Moringa oleifera has been revered for thousands of years for its health benefits and is considered to be one of nature’s most nutritious foods. Rich in antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and phytochemicals, it has been used to treat everything from diabetes to snake bites to parasites (and 300+ other conditions!). While individuals centuries ago may not have been aware of exactly why moringa was so powerful, studies today are beginning to reveal what makes this “miracle tree” so beneficial to our overall health.
While there are numerous studies on rats, mice, and other animals demonstrating the potential health benefits of moringa, there are very few that have been done on actual humans. Not only are human studies long and expensive, but there are obvious ethical questions that are raised when considering using humans for some studies. For these reasons most researchers use animals, then use those results to get a better idea of what they would see in humans. Unfortunately, the results in animal studies don’t always translate to humans (we’re not mice after all) and many animal studies are also poorly designed, conducted, and analyzed.
So, here we take a quick look at two science-based benefits of moringa—as demonstrated in actual human studies.
Beneficial For Diabetes
A 2010 study looked at the effects of moringa for diabetes. The study included fifty-five non-insulin dependent individuals, age 30-60 years old, with type-2 diabetes. They were divided into three groups - Group A received 8g of moringa leaf powder per day for 40 days, Group B was given 6g of Azadirachta indica seed powder per day, and Group C did not receive any treatment and acted as the control. At the end of the study, while the control group showed slightly higher blood sugar levels, both the moringa and indica seed groups had a significant reduction in blood sugar, as well as improvements in glucose tolerance. Researchers also found that both Group A and B had significantly reduced total cholesterol, triglyceride, and LDL levels while leaving HDL levels relatively unchanged. Overall, the moringa group demonstrated the most significant improvements.
Helps With Menopause
Estrogen possesses antioxidant properties as well as the ability to lower LDL and increase HDL. Unfortunately, during menopause, the ovaries stop producing estrogen, which results in an increased risk of a range of potential health issues. A 2014 study looked at the potential benefits of moringa supplementation on postmenopausal women. Ninety women, 45-60 years old, were put into 3 groups - one group received 7g of moringa leaf powder per day for 3 months, the second group received 9g of amaranth leaf powder, and the third group acted as the control and received no supplementation. The moringa group showed the most significant increase in serum levels of antioxidants retinol, ascorbic acid, and glutathione peroxidase. This group showed a significant increase in serum superoxide dismutase levels as well. The moringa group also demonstrated a significantly higher reduction in malondialdehyde (a marker of oxidative stress) than either of the other two groups.
Bonus: Potential Uses For Cancer Treatment
While the above studies were done on actual humans, we thought it would also be interesting to note studies have also been done on human cells to look at moringa’s potential effects on cancer. These studies were done on cultured human cells (ie, actual human cells tested in a test tube or culture dish), not mice, rats, or other animals. Results suggest that moringa may possess chemopreventive effects, thanks to being rich in polyphenols, polyflavonoids, and glucosinolates. Several of such studies have shown that moringa extract may inhibit the growth of and/or kill the abnormal cells in various cancers and potentially help increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy. It will be exciting to see if these promising results translate to additional treatment options in the future.
Moringa has been used for generations to help improve human health. While recent studies have demonstrated what traditional practitioners have long known, we’re looking forward to seeing more studies in the future that help explain the far reaching health benefits of this amazing plant.
Berkovich L, Earon G, Ron I, Rimmon A, Vexler A, Lev-Ari S. Moringa Oleifera aqueous leaf extract down-regulates nuclear factor-kappaB and increases cytotoxic effect of chemotherapy in pancreatic cancer cells. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2013;13:212. Published 2013 Aug 19. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-13-212
Bracken MB. Why animal studies are often poor predictors of human reactions to exposure. J R Soc Med. 2009;102(3):120–122. doi:10.1258/jrsm.2008.08k033
Karim N.A., Ibrahim M.D., Kntayya S.B., Rukayadi Y., Hamid H.A., Razis A.F. Moringa oleiferaLam: Targeting Chemoprevention. Asian Pac. J. Cancer Prev. 2016;17:3675–3686. Review.
Khalafalla MM, Abdellatef E, Dafalla HM, et al. Active principle from Moringa oleifera Lam leaves effective against two leukemias and a hepatocarcinoma. Afr J Biotechnol 2010;9:8467-71.
Khor KZ, Lim V, Moses EJ, Abdul Samad N. The In Vitro and In VivoAnticancer Properties of Moringa oleifera. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2018;2018:1071243. Published 2018 Nov 14. doi:10.1155/2018/1071243
Kumari DJ. Hypoglycaemic effect of Moringa oleifera and Azadirachta indica in type 2 diabetes mellitus. Bioscan 2010;5:211-4.
Kushwaha S, Chawla P, Kochhar A. Effect of supplementation of drumstick (Moringa oleifera) and amaranth (Amaranthus tricolor) leaves powder on antioxidant profile and oxidative status among postmenopausal women. J Food Sci Technol. 2014;51(11):3464–3469. doi:10.1007/s13197-012-0859-9Matic I, Guidi A, Kenzo M, Mattei M, Galgani A. Investigation of medicinal plants traditionally used as dietary supplements: A review on Moringa oleifera. J Public Health Afr. 2018;9(3):841. Published 2018 Dec 21. doi:10.4081/jphia.2018.841