Moringa: An ignored oil seed plant in Pakistan

Asif JavedMORINGA OLEIFERA is esteemed as a versatile plant due to its multiple uses. The leaves, fruits, flowers and immature pods of this tree are edible and they form a part of traditional diets in many countries of the tropics and sub-tropics. The leaves of M. oleifera are a good source of protein, vitamin A, B and C and minerals such as calcium and iron . In addition to its substantial uses and nutritional benefits, M. oleifera also has a great potential as a medicinal plant. The flowers, leaves and roots are used for the treatment of ascites, rheumatism and venomous bites and as cardiac and circulatory stimulants in folk remedies. The roots of the young tree and also root bark are rubefacient and vesicant. The seeds from this plant contain active coagulating agents characterized as dimeric cationic proteins, having molecular weight of 13 kDa and an isoelectric point between 10 and 11. The seeds also have antimicrobial activity and are utilized for waste water treatment. In some developing countries, the powdered seeds of M. oleifera are traditionally utilized as a natural coagulant for water purification because of their strong coagulating properties for sedimentation of suspended undesired particles.
In Pakistan, only two species of Moringa: M. concanensis and M. oleifera are reported. The former species are rare and confined to only a remote locality of Tharparkar, Sindh province of Pakistan The latter specie is mostly cultivated in the Sindh province and irrigated plains of the country. Wild M. oleifera grows naturally in forests of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
It is recognized as one of the main non-wood forest products of Pakistan. The wild fruit is collected by grazers from forests and sold in the local market. There has been reported a small supply about 10 tons, which is used domestically.Moringa
The increasing human population pressure together with the currently growing momentum of oleo-chemicals and oils/fats derived fuels (Biodiesel) has made it imperative to take advantages of more and more vegetable oils to meet the growing needs of the world. Although a number of under explored plants have been identified, lack of information on their chemical composition has limited their applications.
Moringa seed kernels are round and covered in a thin, brownish shell. The shell resembles 3 sided pod, which houses a kernel. Moringa seed kernels contain a significant amount of oil that is commercially known as “Ben oil” or “Behen oil” and has in it high concentration of behenic acid (a saturated fat which is highly moisturizing to skin and hair). The Ben oil was erroneously reported to be resistant to rancidity and used extensively in the “enfleurage” process. Moringa seed oil content and its properties show a wide variation depending mainly on the species and environmental conditions.
Moringa seeds contain 40 per cent oil and the fatty acid profile of the oil shows that it contains a 73 per cent level of oleic acid. Moringa oil, therefore, has similar qualities to superior quality oil – such as olive oil. Moringa oil can be used as an edible vegetable oil and cooking oil (deteriorates very slowly); as industrial oil; or as a quality oil ingredient for the perfume and cosmetic industry; or even as a lighting oil in oil lamps as it produces a practically smoke-free, clear light; or finally, as a base for fine paints.
Uses in cosmetics
Moringa Seed Oil is a light oil that spreads and absorbs easily into the skin. Vitamins A, B, C and E, unsaturated fatty acids and palmitoleic, oleic and linoleic acids provide its great moisturizing and nourishing qualities. Moringa Seed Oil contains 1,700 antioxidants and is considered by experts to be one of “the greatest cosmetic oils ever discovered”. Due to its high concentration of antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, Moringa Seed Oil helps diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and used to purify and heal the skin.
Tips: With high concentration of antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, use the Moringa seed oil to help heal minor skin complaints.
Great for psoriasis and eczema.
Reduces the appearance of fine lines wrinkles, purifies the skin.
How to use: Put a few drops in your hands. Rub them together and pat onto your face, neck, hair, and anywhere needed. Smooth Moringa Seed Oil under your eyes and over wrinkles for intense moisture and to reduce appearance of fine lines. For spot treatment on minor skin complaints, use a more concentrated amount on the problem area.
Benefits
l Skin/Hair: Exceptional anti-aging properties
l Antioxidants and the nutrients degrade the free radicals in the skin.
l Useful in removing environmental pollutants out of the hair and body. Natural detoxify and cleanser.
l Naturally detoxifies and cleanses.
l Encourages skins natural health and glow.
l Helps diminish wrinkles, pimples, black heads and skin.
l Beneficial in hair and scalp conditions.
l Helps with psoriasis and eczema.
l Moringa oil uses in cooking.
This oil is known as the most stable natural oil, which is a good source of behenic acid and is used as a preservative in food industries. For instance, it has been used to preserve bread in Benue State, Nigeria. The bread lasted for a long time without going bad! It is an excellent salad oil. The Moringa oil has Odorless to mild nutty flavour. It is also used as a vegetable cooking oil. Due to its high quantities of Oleic Acids (Mono-Unsaturated Fatty Acid) is good for sautéing and deep frying. The bright yellow oil with a pleasant taste has been compared in quality with olive oil. It can also be used in dressings. (Smoke point unknown).
The Moringa oil is clear, sweet and odorless. I believe if made available, it can replace other oils for cooking all your favourite dishes.
Extraction
Moringa oil is extracted from seed part of Moringa oleifera tree. The seeds which are harvested from pods yield around 35-40 per cent of non-drying Moringa oil. The oil is extracted using Cold Pressing (simple brassica oil extraction method) method with the oil extracted being clear and odorless. World wide price of moringa seed oil $45 per liter.
The writer is associated with the Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics, UAF, Faisalabad.

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