Ending malnutrition, others with Moringa
Commonly called ben oil tree, the horseradish tree, or the drumstick tree, Moringa oleifera belongs to the plant family Moringaceae.
In Nigeria, it is called Ewe ile, Ewe igbale, or Idagbo monoye (the tree which grows crazily) in Yoruba; Gawara, Habiwal hausa, Konamarade, or Rini maka in Fulani; Bagaruwar maka, Bagaruwar masar, Barambo, Koraukin zaila, Shipka hali, Shuka halinka, Rimin nacara, Rimin turawa, Zogall, or Zogalla-gandi in Hausa; and Odudu oyibo, Okochi egbu, Okwe olu, Okwe oyibo, Okughara ite, Uhe, Ikwe beke in Ibo.
Moringa, which has become a household name in Nigeria and people across the world have recognized its miraculous potential, and it is now widely planted across South Asia, Africa, and Central and South America.
Governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have actively started promoting it as a cure for many of the ills associated with poverty worldwide especially to tackle malnutrition, waterborne diseases such as cholera, and Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
In a new study, researchers from Uppsala University, United States, have shown that the Moringa seeds can also be used for separation of different materials. Separation processes are very important in mining industries and the new knowledge could contribute to reduce the needs for expensive synthetic chemicals.
Moringa trees are known as ‘miracle’ trees because of their many uses as food and as a source of oil. Seeds from the trees are also used to purify water. The special properties of the protein in the seeds have been studied by a group from Uppsala University in collaboration with the Polytechnic of Namibia, Windhoek, and the Institut Laue-Langevin in Grenoble, France.
New results published in the Journal of Colloid and Interface Science suggest that Moringa seeds could be used for separation of different materials rather than just removal of all impurities. Separation processes are very important in mining industries to remove valuable material from waste. This further application of a natural product would reduce the needs for expensive synthetic chemicals.
Protein from crushed seeds of Moringa bind to particles in water and cause them to aggregate. They can then be removed easily by filtration or settling. Choosing the right quantity avoids leaving unnecessary protein in purified water. The amount that saturates the surface is markedly less for alumina than for silica.
“The results can help us to find the optimum amount of Moringa seeds to purify water”, says Dr. Maja Hellsing, one of the researchers behind the study.
Experiments with detergents added to the bound protein showed that the behaviour changes for different materials. A cationic detergent, widely used as a disinfectant, causes the protein to detach from the surface of alumina. This discovery allows control of aggregation and gives a way to separate different materials.
“Combining the protein with detergents offers new ways to use this natural material in mineral industries that are important in many countries where Moringa grows well”, says Prof. Adrian Rennie, who led the study.
Meanwhile, interest is growing in the use of Moringa in addressing malnutrition in developing areas of the world. Also Because of its high vitamin and mineral content, in Africa it has become popular as a locally produced nutritional supplement for individuals infected with the HIV/AIDS virus. It can be grown cheaply and easily, so several governments in Africa have promoted Moringa oleifera as locally produced food beneficial to HIV-positive individuals.
It has been used successfully to combat malnutrition among infants and women of childbearing age. In Africa, nursing mothers have been shown to produce far more milk when Moringa leaves have been added to their diet, while severely malnourished children have made significant weight gains when the leaves have been added to their diets. It is commonly added to porridge increase its nutritional content.
One doctor in Senegal explained: “We have always had problems with the classical approach to treating malnourished children. This was based on industrial products: whole milk powder, vegetable oil and sugar. All these things are expensive. When you tell a parent to go out and buy these things-this can be truly costly for him. On the other hand, with Moringa the resource is locally available. The people themselves can produce it. We have done experiments in treating malnourished children with this plant and the results have been really spectacular.”
A consultant pharmacognocist and chief executive officer of Intercedd Health Products (IHP), which is a subsidiary of Bio-resources Development Group (BDG), Prof. Maurice Iwu, told The Guardian: “Moringa is one of the greatest gift of nature bestowed on man and one of the greatest super food. A gift known to the ancient world and regarded with various acronyms such as: Cure–all tree, Tree of life, Miracle Herb, Herb of Life etc.
“Moringa oleifera plant has been identified as extremely useful medicinal plant with significant health benefits. It contains more than 92 nutrients and 46 types of antioxidants. Researchers have shown that it cure over 300 diseases.
“The edible parts are the leaves, pods, seeds, flowers and the oil. It is reported to contain 17 times the calcium in skimmed milk, 15 times the potassium in banana, 20 times the iron in spinach, 10 times the vitamin A in carrot and nine times the protein in yoghurt.”
Iwu said his company has packaged Moringa seeds into easy access products called the IHP Moringa series. He said: “The IHP Moringa series are made from moringa that is organically cultivated, shade dried to maintain the maximum nutrient value and tested to be free of pesticides and metal contaminants, thereby providing you with all the nutrients needed on continuous intake.
“Moringa acts as antioxidant and circulatory stimulant, anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, anti –ulcer, anti-ageing, anti-tumor, hepatoprotective, antibacterial, antifungal, and have immune-boosting properties.”
