P Nutritional properties 2 Medical benefits 2 Chronic diseases

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The Moringa tree: nutritional potential and health benefits.

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Overview 1 Nutritional properties 2 Medical benefits 2 Chronic diseases 2 Antimicrobial activity 2 Potential adverse effects 3 Other diverse activities 3 Water purification 3 Plant growth enhancer 3 Biopesticide activity 3 Biodiesel production 3 Common recipes and usage of Moringa tree products 4 References 4

Overview
Moringa is a plant of the Moringaceae family indigenous to Africa and Asia. The genus Moringa comprises 13 species thriving best in tropical and subtropical climates and ranging from small plants to high trees.

The most used and widely cultivated species is Moringa Oleifera. It is a softwood fast growing tree, most commonly known as “the drumstick tree” or “the horseradish tree”, which can reach under favorable conditions a height of 12 m.

Throughout history, Moringa Oleifera leaves, flowers, fruits, pods, and seeds were exploited in its original areas for culinary consumption and for use in traditional medicine. In ancient Egypt, oil extracted from the tree was a main component of skin preparations, and in traditional ayurvedic medicine it is believed that the Moringa tree can prevent and cure 300 diseases.
In the 1990s, studies concerning its potential use for water purification were conducted igniting a global interest in the plant and leading to further investigations of its nutritional and medical properties.
Recent scientific research has demonstrated the high nutritional value, the prophylactic, and therapeutic potential applications of Moringa Oleifera in humans. While still lacking standardized products and extracts, these discoveries are of a great importance for developing countries facing famine and malnutrition problems, and for the human medical and pharmacological research.

Nutritional properties
Moringa Oleifera is highly nutritional, rich in proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, and fibers. Proteins constitute 25 % of the dry weight of the Moringa leaves, while its seeds are rich in lipids, mainly saturated palmitic acid, oleic acid and stearic acid. Lipids constitute 30 % of the dry weight of seeds.
Fresh leaves of Moringa are a rich source of vitamins A, B2, B3, B7, B12, C, and E. For instance, 100 g of Moringa leaves contain 200 mg of vitamin C.
Other micronutrients are also present in high amounts in leaves, seeds, and pods. This includes calcium (100g of leaves contain 440-3650 mg of calcium), magnesium, potassium, and iron.
This important nutritional content of the Moringa tree makes it a valuable food source in developing countries where malnutrition and famine, especially in children and infants, pose a major public health problem.

Medical benefits
The Moringa tree medicinal benefits have been appreciated and its leaves, flowers, pods, seeds, roots, and oil used since ancient times in traditional medicine to treat various diseases such as malaria, typhoid fever, abdominal tumors, scurvy, sores, and skin infections.
Chronic diseases
Recent research studies have indeed confirmed its richness in bioactive compounds which might explain the prohylactic and therapeutic effects of its consumption.
Leaves and seeds of Moringa have a high concentration of vitamins which act as anti-oxidants, and are rich in phytochemicals including tannins, flavonoids, phenols, saponins, and alkaloids. Phytochemicals have been reported to have a protective effect against oxidative stress diseases such as cancer or cardiovascular disease, and to exhibit anti-inflammatory, anti-hepatoxic, and antidiabetic properties.
Studies of drug-induced kidney and liver damage in animals have reported a reduction of the hepatic and renal damage when the animals were treated with Moringa leaf extracts.
The consumption of Moringa fruits and leaves has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels in rats fed with a high fat diet.
Moreover, two different studies in humans with type-2 diabetes have clearly demonstrated the beneficial effect of the daily administration of Moringa tree leaf extract on the reduction of glycemia.
Studies in vitro on human hepatocellular carcinoma, colorectal adenocarcinoma, and breast adenocarcinoma have suggested potential anticancer properties to the leaf and seed extracts, most probably related to their high content of bioactive compounds.
Antimicrobial activity
In addition to its beneficial effects on chronic diseases, Moringa Oleifera exhibits an anti-microbial activity. In vitro studies have demonstrated an inhibitory effect of Moringa on Gram positive bacteria such as Staphylococcus, and Gram negative bacteria such as Escherichia Coli and Salmonella.
An anti-fungal activity against Candida species has also been reported. This anti-microbial activity is mainly attributed to the high content of phytochemicals in the leaves.

