Moringa is the newest kid on the block in the holistic health scene. Moringa supplements are said to be packed with antioxidants and have numerous health benefits including helping to lower blood sugar and cholesterol, improve digestion, relieve pain, boost the immune system, and more. But does moringa live up to the hype? Here’s what the research says!
What is Moringa?
The leaves, seeds, roots, bark, and flowers of the Moringa Oleifera tree have been used medicinally for thousands of years, but recently the spotlight has been turned to moringa leaf supplements and powders for their proposed health benefits. The moringa tree is a fairly large tree grown in many tropical and sub-tropical areas like India, Africa, Central and South America, and Southeast Asia.
The moringa tree goes by several other names, as well: drumstick tree based on the shape of its seed pods, horseradish tree based on the taste of the root, and ben oil tree based on the oils derived from its seeds.
Moringa Nutrition Content
Though most parts of the tree are edible, the leaves have been highlighted as a source of antioxidants with several health benefits, spurring the release of moringa supplements made from dried and ground moringa leaves.
However, the verdict on just how much of each vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant compound the leaves contain is contradictory to say the least. One popular brand of moringa leaf powder claims that 10mg has just 10% of the daily value of calcium and iron, 8% of vitamin A, and 6% of magnesium. Another source claims that 10mg of moringa contains more than double the amounts of all of these nutrients, along with over 100% of the daily value of vitamin K and 67% of the daily value of vitamin E. Another brand claims that moringa capsules contain 7 times the vitamin C found in oranges, 4 times the calcium in milk, twice the protein in milk, 4 times the vitamin A in carrots, and more – but gives no serving size for the amount of moringa you’d need to consume to reach that amount of vitamins and minerals.
Several studies note that the nutritional value of moringa leaves varies greatly by growing region and what time of year the moringa was picked, so it’s tough to say exactly how much of each nutrient is in ground moringa – though it’s probably safe to say that moringa provides at least a small amount of several vitamins and minerals.
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What Does Research Say About Moringa Health Benefits?
Despite being used in traditional medicine for centuries, research on the health benefits of moringa is fairly limited.
A 2010 study found that participants with type 2 diabetes who took 8 grams of moringa leaf powder daily for 40 days had over a 25% reduction in both fasting blood sugar and blood sugar after a meal. In addition, participants who took moringa leaf had lower cholesterol, triglyceride, and LDL cholesterol levels. Those cholesterol-lowering and blood sugar-lowering effects have been mirrored in other small studies, as well.
When it comes to inflammation and immune health, the only research I could find was on animal models and test tubes – human trials are seriously lacking here. Several animal trials are promising, with moringa being shown to reduce airway inflammation associated with asthma, as well as stimulate immune system responses to inflammation. However, human trials with realistic daily doses are necessary before we can say that moringa is effective for boosting immune health or reducing inflammation.
To my knowledge, the only available research regarding moringa and metabolism or weight loss has been performed on rats. One study found that rats fed moringa extract alongside a high fat diet lost weight, while those on a high fat diet alone gained weight. Again, it’s unclear how this result would translate to humans taking realistic doses of moringa, so more research is necessary.
Is Moringa Safe to Consume?
No adverse effects of moringa supplements have been reported in any of the human studies conducted so far. Moringa has also been used for centuries in various preparations including fresh, dried, prepared as a tea, and more without any reports of ill effects. Most commonly these days, you’ll find moringa dried and in powder form as a tea (similar to matcha), or in capsules – all of which seem to be safe!
The Bottom Line: Should You Take Moringa?
While moringa carries numerous health claims, the most research exists for antioxidant, antidiabetic, and cholesterol-lowering effects. There’s little standardization between studies, so it’s difficult to compare and contrast the results of one study with another, but several animal studies have demonstrated that moringa supplements are generally safe to consume.
More research is needed in order for moringa to live up to all of the claims made about it, but if nothing else, moringa leaf powder seems to be a safe, natural source of vitamins and minerals.
A varied diet full of fresh produce should be enough to get you the same vitamins and minerals found in moringa, but adding a serving of moringa leaf powder isn’t likely to hurt.
If you’ve got the spare cash, go for it – but treat moringa like a multivitamin, not a cure for cancer.