It seems that every year, a new “superfood” bursts into the mainstream consciousness, coming from some obscure part of the globe and promising a nearly unlimited list of benefits. While some of these foods actually live up to the hype, many of them drift back into obscurity nearly as quickly as they appeared. One of these that is beginning to show some real staying power is moringa.
When it first began to make its presence known in the western world– sometime in the early to mid 2000’s– the benefits that were promised by the consumption of this plant seemed nearly too good to be true. However, moringa is one of the few trendy superfoods that keeps its promises and is becoming more and more popular because of its long list of real health benefits.
If you are not familiar with moringa or the concept of moringa tea, you are not alone. None of us knew about this amazing plant until a few years ago, and even then we were not entirely sure how to use it. The flowers, seeds, leaves and every other part of the moringa plant have been used in many various fashions for thousands of years in its native part of the world, but it was the herbal tea made from moringa leaves that helped the Western world take notice.
Although there was little scientific evidence early on, users of the tea began to notice some real benefits immediately. In 2008, the National Institute of Health named moringa the “plant of the year,” citing its nearly unlimited potential and specifically stating, “Perhaps like no other single species, this plant has the potential to help reverse multiple major environmental problems and provide for many unmet human needs.”
Since it appeared in the mainstream Western consciousness a few years ago, nearly 1,500 research studies, reports and articles have been published on moringa and its many health, environmental and even social benefits. Moringa not only makes a delicious tea that improves the wellbeing of its users, it also provides a cheap, nutrition-packed food source for impoverished areas of the world that are susceptible to disease and malnutrition. Along with being packed full of vitamins and antioxidants, moringa also has great value as a natural treatment for many ailments, ranging from chronic headaches to diabetes to possibly even cancer. It also has proven abilities to fight infections and inflammation.
While the discovery of this miracle plant could have a major impact on disease, malnutrition, the environment and the world overall, this article will focus on the specific benefits moringa tea can have for individuals. The list of possible benefits it could have to the world at large are too long to list here, but there are some realistic uses it could have for everyday people, especially when used on a regular basis. In this article, we will go over some of the major health benefits of drinking moringa tea, what is in the tea that causes these benefits and some recipes that you can use every day to take advantage of all this superfood has to offer. But first, a little about moringa and where this miracle plant originated.
Origins of a Superfood
Moringa oleifera is a tall, leafy plant that grows in the foothills of the Himalayas in Pakistan, Nepal, Somalia and northwestern India. It grows fast and is resistant to drought, causing it to be a popular food source in this harsh part of the world, and it has been used by health authorities to combat malnutrition problems for decades. It is capable of growing in dry, depleted soils where many other types of plant and trees cannot survive. This is one reason why the populations of the third-world nations in which it grows– Somalia and India in particular– have used it as a popular source of nutrition for centuries.
Every portion of the plant has some type of beneficial use, from the leaves to the stems (also known as the “drumsticks”) to the seeds. The drumsticks are the most popular portion of the tree for food and are commonly used in soups, salads or simply boiled and eaten by themselves. The pods and flowers of moringa have been used for centuries to flavor many Indian and Thai dishes. Seeds of the moringa plant can be ground down and made into an oil, which has a nearly unlimited number of potential benefits, including as an anti-aging skin treatment. The bark, sap and roots of the plant have also been found to have several beneficial uses in the treatment and prevention of minor ailments.
However, it is the leaves of the moringa tree that seem to have the most potential benefits as a natural health remedy. Prior to its discovery by the Western world and its benefits being proven by modern scientific studies, moringa was extensively used in ancient traditional practices for thousands of years. In fact, moringa was one of the more common treatments for several different ailments in practices like Ayurveda medicine for over 4,000 years.
In addition to providing crucial nutritional benefits and important health treatments, moringa is also useful in restoring fertile soil in forest restoration efforts, foster rural development and support sustainable land care. Some unique characteristics of moringa seed cake– a byproduct of pressing seeds to obtain oil– make it able to absorb and neutralize harmful elements in unfiltered water, providing a cheap, natural method of cleaning water for human and animal consumption. Moringa grows year-round and is even helpful in replenishing soil as it decomposes.
Moringa only recently appeared in alternative Western medicine, but after a slow introduction into mainstream consciousness, it exploded as a superfood once the true benefits of the plant were proven by scientific research. Now hundreds of studies have been done on moringa, evaluating the nutritional and medicinal value of it, and Westerners are finding more and more uses for this miracle plant all the time. While moringa oil has grown in popularity as a skin treatment, drinking moringa tea is still the preferred method of intake among modern Western people, and the value of doing so daily cannot be overstated.
