Moringa may be trending, but this tried-and-true edible plant is nothing new. Find out why this superfood is here to stay, plus how to prepare it yourself.
- Written by Genevieve Howland
- Updated on December 07, 2019
Moringa is getting tons of buzz lately. But don’t think all this attention and praise means it’s a totally new superfood or supplement—it’s anything but. This tried-and-true edible plant has ancient roots.
If it’s new to you, read on to learn more. In this article, we’ll explore:
On this page…
- What Moringa Is
- The Health Benefits of Moringa
- Where to Buy It and How to Use It
- Side Effects of Moringa
What Is Moringa?
The leaves, bark, flowers, fruit, seeds, and root of the moringa plant have been a source of food and medicine for thousands of years. It’s high in antioxidants and bioactive plant compounds.
The plant is native to the sub-Himalayan areas of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, as well as the tropics. In those areas you’ll find it fresh, but you’re more likely to find moringa in capsule, oil, tea, seed, and powder form in the U.S.
Health Benefits of Moringa
Used traditionally as medicine, we’re only now beginning to study the health benefits of moringa scientifically.
What we do know is the plant is rich in vitamins and minerals, particularly protein, vitamin B6, B2, vitamin A, magnesium, and iron. These nutrients work to support overall health and well-being. It also packs powerful antioxidants, like vitamin C, beta-carotene, quercetin, and chlorogenic acid, to protect cells from oxidative stress and damage.
Here’s a deeper look at how this all helps our bodies:
Lowers blood sugar
Multiple studies show consuming the plant can improve blood sugar response. This is likely, at least in part, due to its fiber and protein content. This nutritional profile helps down and level out blood sugar spikes. (source, source, source) And balanced blood sugar is crucial for hormonal health, a healthy weight, and energy levels.
As with all plant-based foods, a number of studies show moringa contains phytochemicals that act as anti-inflammatories. (source, source) Because inflammation is at the root of many diseases, the plant may help protect the body from longterm issues like arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and even chronic pain.
Moringa may also lower cholesterol, thanks to high levels of fiber and plant sterols. In a rabbit study, it lowered cholesterol and reduced plaque in the arteries as effectively as medication, without the side effects.
Protects against arsenic toxicity
During one promising study, scientists gave moringa to mice exposed to arsenic. Amazingly, the plant mitigated the usual effects of arsenic, including cardiac, liver, and renal function problems.
While the exact mechanisms at play are unknown, scientists speculate that the plant’s high antioxidant levels and plentiful phenolic acid compounds counter the damage arsenic wreaks on our delicate biochemistry.
Increases sex drive
A 2015 study found moringa improves sexual function—in stressed-out mice anyway. The exact mechanism is unknown, but the plant appears to increase libido.
Increases breast milk production
Early evidence suggests that taking 250 mg of a specific moringa supplement (Natalac) twice daily after childbirth increases milk supply, but it’s important to note that safety and efficacy haven’t been sufficiently studied yet. (source)
Supports brain health
Thanks to high levels of antioxidants, like vitamin C and vitamin E, moringa counters the oxidative damage underlying the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. It’s also a nootropic, a substance that improves cognitive function and memory.
Protects the liver
How? Oxidative stress and inflammation act as two of the driving forces behind liver damage. Moringa’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties protect against that hepatic damage.
Boasts antimicrobial properties
This plant produces antibacterial substances to protect itself from bacteria in its environment. We receive these same antibacterial properties when we eat or apply it topically. In fact, in a 2011 study, researchers discovered that moringa extract inhibits the growth of S. aureus, V. parahaemolyticus, E. faecalis, and A. caviae.
Traditionally, many use moringa as a poultice to speed wound healing. We now have research to support what those who have used this plant for years have always known: Applying moringa to wounds can enhance wound healing.
By promoting coagulation, moringa encourages blood clotting at the site of a wound. This shortens the time it takes to repair damage and speeds wound healing time.
Reduces the severity of asthma
In one of the few human clinical trials on the plant, adults with asthma took 3 grams of moringa twice daily for three weeks. Moringa not only reduced asthma symptoms but also reduced the severity of asthma attacks. (source)
As a protein-rich food, moringa packs an assortment of amino acids. Some of which (most notably tryptophan) are the backbone of sleep-inducing hormones, like melatonin, priming the body for improved and more restful sleep.
Moringa Side Effects
- In the amounts normally eaten as food, the leaves, seeds, and fruit are safe to enjoy.
- In medicinal amounts, up to 6 grams of moringa per day for 3 weeks have been used.
It’s important to avoid eating the root and its extracts. These parts of the plant may contain a toxic substance that can cause paralysis and death. (source)
If you’re pregnant women, do not take moringa supplements. It’s also important to avoid the flower, root, and bark—these parts of the plant have traditionally been used to induce miscarriage. (source)
And as with all supplements, always talk to your healthcare provider about what’s right for you.
Where to Buy Moringa
What Does Moringa Taste Like?
- If eaten raw, it has a little bite, like watercress or radicchio.
- When cooked, it mellows out a bit, and is more like spinach, but with a somewhat nutty flavor.
How to Use Moringa
In Asia, cooks use nearly every part of the plant.
- Leaves: Cooks use leaves like spinach or dry them for powders.
- Seed pods: Cooks use seed pods as vegetables in curries and soups.
- Seeds: Cooks eat seeds like peas, roast them like nuts, or press them to extract the useful oil.
- Flowers: Cooks even use the flowers—they’re fried like squash flowers.
In the U.S., moringa is mostly available in powdered form or in a liquid shot.
There are tons of ways to use the powder. Try these ideas:
- Sprinkle on top of the salad. Try my raw enzyme salad.
- Add it to water or milk/milk alternative, hot or cold, to make a tea or latte. (Some say it tastes a lot like matcha.) Try my golden milk latte recipe, but use 1 teaspoon of the powder in place of turmeric paste.
- Stir it into pasta sauce. It works really well in my pesto—simply add 1 teaspoon of moringa powder per batch.
- Mix it into soups or stews. Add 1 tablespoon of the powder to my mega mineral soup.
- Add it to smoothies. It tastes particularly good with my tropical smoothie—just swap the spirulina for 1 teaspoon moringa powder.
- Add 1/2 teaspoon to chia pudding
- Stir it into dips like guacamole or hummus
- Add it to baked goods like muffins
- Mix it into salad dressing like this Green Goddess recipe.