Used around the world for everything from healing skin and strengthening hair to fighting stomach issues and even creating clean drinking water, the Moringa plant has a long list of beauty and health benefits that are just waiting to be tapped into (its oil is very similiar to coconut oil!).
Learn about Moringa’s amazing benefits, and find ideas to incorporate it into your diet and beauty routine—from teas and soups to skincare and hair products.
1What is Moringa?
Although it’s a below-the-radar plant here in the U.S., moringa (aka the drumstick or miracle tree, even mother’s best friend) is well known around the world and gaining notoriety stateside as a powerful cure-all from a beauty, nutrition and health perspective. This tropical flowering plant is native to parts of Africa and Asia, including the base of the Himalayas in India, and provides a 360 scope of benefits thanks to the healing power of its inherent 90 nutrients, including 46 antioxidants and abundant minerals.
Not only are moringa leaves, which have a spinach-like taste, edible and a food source for humans as well as animals all over the world, they’re packed with nutrients too. “Moringa is rich in protein and contains all nine essential amino acids, as well as minerals including calcium, magnesium, potassium, as well as vitamins A and C,” says Stephanie Middleberg, R.D., founder of Middleberg Nutrition in New York City. Research has touted moringa as having the potential to help those in third world countries obtain complete nutrition.
3Moringa as Medicine
The medicinal uses of moringa are extensive to say the least: According to research published in Phytotherapy Research, various parts of this plant such as the leaves, roots, seed, bark, fruit, flowers and immature pods act as cardiac and circulatory stimulants, possess antitumor, antipyretic, antiepileptic, anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcer, anti-spasmodic, diuretic, anti-hypertensive, cholesterol-lowering, antioxidant, anti-diabetic, hepatoprotective, antibacterial and antifungal activities. There are also some studies that show its potential to have anti-cancer properties.
4How to Consume It
“The fact that it can be good for digestion, circulation and preventative against diabetes, cancers and bacteria, plus it’s a natural diuretic, is impressive,” adds Middleberg. So, how can you get more moringa in your daily diet? The most common uses are using its “leaves in a tea, or the powder in smoothies, veggie curries, soups and stews,” explains Middleberg. Moringa oil, which has many similar properties to coconut oil, also has “a strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial and antifungal aspect, which is why it is used in many countries outside of the U.S. as a natural treatment for digestive disorders,” she explains.
How could one plant be used to treat so many ailments? The vitamin C and vitamin A could help boost immunity, according to Robin Berzin, M.D., a physician at The Morrison Center in NYC. “It’s also high in niacin [a B vitamin], plus it’s a good source of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat, which would explain it’s theoretical use to lower LDL (aka bad cholesterol).”
6A Plant to Help the Planet
And even more surprising is that nearly each part of the plant can be used—the seeds, leaves, pods and roots—to enhance health but also the environment. “Even the seeds themselves are used by populations in some parts of rural Africa as a natural way to clean muddy water—they act as a coagulant, clotting dirt so it precipitates out, leaving the water more clear,” explains Berzin. And because it contains approximately 90 nutrients including just under 50 antioxidants and minerals, moringa is an important food source in many third world countries, where it is grown in abundance, and some research shows that it could help combat malnutrition.
When it comes to using Moringa skin deep, the most commonly used aspect is its oil. Also known as ben oil, it’s extracted from the seeds of the plant, and has been used to treat hair and skin as far back as ancient Roman, Greek and Egyptian times—from a natural hydrator to hair oil and perfume—as well as today. Because it has about two times more protein (the main building block of hair) than yogurt and four times that of eggs, it is a rich source of fatty acids (great for nourishing skin), along with several B vitamins, iron, vitamin C and A, and a long list of trace minerals (such as calcium and zinc), moringa provides deep nutrition for hair and skin, too.
“Laced with high amounts of antioxidants, it helps the skin by scavenging and quenching free radicals, which accelerate aging,” says New York City dermatologist Francesca Fusco, who adds that that some of her patients have used it on their face in lieu of moisturizer, while others “spike their regular moisturizer with it.”
“It’s a good source of amino acids and beta carotene (which is a derivative of vitamin A),” explains Fusco. “Vitamin A is retinoic acid and important for good eye and skin health, plus it’s naturally an antioxidant, has been shown to help reduce wrinkles, support collagen production, increase cell turnover and can repair sun-damaged skin.”
10Shield Your Skin
The Body Shop Moringa Body Butter, $20
Eufora Smooth’n Oil Therapy, $39
12Supplement Your Diet
Organic India Organic Moringa Leaf Powder, $18
The Republic of Tea Moringa SuperHerb Tea Bags, $13 (for 36 tea bags)
Kuli Kuli Moringa Superfood Bars, $30 (for 12 bars)