What is Moringa and What are the Health Benefits?

What is Moringa and What are the Health Benefits?
Posted on September 27th, 2022.

With all the trendy superfoods and supplements available on the market today, it can be hard to keep up with what’s simply popular and what’s actually beneficial for your health. If you love following the latest in nutrition, chances are you’re familiar with moringa.

Moringa oleifera is a plant that is native primarily to South Asia and Africa, and is one of the fastest-growing trees in the world, says Kylene Bogden, RDN, CSSD, a co-founder of FWDfuel. This is partly because it is frost- and drought-resistant, which makes it incredibly durable. Also called the drumstick tree, moringa contains a solid nutrient profile of amino acids, vitamin C, potassium, and calcium, per Bogden. As a supplement, moringa is often consumed in the form of powder, capsules, and tea.

Consuming this plant in its raw form can be especially good for you. The leaves contain quercetin, an antioxidant that can block your histamine response (which is responsible for triggering annoying allergy symptoms), and chlorogenic acid, which can help stabilize your blood sugar, Bogden explains.

“One of the reasons moringa has become so popular, in addition to its vast nutrient profile, is because it provides a boost in energy without the negative side effects that can sometimes accompany caffeine intake,” she adds.

That said, experts say that more research in humans is needed to know whether the moringa's benefits are legit and it's safe to take on a regular basis. Read on to learn about these potential benefits, as well as the risks of taking moringa and whether this supplement may be right for you.

What are the health benefits of taking moringa?

Moringa may play a role in treating 80 diseases, according to one study. But it's important to keep in mind that much of the evidence showing moringa's benefits is cell and animal studies. That means it's not clear yet whether the plant will do the same in humans. And more research is needed to establish the optimal dosage and identify any interactions between the active compounds in moringa.

1. It protects against infections.

Moringa has anti-infectious effects against pathogens, and all parts of the plant can be made into treatment against bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites, according to a 2020 Frontiers in Pharmacology review. The leaves and seeds, in particular, show a broader spectrum of antimicrobial activity than other parts of the moringa plant.

2. It improves blood sugar control.

Taking moringa may potentially help with controlling blood sugar if you have diabetes, per a 2020 Nutrients review of several animal studies. Researchers believe this is due to compounds such as isothiocyanates found in moringa. However, more research in humans is needed.

3. It lowers cholesterol.

Animal studies have shown that moringa may have similar cholesterol-lowering effects to other known effective plant sources, such as flaxseed and oats. This is due to its antioxidant content, which is tied to a lower risk of heart disease.

4. It reduces blood pressure.

Because it contains quercetin, an antioxidant, research suggests moringa may help to lower blood pressure.

5. It gives you an energy boost.

Research shows that moringa may be a good energy source, thanks to the wide range of nutrients it contains, including protein, iron, and vitamin A, which are vital to maintaining optimal energy levels.

6. It improves digestion.

Moringa is also believed to aid in digestion, with one study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology showing that its fibrous pods may help treat digestive issues such as constipation and another showing that it may help prevent colon cancer.

7. It helps with arthritis and joint pain.

One animal study showed moringa extract may be helpful in decreasing symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory form of the joint disease. This is because its leaf extract may help suppress pro-inflammatory molecules. More research in humans is still needed, though.

8. It fights inflammation.

Animal studies have shown that moringa leaves, pods, and seeds contain anti-inflammatory compounds called isothiocyanates that are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and cancer.

It can also inhibit chronic inflammation in conditions such as asthma, ulcerative colitis, and metabolic diseases, according to a 2020 review.

Is it safe to take moringa every day?

As long as it has been cleared by your doctor, it’s okay to take moringa every day, especially if it is in food form, such as by adding a few teaspoons of a moringa powder to a smoothie or sipping on tea made from its leaves, says Bogden.

“Generally speaking, ideal dosing would be one to two cups of tea a day, or one teaspoon to one tablespoon of powder added to dishes like oatmeal and smoothies,” she says. “If capsule form is your preferred method, clinical studies suggest the benefits range from roughly 500 mg to 2 g daily.”

What are the side effects of moringa?

As with any supplements, you’ll want to be aware of any potential side effects that may come with taking moringa. After all, supplements are not regulated by the FDA. You’ll definitely want to consult with your MD before taking any supplement, including moringa, Bogden notes.

Not sure where to start? To choose a reputable supplement company, the first step would be to look for a GMP certification (that stands for Good Manufacturing Practice, FYI) on the label as well as additional third-party testing, Bogden says. If you’re a competitive athlete, you’ll also want to make sure the supplement is NSF-certified for sport in order to avoid testing positive for banned substances.

“While many do not experience any negative side effects, depending on dose or form taken, frequency consumed, and medical history, for some, moringa may cause gastrointestinal upset, uterine cramping, and low blood pressure, which can be dangerous for certain individuals,” Bogden says.

Who should not take moringa?

As with many foods, medications, and supplements, there are certain groups who should avoid moringa. Those who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid consuming moringa, according to Bogden.

Note that moringa can also interfere with medications that treat diabetes, high blood pressure, and thyroid disease, so talk to your doctor before taking moringa if you fall into any of those categories.

The bottom line: While moringa shows promise in providing health benefits similar to those of other superfoods, research is still limited. Talk to your doctor before adding it to your wellness routine.

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