Moringa oleifera belonging to the family of Moringaceae is an effective remedy for malnutrition. Moringa is rich in nutrition owing to the presence of a variety of essential phytochemicals present in its leaves, pods and seeds.

By Fatima Naveed, Ayesha Ghafar, Masood Ahmad

In fact, moringa is said to provide 7 times more vitamin C than oranges, 10 times more vitamin A than carrots, 17 times more calcium than milk, 9 times more protein than yoghurt, 15 times more potassium than bananas and 25 times more iron than spinach. M. oleifera can be grown in any tropical and subtropical regions of the world with a temperature around 25–35 ◦C. It requires sandy or loamy soil with a slightly acidic to slightly alkaline pH and a net rainfall of 250–30

Medicinal properties

  1. oleifera is often referred as a panacea and can be used to cure more than 300 diseases. Moringa has long been used in herbal medicine by Indians and Africans. The presence of phytochemicals makes it a good medicinal agent. In this section, the effect of moringa on diseases like diabetes and cancer are reviewed.

1.Anti-diabetic properties

Moringa has been shown to cure both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is one where the patients suffer from non-production of insulin, which is a hormone that maintains the blood glucose level at the required normal value. Type 2 diabetes is one associated with insulin resistance. Type 2 diabetes might also be due to Beta cell dysfunction, which fails to sense glucose levels, hence reduces the signaling to insulin, resulting in high blood glucose levels. Several studies have shown that, moringa can act as an anti-diabetic agent. A study has shown that the aqueous extracts of M. oleifera can cure streptozotocin induced Type 1 diabetes and also insulin resistant Type 2 diabetes in rats.

  1. Anticancer properties

 Cancer is a common disease and one in seven deaths is attributed due to improper medication. Around 2.4 million cases are prevalent in India, while there are no specific reasons for cancer to develop. Several factors like smoking, lack of exercise and radiation exposure can lead to the disease. Cancer treatments like surgery, chemotherapy and radiation are expensive and have side effects. M. oleifera can be used as an anticancer agent as it is natural, reliable and safe, at established concentrations. Studies have shown that moringa can be used as an anti-neoproliferative agent, thereby inhibiting the growth of cancer cells. Soluble and solvent extracts of leaves have been proven effective as anticancer agents.

  1. Anti-asthmatic properties

It has been reported a long time ago that Moringa plant alkaloid closely resembles ephedrine in action and can be used for the treatment of asthma. Alkaloid meringue relaxes bronchioles. The seed kernels of MO also showed promising effect in the treatment of bronchial asthma, during a study to analyze efficacy and safety of seed kernels for the management of asthmatic patients. The study showed significant decrease in the severity of asthma symptoms and also concurrent respiratory functions improvement.

  1. Analgesic properties

 The analgesic activity of Moringa has been reported in several Moringa species. In a study using ethanoic extracts of Moringa concanensis tender pod-like fruits in experimental animals, a significant analgesic activity was observed. Furthermore, alcoholic extract of the leaves and seeds of MO also possess marked analgesic activity as evidenced through hot plate and tail immersion method.

5.Antipyretic properties

As a result of anti-inflammatory action of Moringa bioactive constituents, the antipyretic activity can be hypothesized. A study was designed to assess antipyretic effect of ethanol, petroleum ether, solvent ether and ethyl acetate extracts of MO seeds using yeast induced hyperpyrexia method. Paracetamol was used as control during the study. Not surprisingly, ethanol and ethyl acetate extracts of seeds showed significant antipyretic activity in rats.

6.Cardiac and circulatory stimulant

In addition to earlier mentioned bradycardia effect of MO leaves, all parts of MO are reported with somewhat cardiac and circulatory stimulant activity. Root bark of Moringa contains alkaloid moringinine which acts as cardiac stimulant through its effect on sympathetic nervous system

7.Other diseases

 Moringa can be used as a potent neuroprotection. Cerebral ischemia is caused due to obstruction of blood flow to the brain. This leads to reperfusion and lipid peroxidation, which in turn results in reactive oxygen species. Moringa with its antioxidants can reduce the reactive oxygen species, thereby protecting the brain. M. oleifera is used to treat dementia, asset has been shown to be a promoter of spatial memory. The leaf extracts have shown to decrease the acetylcholine esterase activity, thereby improving cholinergic function and memory.

Commercial Applications

 Moringa seeds are used to extract oil called the Ben oil. This oil is rich in oleic acid, tocopherols and sterols. It can also withstand oxidative rancidity. The oil can be used in cooking as a substitute for olive oil, as perfumes and also for lubrication. The pods can absorb organic pollutants and pesticides. Moringa seeds also have great coagulant properties and can precipitate organics and mineral particulates out of a solution. Chemical coagulants such as aluminum sulfate (Alum) and ferric sulfate or polymers removes suspended particles in waste water by neutralizing the electrical charges of particles in the water to form flocs making particles filterable. M. oleifera seed is a natural coagulant, containing a cationic protein that can clarify turbid water. This property of M. oleifera seeds is attracting much research as other coagulants such as alum, activated carbon and ferric chloride are expensive and rare.

Authors : Fatima Naveed, Ayesha Ghafar, Masood Ahmad Department of Botany, Univeristy of Agriculture Faisalabad