Moringa is a joy to grow - truly a wonderous and generous tree. When I discovered that this humble healing tree is a blood, bone marrow, & tissue cleanser AND simultaneously a nourishing tonic, I was stoked!
The name comes from the Tamil word “murungai,” meaning drumstick. (1) If you see its strong and robust seedpods, you can understand why the drumstick name. If you would like to see the copious global and ethnic names for drumstick tree or Moringa, check out this link: http://www.ayurvedacollege.com/articles/students/MagicalMoringa
Native to tropical and subtropical Africa & India, this tree is now naturalized in many places like Indonesia, coastal Mexico, Hawaii and other equatorial tropics and sub-tropics. With care and attention, this drought-hearty tree can be cultivated in more arid & temperate environments as well. In fact, the tree has been traced back to use in indigenous cultures at the base of the super dry Himalayan foothills. There are many varieties of this tree, but when using for food / medicine and when referred to as an herb, almost always people are referring to and using the species Moringa oleifera.
Six years ago, I was introduced to Moringa in Costa Rica and fell in love with the way the leaves came off the branch. You can wrap your thumb and fingers around the leaves and gently pull towards you...and the leaves sweetly come right off into your hand (or salad bowl). The spicy taste worked great with my fruit bowl, on top of papaya halves, with pineapple, on yogurt, on shredded coconut with tamari, in soups..diverse is an understatement. I have since grown Moringa in Arizona, included it in my Nutritive Tea blend, brought seeds to a community in Mexico, encouraged herbalists to grow it in California, and played with it in countless sweet and savory recipes. Here in Oahu where I currently reside, Moringa grows superbly and is super available at farmers markets and easy to cultivate.
In western terminology, as a food & medicine, Moringa packs this terminology: antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antiparasitic, hepatoprotective (liver-protecting), hypotensive, cancer preventative and antitumor, cardiac tonic, urinary tract tonic, thyroid tonic, immunostimulant, immundomodulator, antirheumatic, astringent...YES, all of that!!!! I have also heard word from conversations that flow after leading Wise Woman Womb Botanicals courses that is has been used as an emmenogougue and abortifacient by women as well. Please note, Moringa leaves, root bark and flowers are not indicated as safe during pregnancy, but the fruits are.
I am a believer in folk medicine and word-of-mouth herbal traditions… but with such epic claims, we want to know the answers to the whys?, yea? NUTRITIVE PROFILE, yummmm and tasty too,
- B vitamins, and vitamins K, E, D, C and A, the minerals manganese, copper, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, iron, potassium, sodium and calcium, and a striking amount of some more common, but necessary compounds like protein and amino acids are all present in Mooring leaf. Vitamin C is lost in the drying process, but rich when fresh (1, 2)
- Relative nutritional value of moringa compared to common foods: gram for gram, fresh moringa leaf contains about 4 times the calcium of milk, about 7 times the vitamin C of oranges, twice the protein of yogurt, 4 times the vitamin A found in carrots, and almost as much iron as spinach. And that’s just for fresh leaf. When the leaf is dried, and the weight of the water is no longer a factor, the leaf material can be considered concentrated, and the numbers are way more impressive. The dried leaf contains about 15 times the amount of potassium found in a banana, about 10 times the amount of vitamin A as a carrot, 9 times the protein of yogurt, 17 times the calcium found in milk, and 25 times the amount of iron in spinach! (1)
Geek out on the nutrient profiles with source (4) if you’re feeling it. This extensive, rich & exciting article shows the amino acid content as well as case specific information of Moringa’s effect on H.pylori, Cancer, gastric ulcers, atherosclerotic plaques, kidney stones, and diabetes.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, Mooring leaf is pungent (rasa = katu), heating (virya = ushna), light / dry / sharp / fluid (Guna = laghu / ruksha / tikshana / sara )
From The Magical Moringa By: Vanita Agarwal (4), these are the actions of M.oleifera:
• Liver cleanser (yakrit sodhana)
• Purifies Blood (rakta sodhaka)
• enhances spleen/pliha
• Removes worms (krmi), acidic toxins from the blood (amavishagni)
• Relieves from tumor (gulma)
• Strengthens heart/ hridya, fat metabolism and weight loss/Medovishahara and regulates cholesterol
The Ayurvedic traditions with Moringa are rich and fascinating.. truly delicious — traditionally used as panacea for headaches to wound healing to igniting digestive power.
I could try and make chutneys and sambars….and I do attempt..but Indian cookbooks and Ayurvedic food blogs would be a better source for you to scope those details. However, I can make a thrilling pesto with fresh leaves and pretty much incorporate dry powder into many creations from banana bread to babaganoush and tahini to tamales.
Here is a savory, detoxifying delight recipe for you!
AlkaLine DiViNe Moringa PestO:
2 cups fresh moringa leaves - just shake the branches over the bowl and say a beautiful thing…and see what happens, you might shake off the perfect amount - u can use 2 tablespoons mooring powder as substitute for fresh
2 cups fresh basil (wash and de-stem)
1/2 cup - 1 cup fresh Thai Basil (optional) - can sub fresh parsley or cilantro
Juice of 2 limes
Juice of 1 lemon
4 cloves of fresh garlic
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds* (I use soaked and dehydrated pumpkin seeds from Wilderness Family Naturals)
**can use piñon nuts, toasted walnuts or whatever creamy luscious nut you have avaliable — pistachio is niiiiiiiice too
2 tablespoons hemp seeds
4-5 tbsp E.V. olive oil
2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese* (optional — honestly, I usually don’t put this in there..its rich enough without it…but if you’re a cheese-lover, go for it!)
- Can use toasted cashews paste and/or nutritional yeast as vegan alternative
Local as possible sea salt to taste
- Place half the basil & thai basil leaves along with the garlic cloves, cheese, pumpkin seeds & hemp seeds into a high speed blender or food processor. Blend until evenly dispersed.
- Add remaining basil leaves in addition to the fresh Moringa leaves. Blend, scraping down sides of the blender to get all the fresh leaves
- Slowly and lovingly, drizzle in EVOO while blending. Adjust to desired consistency whether its for spreading or for pasta sauce — if you want to make zucchini noodle pasta - add more olive oil to thin out and make saucy.
- Squeeze in lime and lemon juice - keep seeds out (Can use a mesh strainer to filter) - adjust ingredients to taste.
(2) Gopalan, C., B.V. Rama Sastri, and S.C. Balasubramanian. Nutritive value of Indian foods. Hyderabad, India: (National Institute of Nutrition), 1971 (revised and updated by B.S. Narasinga Rao, Y.G. Deosthale, and K.C. Pant, 1989).
(3) Fuglie, Lowell J., ed. The Miracle Tree—Moringa oleifera: Natural Nutrition for the Tropics. Training Manual. 2001. Church World Service, Dakar, Senegal. May 2002.
(4) The Magical Moringa By: Vanita Agarwal. http://www.ayurvedacollege.com/articles/students/MagicalMoringa