Moringa oleifera, also called the drumstick tree or the horseradish tree, is a fast-growing drought-resistant tree, that grows in the foothills of the Himalayas in northern India.
It has over 46 natural antioxidants and 92 nutrients, as well as anti-inflammatory substances.
For example, one serving of Moringa oleifera has four times the calcium present in milk, more vitamin C than 7 oranges, and 3 times the amount of potassium found in a single banana.
In 2008 the National Institute of Health called drumstick the “plant of the year,” acknowledging that “perhaps like no other single species, this powerful plant has the potential to help reverse multiple major environmental problems and provide for many unmet human needs.”
Its leaves have been used as part of traditional medicine for centuries, and the Ayurvedic system of medicine links it with the cure or prevention of about 300 diseases. For example, it is used for skin disorder treatment, sleep improvement, diabetes, stomach disorders, relief for anxiety and depression.
Uses and Health Benefits
Abundant in antioxidants
The leaves are rich in antioxidants, beta-carotene, including vitamin C, quercetin, and chlorogenic acid (phytochemical).
The latter, chlorogenic acid, has been shown to slow cells’ absorption of sugar and animal researchers have found it to lower blood sugar levels. It has also been implicated in weight loss and exerting an anti-obesity effect.
Drumstick leaf powder has heart-healthy benefits, especially in blood lipid control, the prevention of plaque formation in the arteries, and reduced bad cholesterol (LDL) levels.
The isothiocyanates present in this amazing plant are effective in the treatment of abdominal disorders such as gastritis, constipation, and ulcerative colitis. Researchers have demonstrated that extracts from this plant can be considered as an effective herbal alternative to a range of commercially available antihistamines and antacids.
Furthermore, the latest studies have shown that treatment with drumstick leads to reduced ulceration and its effectiveness in curing ulcerative colitis is comparable with the commercially available drug prednisolone.
Horseradish tree provides a rare combination of kaempferol (an essential nutrient that promotes healthy body cellular function), caffeoylquinic acid (another potent anti-inflammatory substance), quercetin (a flavonoid known for its ability to relieve inflammation and neutralize free radicals), beta-sitosterol (a nutrient superstar that blocks LDL formation or build-up and is an anti-inflammatory agent for the body), and zeatin (a plant hormone derived from adenine).
Rich in essential and non-essential amino acids
This plant is considered to have the highest protein ratio of any plant so far identified (contains 18 of the 20 amino acids required by the human body including all nine of the essential amino acids), with the protein in drumstick being comparable in quality to that of soy.
Food scientists once considered that only soy had proteins comparable to dairy products, meat, and eggs. Now they have added this plant to that very short list. Some even consider drumstick protein better than soy protein as it is non-allergic.
As a high-protein food and a rich source of the amino acid tryptophan, drumstick benefits neurotransmitter functions, including those that produce the “feel good” hormone serotonin.
Studies have concluded that treatment with drumstick extracts has the potential to alter brain monoamines like serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, and it even extends its protection against monoaminergic deficiencies related to Alzheimer’s disease.
Moreover, the plant is rich in compounds and antioxidants that improve thyroid health, which makes it useful for maintaining high energy levels plus fighting fatigue, low libido, depression, melancholia, mood swings, sleep disorder, and insomnia.
Drumstick contains high concentrations of polyphenols (compounds found abundantly in natural plant food sources that have antioxidant properties) in its flowers and leaves that protect the liver against toxicity, oxidation, and damage.
The extracts of the seeds and leaves of drumstick contain beneficial substances that exhibit anti-bacterial properties.
According to a study published in the June 2010 issue of “Bayero Journal of Pure and Applied Sciences,” extract from this leaf plant inhibited the growth of food-borne microorganisms such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus, Enterobacter aerogenes, and Escherichia coli.
The seed extract was effective only against Salmonella typhimurium and E.coli, and prevented the growth of fungal species Rhizopus and Mucor.
The leaves contain sulfur. This mineral is present in every single cell of the body and is an essential ingredient for keratin and collagen. Keratin is a rigid compound which gives the skin rigidity and strength and collagen is an elastic compound that gives flexibility and softness to the skin.
For this reason, more and more cosmetic companies are starting to include extracts from this plant in their products. The lotions and creams can be applied topically on the desired areas, thus allowing the nutrients to soak into and rejuvenate the skin.
The plant appears to have anti-diabetic effects, likely due to beneficial plant substances contained in the leaves, including isothiocyanates (these compounds can also be found in cruciferous or “cabbage family” vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, kale, turnips, collards, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, rutabaga, bok choy, horseradish, radish, and watercress).
One study found that women who took seven grams of drumstick leaf powder every day for 3 months reduced their fasting blood sugar levels by 13.5%.
Adjuvant in bronchial asthma
A 2008 research published in the “Indian Journal of Pharmacology” investigated the effects of seed kernels of drumstick on bronchial asthma, airway inflammation due to spasmodic constriction of the bronchi.
In the study, 20 patients with bronchial asthma were treated with 3 grams of powdered, dried seed kernels for 3 weeks. The results concluded a notable improvement in asthma symptoms and a considerable reduction in asthmatic attacks. No side effects were observed.
Side effects of Moringa oleifera leaf (drumstick)
Different side effects may occur from consuming drumstick flowers, roots or bark, and their extracts, as these compounds contain some chemicals that appear to be toxic when eaten.
The leaves have been used safely in doses up to 6 grams/day for up to three weeks. In addition, drumstick can have laxative effects in large quantities.
Drumstick is not recommended for lactating mothers and pregnant women. The chemical substances found in the bark, flowers, and roots could cause a contraction of the uterus.