Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on February 24, 2020

What Is Moringa?

It’s a tropical tree that can survive droughts. Moringa is often called the drumstick tree because of its skinny, foot-long pods. It also goes by mother’s best friend, the miracle tree, the never die tree, and the ben oil tree. You can eat almost all of the moringa, including the seeds, flower, and leaves.

History of Moringa

There are different types. Moringa oleifera -- the most studied one -- comes from south Asia and has been eaten there for centuries. Moringa is also common in Africa. It’s been used to treat everything from tumors to toothaches.

Leaves

Moringa’s peppery leaves are often eaten as a vegetable. They’re also dried and ground into a powder used in soups and curries. They have iron, potassium, and calcium. The leaves also have nine essential amino acids, and vitamins A, B, and C. They’re full of protein and can be used as a substitute for meat, fish, and eggs. Moringa leaves have been used to help treat malaria, arthritis, skin diseases, and diabetes.

Flowers

The white flowers of the moringa tree taste like mushrooms and have amino acids, calcium, and potassium. You can cook, fry, or steep them to make tea. They’ve also been used in traditional medicine to treat tumors and muscle diseases, and to boost your sex drive.

Tree Bark

Moringa bark extract has been used to help treat stomach issues, anemia, diabetes, and other conditions. Studies show it may help fight bacteria.

Seeds

They’re full of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, calcium, and potassium. You can eat them raw, or boil or crush them. Moringa seeds can also be pressed into cooking oil.

Roots

Moringa is a distant cousin of broccoli, kale, and cabbage. The roots can be ground to make a paste that tastes like horseradish. The paste can help with snakebites, toothaches, and malaria. But be careful -- the roots and root extracts can be toxic to some animals.

Help or Hype?

Moringa is packed with phytochemicals and antioxidants. It also may be antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory. Moringa might help with diabetes and cancer. But most of these studies have been done on mice or rats. More research is needed to know how well it works in humans.

Side Effects

Eating large amounts of moringa might be dangerous. Though the leaves give pregnant mothers plenty of vitamins and minerals, the bark may cause uterine contractions. Lab studies show that moringa could lead to liver and kidney damage, as well as infertility. It can also cause problems with the diabetes medication sitagliptin.

Powder or Pill

You can buy moringa leaves and seeds. Moringa also comes in powder, liquid, pill, tea, and oil forms.

In the Kitchen

You can put moringa powder in your smoothies, oatmeal, or guacamole. Mix the leaves with basil in pesto. Or add the leaves to your salad for a peppery punch. 

Other Uses

Moringa seed oil is in some cosmetics. You can even use it to grease machines. The seed cake -- the part of the seed left after oil is taken out -- is full of potassium, phosphorus, and calcium. It can be used as fertilizer.

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