Proven Benefits of Drinking Moringa Tea
While the peoples of the Himalayas, where moringa has grown for millennia, discovered the health benefits of moringa leaves long ago, many modern people are immediately skeptical of anything that sounds too good to be true. And rightfully so. Many Americans are so overwhelmed with advertising and “research” done by the food industry, the government, the pharmaceutical companies and others, that we hardly know what is good for us anymore. However, as free-thinking herbalists and nutritionists began to try this ancient treatment for themselves, the word about moringa and all that it has to offer grew organically.
With this growth came an explosion of research into moringa, and now nearly 1,500 studies have been done on its characteristics and benefits. They found that, in addition to being packed full of vitamins and nutritional value, moringa also contains over 90 different protective compounds, including isothiocyanates, phenolic acids and flavonoids. While moringa’s impact on the world at large could be revolutionary, the impact it can have on individuals right now has earned it title of “superfood.”
Anti-inflammatory with Antioxidants
What makes moringa such an amazing natural remedy is the fact that it contains similar characteristics of modern conventional medications, without having the same level of risk and possible side effects. One recent study found that moringa contains a unique mix of essential amino acids (the building blocks of vital proteins), carotenoid phytonutrients (similar to those found in carrots and tomatoes), antioxidants (such as quercetin) and natural antibacterials that work in the very same way as many popular anti-inflammatory drugs.
Other things in moringa like polyphenols, vitamin C, beta carotene and chlorogenic acid help to lower the effects of oxidative stress and inflammation. All of these compounds are associated with a reduced risk for diabetes, hypertension and even stomach, lung and colon cancer. They can also be beneficial in the reduced risk of common age-related problems and disorders.
Improved Digestive Health
Although they were not aware of these specific compounds which gave moringa its anti-inflammatory properties, practitioners of ancient forms of Ayurveda and other ancient traditional healing practices used moringa to treat ulcers, liver disease, digestive complaints and kidney damage. They also found that it was helpful in treating fungal or yeast infections such as candida as well as many infections.
While studies are still being done on this subject, moringa seems to have properties that can boost liver function and help to rid the body of harmful substances including heavy metal toxins. This means that moringa could also be beneficial in treating kidney stones, constipation, diarrhea and urinary tract infections.
Balanced Hormones and Slowed Effects of Aging
One breakthrough study published in 2014 may have proven some previously unknown possibilities of the moringa plant that could have a huge effect on Americans. The study was published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology, and the goal of it was to test the effects of moringa, along with amaranth leaves, on the levels of oxidative stress and inflammation in menopausal women.
The reason for the focus on this group was due to the fact that levels of valuable antioxidant enzymes are seriously impacted during the postmenopausal period. This is due to the lack of youthful hormones such as estrogen, and researchers planned to investigate if the natural antioxidant properties of these superfoods could actually slow the balance these hormones to a point of slowing the aging effect.
In the study, 90 women between the ages of 45 and 60 were divided into three groups and given various levels of moringa. Measurements were taken of their antioxidant status (including serum retinol, serum ascorbic acid, glutathione peroxidase and malondialdehyde) both before and after the moringa was taken, along with measurements of fasting blood glucose and hemoglobin levels. The results showed that regular dosing of moringa supplements actually caused significant increases in antioxidant status as well as decreases in the markers of oxidative stress. This meant that regularly taking moringa supplements (including in the form of moringa tea) can actually balance your hormones and even reduce some effects of aging.
Improved Sex Drive
Another result of improved hormonal balance was something else for which moringa had been used for centuries among practitioners of ancient medicinal practices. This effect was that it improved the libido and increased the sex drive of those who took it. Moringa had always been used as a natural aphrodisiac, and now there was scientific evidence to back that up.
Some of the compounds in moringa also may act as a natural birth control, although further study is required on this topic. Certain studies have shown that while it acts as a natural aphrodisiac, increasing the sex drive of those who consume it, it also has the effect of reduced conception rates. Other research shows that moringa can be useful during pregnancy to boost the immune system and increase lactation.
Balance Blood Sugar and Battle Diabetes
Moringa may also hold a key to battling an the epidemic of diabetes that is currently plaguing Americans. The leaves of moringa contain a kind of acid known as chlorogenic acid. It has been shown to help control blood sugar levels as well as allowing cells to take up or release sugar as needed. In addition to chlorogenic acid and the previously stated hormone balancing properties of moringa, it also contains other compounds that are helpful in battling diabetes known as isothiocyanates. All of these compounds would combine to not only help those with diabetes treat their condition, it also means moringa could help to prevent the disease in pre-diabetics.
A seperate study on moringa in the International Journal of Food Science Technology was one of the first to find the link between moringa and diabetes. It showed that those with diabetes who regularly combined moringa with a high-carbohydrate meal had better blood sugar control and insulin levels.
Another study performed by the Biotechnology Institute at Sadat City University in Egypt found that moringa also helped to increase antioxidant status and liver enzyme production along with the antidiabetic properties. They also found that three important markers of diabetes (immunoglobulin, fasting blood sugar level and glycosylated hemoglobin) were significantly reduced by moringa. The kidneys, liver and pancreas of the subjects all functioned better with regular doses of moringa as well. However, it should be pointed out that this specific test was performed on diabetic rats, although most evidence points to moringa being just as effective in this manner in humans.
