried, moringa is an important food source in some parts of the world. Moringa is used in India and Africa in feeding programmes to fight malnutrition.
The immature green pods (drumsticks) are prepared similarly to green beans, while the seeds are removed from more mature pods and cooked like peas or roasted like nuts. The leaves are cooked and used like spinach,
and they are also dried and powdered for use as a condiment.The seed cake remaining after oil extraction is used as a fertilizer and also to purify well water and to remove salt from sea water.
Moringa is here and the purpose of this article is not to champion the merits of this “wonder” plant, but to give some balance and provide some hopefully useful information that will allow potential users to be able to make an informed decision. Whether Moringa works or not will be a debate. Remember, glucosamine was where moringa is now, and glucosamine is now accepted as a viable osteoarthritic pain treatment. As a pharmacist my main concern would be whether what the consumer is using actually has in Moringa leaf or plant extract.
Care should be taken when purchasing Moringa. We have established that Moringa is native to India and parts of that region. It would make sense when buying the powder or leaf from a supplier to ask for an organic certificate and a certificate of analysis from the grower or handler. There
have been cases reported where what was sold as Moringa was nothing more than weeds and dirt.
If you buying a pre-packed bottled product, then there are certain terms you may see on the packaging that I will clarify for you.
Organic. It means that the Moringa is grown and processed without the use of fertilizers and pesticides. It means the Moringa was processed without artificial ingredients, preservatives, or irradiation. It also means that it was inspected and certified to be organic. There is an organic certificate to go with that claim always.
Certified organic. The Moringa was grown to strict standards. The growing fields, soil, water, processing facilities, and
all steps in handling are inspected, tested, and certified by independent agents.
100% natural. 100 per cent natural means basically that it has no added fillers or additives. It does not tell you anything about how it is grown or processed. It does not tell you if they used chemical fertilizer or chemicals in the growing of the trees. There is no real proof to back up that statement.
Organically grown. Organically grown does not mean much unless it can be backed up with certification. It is a buzz word that is used to stimulate sales. Brochures may or may not tell the truth. Organically grown does not mean anything unless they have documentation to back up the use of that term.