Why You Should Care About Moringa: Benefits and Side Effects

Moringa is rising in popularity as a so-called superfood. While this plant has been used for generations for food and in traditional medicine, its possible health benefits are becoming mainstream. With its fruits and leaves being edible, it's easy to incorporate moringa into your meals and regimen. The leaves are especially high in protein and bioavailability of vitamins A, B, and C, iron, calcium, potassium, micronutrients, and antioxidants.

However, human studies of safety and effectiveness are very limited. Currently, most research on the effects of moringa has been conducted in animals. While it might not be suitable for everyone, it could potentially offer benefits to some individuals. We are exploring moringa’s usage, benefits, and possible side effects to determine if it deserves a spot in your wellness routine.

What is moringa?

Moringa, scientifically known as Moringa oleifera, is a fast-growing tree native to India. In some parts of the world, it is called the 'miracle tree' or the 'tree of life' for its role in traditional medicine, potential health benefits, and food source. It is also commonly called the 'drumstick' tree because of the shape of its fruit.

Every part of the moringa tree is edible and has its own nutrient concentration, though, they may differ in toxicity levels, as documented in animal studies. It is commonly available in different forms based on the part of the tree from which it is produced. The leaves are commonly dried and pulverized into moringa powder; the seeds are refined into oil, and the leaves and flowers can be eaten or used for moringa tea.

Moringa nutrition facts

The moringa tree is often called a superfood, given it is a good source of protein, essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The leaves in particular are a nutritional powerhouse. One 100 g serving of raw moringa, or drumstick, leaves contains more than 9 g of protein as well as a good source of vitamins A, B, and C, potassium, magnesium, and several trace elements such as manganese, copper, and zinc. With its high concentration of vitamins, even when taken in smaller serving sizes, it is still a highly nutritious food.

Health benefits of moringa

This remarkable tree has been used for centuries in traditional medicine to treat various ailments and improve overall well-being. It is important to note that there have been limited human clinical trials to investigate any potential benefits and effects. Most of the data has been collected in animals, so potential benefits and risks in humans are not clear. A 2021 analysis has shown that moringa holds properties that potentially help combat oxidative stress and inflammation and may even have a potential in blood sugar and blood pressure regulation.

1. Rich in antioxidants

Moringa has high amounts of antioxidant compounds, such as ascorbic acid (vitamin C), flavonoids, phenolics, and carotenoids. These compounds may help neutralize harmful free radicals from oxidative stress, which can lead to chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.

2. May reduce inflammation

One aspect of moringa’s benefits for wellness is its potential anti-inflammatory properties. An animal study published in 2014 showed that moringa supplementation in rats’ diets reduced multiple inflammatory markers and pathways even at low doses. It's possible that moringa may have similar effects in humans, but more research is needed. Eating a balanced diet rich in highly nutritious foods, such as moringa, may help reduce chronic inflammation.

3. May help control blood sugar

While human studies are very limited, some animal research shows that moringa supplementation may potentially lead to decreases in blood glucose levels and lesser insulin resistance. However, there are various methods to these initial studies, so its role in blood sugar management remains unclear, especially in humans.

4. May reduce cholesterol

Supplementation with moringa leaves in animal studies is mixed with its potential to lower blood lipid profile. In rabbit studies, moringa seemed to increase fecal excretion of cholesterol, and in some cases, it has been shown to lower serum cholesterol, phospholipid, triglyceride, VLDL, LDL, and cholesterol to phospholipid ratio in rabbits. Certainly, more research is needed for clarification of its role in reducing cholesterol in humans.

Possible side effects of moringa

Potential unwanted side effects may vary by the mode by which moringa is incorporated into the personal routine, by the amount of the substance taken, and by part of the tree consumed. It's important to know that safe doses in humans have not been established, so it's not known what side effects may be expected and at what dose they are more likely to appear.

The leaves and the fruit have been identified to be safer than other tree parts, as moringa bark and root contain higher amounts of toxic substances. When moringa oil is applied to the skin, existing research deems it safe when used for three months or less.

How to use moringa

The various parts of the moringa tree can be prepared in several ways. It’s commonly available as moringa powder, tea, capsules, and oil. When used as a powder, moringa leaves or seeds can be added to baked goods, smoothies, sauces, soups, or beverages to potentially boost nutrition. It can also be encapsulated for the convenience of dosing.

There are many manufacturers of moringa supplements, so be sure to find the best one for you. Moringa oil may be used topically for skin benefits. It may also be applied to nails and hair for hydration.

How long does it take for moringa to start working?

Given the variety of administration and dosing methods available, individual differences in health and metabolism, and lack of scientific evidence on what doses are effective and safe, it is hard to predict moringa’s effects on your health. Some effects may be more immediate; others may be delayed or not apparent at all. If you would like to include moringa in your diet or wellness regimen, as with anything else, cautiousness, consistency, and patience are necessary to observe an effect.

Should you use moringa?

Moringa is a good source of many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants used worldwide for centuries. It may potentially have a positive impact on blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and chronic disease due to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and micronutrient profile. If you'd like to add moringa to your wellness regimen, check with your healthcare provider to find the right product for you. Moringa fruits and leaves are generally considered safe, as they are commonly included in the regular diets of certain regions. This makes them an easy and convenient ingredient to incorporate into your regimen.

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