Iwu said other health benefits of Moringa include: Increases the natural defenses of the body; provides nourishment to the eyes and the brain; promotes metabolism with bio-available ingredients; promotes the cell structure of the body; promotes natural serum cholesterol; lowers the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines; promotes the normal functioning of the liver and the kidney; beautifies the skin; promotes energy; promotes proper digestion; acts as an antioxidant; takes care of the immune system of the body; promotes healthy circulatory system; it is an anti-inflammatory; gives a feeling of general wellness; and supports the normal sugar levels of the body.
On dosage and administration, Iwu said: “Chew three Moringa seeds morning and evening. Take half teaspoonful Moringa leaf powder into water/mix with food to be taken morning and evening. Soak two teabags of Moringa tea in a cup of hot water for five to eight minutes. And taken as necessary.”
Also, Nigerian researchers led by Iwu have validated local foods such as Moringa oleifera, bitter kola (Garcinia kola), coconut oil, Zobo (Hibiscus sabdariffa), bitter leaf (Vernonia amygdalina), tomato, Sour sop, African bush mango (Ogbono), among others as medicines.
Iwu told journalists that his team has developed dietary supplements based on these local foods for managing chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, prostate cancer, erectile dysfunction, HIV/AIDS, among others.
Indeed, the words of the father of western medicine and ancient Greek Physician, Hippocrates of Cos, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” have been ‘resurrected’ by a team of Nigerian researchers led by Iwu.
Iwu told The Guardian that his team at BDG has formulated local food items into scientifically validated medicines, dietary supplements.
BDG is comprised of Bioresources Development and Conservation Programme, Bioresources Institute of Nigeria, IHP, Intercedd Laboratories (IL), BioTrade Global Agency and Nature’s Emporium.
The foods that can be used as medicines or rather dietary supplements include among others: Moringa Tea, Moringa Leaf Tea, Moringa Whole Seed, which have been shown by research to cure over 300 diseases; Bissap Tea from Zobo (Hibiscus sabdariffa) for hypertension; Vernonia Ocimum Tea from bitter leaf (Vernonia amygdalina) and scent leaf (Ocimum gratissimum) for control of blood sugar and weight management; Garcinia-IHP from bitter kola (Garcinia kola) and used as antimicrobial and detoxifier; IHP Virgin Coconut Oil from coconut as stress buster and immune booster; Erovit-IHP, which combines the anti-ageing properties of the mushroom, Cordyceps, the high-potency antioxidant effects of Punica granatum fruits and the life enhancing Korean ginseng; and Immunovit-IHP from Reishi mushroom, Punica granatum and Korean ginseng to boost immunity against diseases.
Iwu said the products have been validated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA); the National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC); the Nigerian Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), Abuja; the Nigerian Export Promotion Council; the Raw Material Council; and the Federal Institute of Industrial Research (FIIRO), Lagos, for prevention and management chronic diseases.
Until now, various laboratory researches have confirmed that Moringa is a natural energy booster, strengthens the immune system, has antibiotic properties, cures headaches, migraines, asthma, and ulcers, reduces arthritic pains and inflammations, and restricted tumour growths.
Moringa flowers boiled with soymilk have always been thought to have aphrodisiac quality. News reports say that studies of the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) showed that a steady diet of the Moringa fruit boosts the sperm count of men, which improves their chances of fertilising an egg.
Nutritionists say, the Moringa plant has more iron than “Kontonmire” and contains seven times the Vitamin ‘C’ in oranges; four times the calcium in milk; four times the Vitamin ‘A’ in carrots; two times the protein in milk and three times the potassium in banana.
In the field of medicine, it has been found out that Moringa can help to prevent common killer diseases like hypertension and diabetes and has become the poor man’s prophylaxis against malaria and some common ailments.
There is a growing global interest in the use of Moringa to address malnutrition because it is readily available and inexpensive. In Africa, it has become popular as a locally produced nutritional supplement for individuals infected with the Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) virus. Nursing mothers have shown to produce far more milk and malnourished children gained more weight after the leaves were added to their diets.
Aware of its nutritional and medicinal benefits, India is notably the largest producer of Moringa. India’s ancient system of health care, ayurveda believes that the Moringa leaves prevent at least three hundred diseases, which fact they say is confirmed by modern science.
The leaves, fruit flowers and immature pods of the tree are eaten as nutritious foods. The leaves in particular are consumed either raw in salads, tossed into blender drinks, or steamed like spinach. Rich in protein, beta-carotene, vitamin C, potassium and calcium, the leaves make an excellent green vegetable, and are pleasing in flavor.
But beyond the flavor and nutrition, moringa offers healing benefits. Virtually all parts of the plant are used to treat inflammation, infectious disorders, and various problems of the cardiovascular and digestive organs, while improving liver function and enhancing milk flow in nursing mothers. The uses of moringa are well documented in both the Ayurvedic and Unani systems of traditional medicine, among the most ancient healing systems in the world.
Phytochemical analysis indicates that moringa is rich in a variety of health-enhancing compounds, including moringine, moringinine, the potent antioxidants quercetin, kaempferol, rhamnetin, and various polyphenols. The leaves seem to be getting the most market attention, notably for their use in reducing high blood pressure, eliminating water weight, and lowering cholesterol.
Studies show that moringa leaves possess anti-tumor and anti-cancer activities, due in part to a compound called niaziminin. Preliminary experimentation also shows activity against the Epstein-Barr virus. Compounds in the leaf appear to help regulate thyroid function, especially in cases of over-active thyroid. Further research points to anti-viral activity in cases of Herpes simplex.