By Ruth Santos
Super food, power house, and miraculous. These are just some of the words the world is using to describe Moringa oleifer, a fast-growing, and easy-to-cultivate tree endemic to tropical and subtropical countries.
Around the world, Moringa is known as Ben oil tree, Benzolive tree, Kelor, Marango, Moonga, Drumstick tree or Horseradish tree. Its bark, which can grow up to 1.5 feet in diameter, is whitish-grey in color, with fragile branches and leaves arranged in feathery foliage. Its flower is about a centimeter in size, whitish-yellow, and grows in drooping clusters. The fruit is a tubular pod which can lengthen up to 20-45 centimeters and contains small three-winged globular seeds. The pods change their color from green to brown as they matures.
In the Philippines, Moringa is commonly called malunggay, malungay, or kamunggay. It is usually grown in many backyards. Its leaves and fruits are used as a staple vegetable in numerous Filipino dishes, and its tree is used as a living fence because of its fast growing properties.
All parts of this tree – leaves, pods, fruits, flowers, roots and bark – are used in different ways and have medicinal importance. Malunggay has since become an international sensation, earning the title “Miracle Tree” and “Super Food” as the world discovers its nutritional value and health benefits.
Based on scientific research, it has been proven that Moringa contains four times the Vitamin A in carrots, making it effective in fighting eye problems. It has seven times the Vitamin C found in oranges, four times the Calcium and twice the Protein found in milk, three times the Iron found in Spinach, and three times Potassium found in bananas. It also contains Zinc, Omega-3 oils, and essential Amino Acids, and has more than 90 nutrients, 36 anti-inflammatory properties and 46 types of antioxidants.
The consumption of Moringa helps our body’s defenses since it stimulates our body’s Immune system. It can delay the ageing process because it is a rich source of antioxidants, with high contents of Bioflavonoid, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E. It also balances the sugar levels thus help fight Diabetes. It also has anti-bacterial and anti-cancer properties. For lactating mothers, Moringa can increase the production of breast milk.
Now a days, Moringa is available in many forms such as powder, liquid, capsules and tablets. It can also be found fresh or dried. Dried leaves have more concentrated nutrients than the fresh although it loses its Vitamins A and C. Ten kilos of fresh leaves shrinks to a kilo when dried. Moringa leaves can be dried by bundling the harvested branches and hanging them upside down and then let out in the sun to dry. A mat is placed underneath to catch the dry leaves that would fall off.
No longer just confined as a vegetable ingredient in dishes, it is now mixed with porridge, pastas, breads, juice, tea, and other ways as a means to get the daily intake of Moringa and take advantage of the health benefits available from it. For those who want to stay in good health, taking at least one tablespoon per day is recommended. The old adage “prevention is better than cure’ applies here. For people suffering from health problems like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, two tablespoon is recommended while three tablespoon is recommended for pregnant women.
Because of the wonderful benefits from Moringa, it is encouraged to plant its tree in your backyard if there is an available space. It can be planted through two ways, using the seeds or using its stem cuttings. The stem cuttings grow much faster than the seeds. The trees should be planted about 1.5 meters apart to give it ample room for future growth. The first six months is where thorough care is needed to ensure that the Moringay tree is protected from excessive rain or flooding as it needs only little water to grow. After this, the Moringa tree is sturdy enough to only need a little tending. As it grows and gets bigger, the stems need to be pruned regularly so it will produce more branches and more leaves can be harvested. After a period of two years, a half-kilo of harvestable leaves can be collected every two months. After five years, up to one and a half kilo can be harvested every two months, and after 7 years, a healthy tree can produce two kilos of leaves every two months.
Moringa is indeed the power house considering the numerous health benefits and medicinal value found in as little as a gram. It is aptly called super food and the internet contains recipes of many delectable dishes where Moringa is the star. It can cure and prevent various health problems. Having it readily available in your household is like having a miracle right at your fingertips.