Improved Skin Condition
All of the natural antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal compounds found in moringa also help to protect the skin against a number of dangerous infections. Moringa has been used for many years to treat conditions such:
- Athlete’s foot
- Acne breakouts
- Pockets of infection or abscesses
- Odors associated with infections
- Gum disease (gingivitis)
Moringa oil can also be very helpful when applied to burns, bites, warts and wounds. The oil has the natural effect of an astringent agent and is helpful for killing bacteria. At the same time, it has also been used as a natural lubricant to hydrate the skin by restoring its natural moisture barrier. The pleasant smell of moringa oil was another small benefit of direct application to the skin.
Increased Energy and Improved Mental Health
Some of the compounds in moringa– particularly the amino acid tryptophan– help to improve the function of neurotransmitters in the brain. This includes the transmitters that produce serotonin and dopamine, the hormones most commonly related to happiness and good moods. The antioxidant compounds in moringa are also helpful in improving thyroid health. This helps maintain high energy levels throughout the day while fighting fatigue, depression, mood swings and insomnia.
The Nutrition of Moringa
Ancient peoples discovered many of these benefits of this miracle plant centuries ago, but it was only recently that we began to discover why moringa is able to do what it does in our bodies. Moringa is packed full of vitamins, antioxidants and beneficial compounds that make it unique among plants.
While almost all parts of the moringa plant are used in some way or another, it is the leaves which have the most beneficial health impact to humans. The leaves in particular are loaded with countless nutrients including:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
This exceptionally high nutritional value has made it invaluable in the impoverished areas where it grows. Because it is a great source of vitamins A and C, moringa is regularly given to thousands of children in third-world countries who suffer from life-threatening vitamin deficiencies and immune disorders.
Moringa can also be used to obtain important trace minerals, proteins and phenolics which can play numerous important roles in the body. It contains a rare combination of phytonutrients such as zeatin, quercetin, beta-sitosterol and kaempferol that are proven to prevent disease and inflammation. Studies also show that these compounds help to protect the heart and improve the function of the circulatory system, and that they possess antitumor, antiepileptic and antihypertensive characteristics.
Moringa Tea Recipes
To take advantage of all that moringa has to offer, the best method of intake is through moringa tea. Since Westerners are already familiar with the beneficial effects of many herbal teas, we were quick to accept moringa tea as a new addition. Moringa tea is made in a very similar fashion to green tea, by steeping the dried leaves in hot water which releases all of the special compounds within. The leaves can also be ground into a fine powder and either mixed into or filtered through hot water.
Making normal moringa tea is simple, and you can do it in the same way as you would make any other herbal tea. First, you will want to buy your leaves already in powder form, as this will save you the trouble of pulverizing them yourself. Once you have your powder, you can make the tea in your coffee maker, using the same amount of tea powder as you would coffee (keeping in mind that you probably will not want to drink an entire pot of moringa tea right away).
However, many people believe that you are missing out on many of the benefits by using this method, as some of the nutrients will be left behind in the powder. With that being said, the best method of making moringa tea is simply by mixing the powder directly into the hot water and consuming the sediment along with the tea. A couple quick and easy recipes for moringa tea include:
Hot Moringa Tea (basic)
- Add ½ teaspoon of moringa leaf powder per cup of hot water
- Allow 2-5 minutes to steep
- Sweeten to taste with agave or cane sugar
- Add ginger root slices or lemon for added flavor
Cold Moringa Fusion Tea
- Fill a non-reactive 2-quart container with water
- Add 2 tablespoons of moringa leaf powder
- Add agave or cane sugar to taste
- Add ginger root slices or lemon for added flavor
- Shake container well before drinking
Super Moringa Tea
- 1 cup of aloe vera juice
- 1 2-ounce container of pomegranate concentrate
- 1 tablespoon of moringa leaf powder
- ⅛ tablespoon of moringa seed powder
- 1 tablespoon of chia
- Add all of the ingredients into a blender and blend for 5 seconds.
It has taken some time (a few thousand years, depending upon your perspective), but moringa tea is finally beginning to catch on among Westerners. When it first appeared on the scene, many people believed that the promised benefits of this simple plant were too good to be true. But as more people have begun to take notice, all the positive characteristics of the moringa plant are being studied and proven by research, and even more people are experiencing the benefits for themselves.
From improved digestion to increased sex drive to battling diabetes, it seems that this simple plant from half the world away can do just about anything. It is packed full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other beneficial compounds that give it many properties similar to modern pharmaceuticals without all of the risks and side effects. Whether you plan to use moringa tea to treat a current ailment, prevent possible illness or simply give your system a boost, this wonderful plant has a long list of benefits that anyone can enjoy.