Moringa oleifera, which is also known as horseradish tree and benzolive, has been consumed for its supposed health benefits for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. In recent years, it has attracted attention as a superfood and seems to be following in the footsteps of turmeric and spirulina in becoming the “must-have” plant-based superfood.
It is added to “green” powders and capsules, it’s sprinkled into smoothies and juices, and it’s also consumed as a tea. It’s the latter we’re going to focus on here, while highlighting the potential benefits of moringa in all other forms.
The Health Benefits of Moringa
A lot of the health claims made about moringa tea and moringa in general are a little overstated, to say the least. The same can be said for many superfoods, and finding the actual health benefits can be a bit of a minefield at times.
Fortunately, some scientific studies have been conducted concerning this Indian plant, and all of the following statements can be backed by research.
1. It May Help in the Fight Against Chronic Disease
Moringa contains a number of antioxidants. These unique compounds help reduce oxidative stress, which is a known trigger for many chronic diseases, including most forms of cancer. These antioxidants include vitamin C, which plays a number of important roles in the body; quercetin, which is a very common but very effective antioxidant; and chlorogenic acid, which is also found in coffee and is said to be responsible for many of the drink’s health benefits.
These compounds are certainly not unique to moringa, but that doesn’t make them any less effective, and a little of this dried plant every day could significantly boost the level of antioxidants in your blood.
2. It May Help Reduce Inflammation
Moringa is said to possess potent anti-inflammatory compounds, which may help with an array of disorders (from joint pain to digestive distress). Regular inflammation can also trigger a host of problems and has even been linked with cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Anything that can reduce this inflammation may therefore help reduce the risk of chronic disease.
The majority of herbal teas provide some anti-inflammatory benefits. These compounds are found in abundance in Greek mountain tea, for instance, and are believed to be responsible for many of the tea’s unique properties.
3. It May Help Reduce Arsenic Toxicity
A lot of spurious claims are made concerning plants like moringa and their apparent ability to rid the body of “toxins”. In most cases, there is simply no evidence to support these; it’s all based on pseudoscience and misinformation. But where moringa is concerned, there may be a grain of truth to it.
Researchers found that this Indian pant was able to reduce levels of arsenic toxicity, which is a major problem in many developing nations. The research in question was conducted on mice and concluded that moringa oleifera could provide some protection against the damaging effects of arsenic toxicity. (1)
Similar benefits have been reported in other superfoods, most notably spirulina and chlorella, but these are all animal studies, and we don’t yet know if these benefits will translate to humans.
4. It May Reduce Cholesterol Levels
Positive research suggests that moringa can be used to reduce the level of bad cholesterol, which may help reduce the threat of heart disease. There are both human and animal studies highlighting these benefits, with one noting that it could prevent the arteries from narrowing by reducing the level of “bad” cholesterol in the blood.(2)(3)
These effects are in line with many other plant-based foods and are not enough for moringa to be prescribed as a course of treatment, or for it to have a notable effect when used for the treatment of heart disease. However, when consumed as part of a healthy diet and in combination with many other plant-based foods, it could play a role in significantly reducing the threat of heart disease.
5. Moringa May Help Diabetes Sufferers
There have been a lot of very positive animal studies suggesting moringa could be used to reduce blood sugar levels and could play a role in treating or preventing diabetes. Actual human studies have been few and far between, and the benefits haven’t been as notable, but they have been somewhat effective.
In one small 1993 study, researchers gave several diabetes patients a high carb meal and noted their response when they consumed moringa and when they did not. (4) They discovered that their blood sugar levels rose “significantly less” on moringa but also noted that more research needed to be done on larger control groups before any concrete conclusions could be made.
The Nutritional Content
Contrary to popular belief, moringa supplements are not a great source of macronutrients and micronutrients. About 100g of the dried leaf contains about 25g of both protein and fibre, and over 100% of your RDA of vitamins A, E, and K, as well as calcium and iron. But 100g is a lot, much more than you’re likely to consume in a week let alone a day, and the average moringa supplement contains just 300mg to 500mg.
Those supplements may still provide many benefits thanks to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, but they’re unlikely to have a major impact on your RDAs.
Where to Find Moringa
Moringa oleifera is native to India and grows in many tropical and subtropical regions. It was practically unheard of in the United Kingdom as little as a few years ago, but these days it is sold by most major supplement companies and health food stores.
The UK’s biggest bulk powder store and health food chain sell it in powder form, and it is also being sold by a number of small retailers on eBay and Amazon.
As with all supplements, it’s important to make sure the moringa you buy is of the highest quality. This is especially important where extracts are concerned, as they can be produced using potentially harmful solvents and other questionable techniques. If it’s moringa tea you want, look for an organic product that has undergone as little processing as possible, as that way you’ll get more benefits and a fuller taste.
Side Effects of Moringa
Moringa is generally well tolerated, although caution is advised with pregnant women, as it may cause uterine contractions. There are also concerns regarding blood pressure and blood sugar medications, as moringa may reduce both of these further, potentially causing them to drop to worrying levels.