Potential adverse effects
Oral consumption of the Moringa tree extracts has not shown any adverse or cytotoxic effects, neither in humans nor in animals.
Some in vitro and animal studies have reported a toxicological effect when an extremely high dose (3000 mg/kg) of aqueous leaf extract was administered. This dose is usually not reached by common ingestion doses.

Moringa Oleifera is believed to be exceedingly safe for consumption by humans.

Other diverse activities
Water purification
One of the main uses of Moringa tree seeds is for the purification and the treatment of effluent water in urban and rural areas.
Moringa Oleifera seeds are natural coagulants which can replace harmful chemical coagulants such as aluminum sulfate in the flocculation process during the treatment of waste water.
With their antimicrobial effects, the Moringa seeds are also capable of controlling water microbial concentrations for the treatment of water suitable for human consumption.
Plant growth enhancer
Moringa leaves contain a plant hormone, zeatin, and can therefore be used to enhance plant growth.
Biopesticide activity
Moringa leaf and seed extracts have been reported to exhibit a biopesticide activity against Trigoderma granarium, a pest resistant to many insecticides and commonly infesting grain products.
Biodiesel production
The high content in fatty acids of the Moringa tree seeds makes it an interesting and ecologically friendly candidate for biodiesel production.

Moringa tree has a high drought resistance and can be cultivated and harvested in relatively arid areas, without any reduction in the quality of its oil.

Common recipes and usage of Moringa tree products
All parts of the Moringa tree- its roots, barks, leaves, flowers, fruits, and seeds-have been shown to exhibit beneficial health effects in varying degrees to the human being.
Traditionally, its edible leaves and flowers were mostly consumed cooked, added to stews and food preparations, or fresh.
Leaves can also be stored and consumed as a dried powder without any loss in nutrients. They can be infused in water as well and drank as tea preparation.
Barks can be boiled in water or soaked in alcohol and used for the treatment of stomach pain or even anemia and hypertension.
Similarly, roots can also be infused in water for the preparation of drinks and can be used for instance to relieve toothache.

References

Anwar, F., et al. “Moringa Oleifera: A Food Plant with Multiple Medicinal Uses.” Phytother Res 21.1 (2007): 17-25. Print.

Brilhante, Raimunda Sâmia Nogueira, et al. “Research Advances on the Multiple Uses of Moringa Oleifera: A Sustainable Alternative for Socially Neglected Population.” Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine 10.7 (2017): 621-30. Print.

Leone, Alessandro et al. “Cultivation, Genetic, Ethnopharmacology, Phytochemistry and Pharmacology of Moringa Oleifera Leaves: An Overview.” Ed. Maurizio Battino. International Journal of Molecular Sciences 16.6 (2015): 12791–12835. PMC. Web. 28 Jan. 2018.

Saini, Ramesh Kumar, Iyyakkannu Sivanesan, and Young-Soo Keum. “Phytochemicals of Moringa Oleifera: A Review of Their Nutritional, Therapeutic and Industrial Significance.” 3 Biotech 6.2 (2016): 203. PMC. Web. 28 Jan. 2018.

Stohs, Sidney J., and Michael J. Hartman. “Review of the Safety and Efficacy of Moringa Oleifera.” Phytotherapy Research 29.6 (2015): 796-804. Print.

Vergara-Jimenez, M., M. M. Almatrafi, and M. L. Fernandez. “Bioactive Components in Moringa Oleifera Leaves Protect against Chronic Disease.” Antioxidants (Basel) 6.4 (2017). Print.

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