This piece was created in partnership with our friends at Kuli Kuli.
You’ve likely heard of superfoods—and may incorporate some into your diet already—but it can be challenging to keep up with the myriad of options aimed at improving your health and well-being. Enter moringa, an incredibly versatile, nutrient-dense plant that goes above and beyond the call of duty, even when compared to other superfoods.
What Is Moringa?
Moringa oleifera is a fast-growing, leafy tree that has been utilized in Eastern medicine for thousands of years and is known for its resistance to drought.
“Morgina possibly dates back as early as 7,000 B.C. to the Siddha healers in India who used it as a traditional herb and the Egyptians who used its oil for their skin,” says Matthew Myers, a wellness consultant at LuckyVitamin. “Moringa is native to the southern foothills of northwestern India and widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical areas where its young seed pods and leaves are used as vegetables or for traditional herbs. Moringa is now grown all over Southeast Asia, Central America, Africa, the Middle East and even Hawaii.”
In addition to being used as a food, supplement and topical ointment, moringa has also been used to purify water and in the production of biodiesel fuel (1). Many parts of the moringa tree are able to be used in some capacity.
“Moringa’s leaves can be dried and crushed into a powder to be used in soups and sauces, the seed pods can be boiled and cooked, the seeds can be roasted and the roots can be shredded and used as a condiment,” Myers says. “In supplement form, the whole leaf or leaf extract is available in capsules, powder, liquid juice blend, tea bags and even bars. Its seed oil is used for the skin, and it is also found in some personal care conditioners and soaps.”
As a food, moringa contains a large number of nutrients, including vitamins A, B, C, K and E, minerals like iron, potassium and calcium, and antioxidants, phytonutrients and fiber, Myers says. Moringa also contains the nine amino acids needed to form a complete protein, which is rare among plant sources of food and is generally derived from animal sources.
Moringa offers a number of health benefits, such as boosting the immune system, improving digestion, and supporting skin, muscle and bone health, Myers says. Moringa can also boost energy and promote healthy blood sugar levels in individuals who already have normal ranges, he adds.
A good source of iron, beta-carotene, potassium and calcium, moringa possesses antioxidants that may help prevent cardiovascular disease, some studies suggest (2). In addition, studies have also suggested that the components of the moringa plant can help treat diabetes (3). It’s important to note, however, that more research is needed to further substantiate both of these claims.
Moringa has also been proven as an excellent source of iron for people with anemia (4). Like other leafy greens, moringa contains high levels of non-heme iron (the type of iron found in plants). Moringa has seven times the amount of iron as spinach and six times the amount of iron as kale (5).
As with all supplements and herbs, talk to your doctor or medical care professional before taking any new products, Myers says, as some medications can interact with supplements and natural herbs. In addition, Myers recommends talking to a specialist before taking moringa if you are on any type of hormone-related medication.
Some studies suggest that the leaves of the moringa plant can be used to increase breast milk production (6), however, there is not enough evidence to confirm that moringa is safe for nursing infants. In addition, the root, bark and flowers of the moringa plant should be avoided entirely by pregnant women. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, speak with your doctor before trying any type of moringa product.
Ways to Add Moringa to Your Diet
Moringa leaves can be eaten fresh, dried or cooked. In powder form, the leaves can also retain their nutritional value for years without refrigeration. Moringa powder can be added to smoothies or mixed into sauces and stews. It can also be found in certain energy shots and health bars.
Used as a seed oil, moringa can help protect and moisturize the skin, Myers says. To use it, wash and pat your skin dry, then apply the oil directly to the face to soothe dry and irritated, skin. It can also be used as a hair oil by massaging two to three drops in damp hair, beginning at the scalp and working toward the ends of the hair, he says.
Myers recommends taking the leaf extract in capsule form and following instruction labels for dosing recommendations.
“All supplements use the leaf and seed part of the plant,” he says. “If you are to consume the actual plant itself in its natural form like in traditional cooking, use precaution when consuming the bark, root and flowers in high doses.”
Moringa Green Tea Lemonade Recipe
Looking for a simple (and refreshing) way to get your daily dose of moringa? Try adding a scoop to a tall glass of green tea lemonade!
2 cups boiling water
2 green tea bags
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 5 to 6 lemons)
¼ cup natural sweetener, such as agave or honey (or more to taste)
2 tablespoons pure moringa vegetable powder
1 cup sparkling water
Lemon slices for garnish (optional)