What Is Moringa?

A superfood that may help lower cholesterol and improve blood sugar levels

Moringa, a nutrient-packed superfood that comes from the Moringa oleifera tree in India, has been used for centuries in Eastern cultures to alleviate headaches, ease constipation, stimulate the immune system, promote weight loss, and increase libido. Modern research suggests moringa can help lower cholesterol, balance blood sugar, and ease other health concerns. 

Moringa powder is often added to smoothies, nutrition bars, and energy drinks or drank as a tea. Moringa oil is used topically for hair and skincare.

Moringa oleifera
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What Is Moringa Used For?

Frequently referred to as a “miracle tree,” moringa has a long history of use in systems of traditional medicine throughout South Asia that is being explored in modern science.

The leaves, pods, and seeds of the moringa tree are rich in antioxidants, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. A complete protein, moringa leaf powder contains all nine essential amino acids the body needs. The pods are a rich source of vitamin C, and the edible seeds contain a high amount of oleic acid—a beneficial fatty acid also found in olive oil.

Studies show moringa contains a number of compounds with health-promoting effects, including quercetin and beta-sitosterol. It also has anti-inflammatory compounds and may protect against health issues linked to oxidative stress and chronic inflammation, including heart disease and certain cancers.

In addition, it may help treat and/or prevent several chronic conditions, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, arthritis, asthma, and high blood pressure.

While findings from animal-based research, laboratory experiments, and small clinical studies suggest moringa has promise in the treatment of several health conditions, more research is needed to confirm this.

Here's a look at some of the preliminary evidence regarding moringa.

Diabetes 

Research suggests moringa may help fight diabetes by balancing blood sugar and reducing related complications, although precisely how it works isn’t completely understood.

One theory is it boosts insulin production, as a small clinical trial published in 2016 suggests. In the study of healthy volunteers, a single 4-gram dose of moringa leaf powder was shown to increase circulating insulin and lower blood sugar. 

Another small clinical trial, this one published in the journal Nutrients in 2018, found moringa may reduce post-meal blood sugar spikes in people with diabetes. The study included 17 people with diabetes and 10 healthy subjects. It found that moringa blunted post-meal glucose spikes by up to 40 mg/dL and shortened the time to peak blood sugar by about 20 minutes. Moringa did not have a significant impact on blood sugar in those without diabetes, however.

Additionally, a 2019 study in rats found moringa may help diabetes by reducing insulin resistance, a condition where cells in the body are less able to absorb blood glucose. Rats in the study were fed a high-fructose diet to induced insulin resistance. After four weeks of treatment with moringa, insulin sensitivity improved, helping to reduce blood sugar. 

The benefits are not believed to be limited to the moringa leaf. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Diabetes found moringa pod extract may help fight diabetes as well. Researchers fed moringa pod extract to diabetic rats and found it significantly reduced the progression of diabetes and related complications.

Cardiovascular Disease 

Extracts of the moringa leaf may help lower cholesterol and improve heart health.

A review published in Frontiers in Pharmacology in 2012 examined the existing clinical and animal trials of moringa leaf and concluded it may be an effective treatment for dyslipidemia, a condition marked by elevated levels of cholesterol, triglycerides (a type of blood fat), or both.

Moringa seeds have traditionally been used to lower blood pressure and improve heart function, a use current research suggests may be effective. A 2017 study in rats found moringa seeds offer cardio-protective benefits and may help treat high blood pressure. Another rat study published in 2019 found moringa seeds may prevent age-related heart and vascular disorders.

While still limited to animal studies, the research suggests the vascular protective effects of moringa may include reducing inflammation associated with oxidative stress and relaxing arteries to improve blood flow. 

Weight Loss

Moringa is often touted as a weight loss aid, but there is limited research to support this.

Some research suggests it may help to treat metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms that include abdominal obesity. It is also being investigated as a weight loss aid in combination with other herbs.

In a clinical trial of 140 overweight adults, a proprietary blend of Curcuma longaMoringa oleifera, and Murraya koeingii combined with modest calorie restriction and physical activity was found to lower body-mass index (BMI) by 2 points over the 16-week study.

Sexual Function

As far as its potential as an aphrodisiac, moringa is used to treat erectile dysfunction in traditional medicine.

While this use has not been proven in human trials, studies in rats suggest moringa may improve sexual function in males by increasing testosterone levels.

Possible Side Effects

Few human studies have tested the health benefits of moringa, but in those that did, moringa was well tolerated without any side effects reported. It has been used for centuries as both food and medicine without any reported adverse effects as well.

However, since moringa may lower blood sugar and blood pressure, do not mix moringa with medications to treat diabetes or blood pressure.

Before you take any kind of dietary supplements to prevent or treat a medical condition, talk to your healthcare provider and pharmacist.

Selection, Preparation, and Storage

Moringa is sold in health-food stores and online in capsule, powder, and extract forms. The dried pods and seeds are also available.

There is no universally recommended dosage for moringa. Follow the directions on product packaging and do not exceed the daily dosage listed on the label.

To eat the seeds, remove the pod and fibrous cover from the seed (like you would with a sunflower) and consume the inner kernel. The seeds can have a laxative effect in some people. It is recommended to start with just one or two seeds a day to see how it affects you before slowly adding more.

Store moringa in air-tight containers, protected from light and heat. 

Common Question

What does moringa taste like?
Moringa powder tastes similar to other greens and has been compared to matcha powder and spirulina. Moringa seeds are an acquired tasted and have been described as being sweet when you first put them in your mouth, but bitter once you chew them.

A Word From Verywell

Although it’s too soon to recommend moringa for any health-related purpose, adding moringa extract to smoothies or sipping the plant’s extract in tea form may boost the nutritional power of your diet. If you’re thinking of using moringa to manage a chronic health problem, make sure to consult your healthcare provider first.

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