It seems like every year or two a new “superfood” hits the shelves of health food stores around the country. Whether it be some Chinese ancient herbal remedy or some pseudo-grain grown by an indigenous culture in some part of the world, superfoods have been growing in popularity with the health-conscious population around the world.
The moringa tree, like other superfoods, offers enormous amounts of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that our bodies need. But what is the moringa tree? Where does it come from? How can we consume it? In this short article, we will look at the variety of health benefits that this amazing tree offers.
WHAT IS THE MORINGA TREE?
Moringa Oleifera, also known as the moringa tree, the drumstick tree, or the horseradish tree, is a small tree that is native to the foothills of the mighty Himalayan mountains in the northern part of India. For thousands of years, this small tree has been cultivated by different cultures throughout India and Africa because of its health benefits.
One of the biggest benefits of the moringa tree is that it can be grown in extremely arid regions where rainfall is in limited supply. It also tolerates a wide range of soils and can be grown in regions ranging from old, depleted pasture land to lands bordering desertification.
The moringa tree has been planted by peasant communities around the world, from arid regions in India and Africa to dry regions throughout Central America and Mexico. As it has gained popularity as a superfood, many people in the global north have also begun to add small moringa trees to their greenhouses.
Furthermore, the moringa tree has no known major pests meaning that it can quickly be established as a perennial tree crop that can be added to different agroforestry systems. The tender leaves and drumsticks are a favorite part of many eastern cuisines and a unique “green” flavor. The root of the moringa tree can also be consumed and has a flavor resembling horseradish. The seeds themselves can also be eaten for a wide range of health benefits that we will explore below.
All of the parts of the tree mentioned above are not only edible for humans, but also can be used as a fodder or forage crop for animals. The high protein content of the leaves make it an excellent supplement to homemade chicken feed and will help produce healthier eggs with bright orange yolks. If you have several moringa trees, you can also harvest the seed pods and feed them fresh to your cows, goats, sheep or other large animals.
In summary, then, the moringa tree is a multi-use tree that thrives in otherwise difficult growing conditions where arid conditions and nutrient depleted soils are prevalent. Almost every part of the tree (except the bark and wood) is edible and offers excellent nutrition to both humans and domestic animals.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF MORINGA
As is the case with most superfoods, the Moringa Oleifera tree was a crop grown by isolated populations whose ancestral knowledge regarding the benefits of the tree was passed down from generation to generation. In the last two decades, however, different scientific and nutritional studies of the moringa tree have confirmed what these peasant populations have known for generations: that the moringa tree is loaded with incredible nutritional benefits.
Furthermore, the moringa tree is an extremely rich source of antioxidants such as quercetin and chlorogenic acid. For people who deal with diabetes and high blood sugar, regular consumption of moringa leaves, roots and seeds can also help to significantly lower your blood sugar levels.
Certain studies have also shown that moringa leaves and seedpods can help to regulate hormonal imbalances and help to slow the aging process. A cup of moringa tea each morning, then, can help you stay eternally young, or at least keep you looking younger for longer.
While the health benefits of moringa go on and on, the majority of these health benefits come from the fact that it packs an enormous amount of nutrition into one small, little leaf. The high protein content along with the high concentration of essential vitamins and minerals has made the moringa tree effective in helping to combat malnutrition of children and mothers in developing countries. At the same time, moringa can be consumed as a natural medicine supplement for everything from reducing swelling to boosting the immune system and to increase breast milk production in lactating mothers.
HOW CAN YOU PREPARE MORINGA?
If you are able to grow your own moringa tree or purchase it fresh from a local farmer, you can use add the fresh leaves to soups, stews or stir-fry. In eastern cultures, curry leaves are added to curry powders. The seed pods offer a fleshy “meat” that adds texture and flavor to pretty much any stew. If you enjoy eating fresh salads, the moringa leaf and tender seed pods can also be added to any salad. The root and seeds can be ground up and added to a dressing for a horseradish type flavor that adds spice to any meal. Many people consider fresh Moringa leaf to be an alternative for spinach and you can use it in place of any recipe that calls for spinach leaves.
If you are unable to get tender leaves or seed pods (which can be eaten whole), you will need to remove the stems which can be hard to chew and digest. If you are not able to get fresh moringa leaves, seeds, seedpods or root, there are a number of health food providers that offer moringa powders. These powders are simply moringa leaves and seedpods that have been dried and ground into a powder to help with preservation. The powder offers the same health benefits as fresh moringa products.
One way to use moringa powder is to sprinkle a little bit over every meal as if you were adding a green salt and pepper to your meal. If you have prepared a soup or stew, you can also add a tablespoon of moringa powder to your soup without altering the original taste but adding large amounts of nutrition.
If you like drinking teas or smoothies, you can also use moringa. One great recipe is to add ½ a teaspoon of moringa powder to water, honey, and lemon for a power drink. You can also boil fresh Moringa leaf or moringa powder for a tea that can then be flavored with honey, cinnamon, or other ingredients.
ADDING MORINGA FOR AN OVERALL HEALTHIER DIET
If you are looking for a new superfood to add to your diet, the moringa tree is often called the “miracle” tree for good reason. Loaded with vitamins and minerals and nutrition benefits, even a few leaves or a tablespoon of moringa powder each day will be more than enough to get you the nutritional boost you need. If you have a green thumb, you can also try your hand at establishing a few moringa seeds in containers or pots that can add beauty and nutrition to every corner of your house.