By Prof. Dr. Farah Khan
Chairperson Department of Botany LCWU
Moringa oleifera (known as the miracle tree, because of a vast variety of uses), horseradish, drumstick or bottle tree, is an important and beneficial plant of genus Moringa belonging to a small family of plants i.e. Moringaceae, an inhabitant of tropical and subtropical areas.
This genus consists of a total of 13 species including small herb like plants to huge trees. The three widely cultivated species are Moringa oleifera, Moringa stenopetala, Moringa peregrina. Others are Moringa arborea, Moringa borziana, Moringa concanensis, Moringa drouhardii, Moringa hildebrandtii, Moringa longituba, Moringa ovalifolia, Moringa pygmaea Verdc., Moringa rivae, Moringa ruspoliana.
These are cosmopolitan i.e. worldwide in distribution but are richly found in northern and northwestern India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Madagascar, Africa and the Arabian Peninsula etc. They are infamous for their fruits and flowers, due to high content of different minerals, nutrients and vitamins.
Moringa oleifera is the most cultivated tree among all these species which is found inSouth Asia, where it grows in the Himalayan foothills from northeastern Pakistan to Northern West Bengal, India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, West Asia, the Arabian peninsula, East and West Africa, Southern Florida, throughout the West Indies, and from Mexico to Peru, Paraguay and Brazil.
- It is used for the treatment of many different diseases like asthma, diabetes, obesity, symptoms of menopause.
- Oil extracted from it is good for use in perfume and hair care products. It may also act at the machine lubricants.
- Moringa is also used in food because of high content of vitamins and minerals and due to the fact that it can be grown cheaply and easily.
- Dried Moringa leaves are used for fighting the malnutrition problems in many countries like India and Africa. Similarly, the immature green pods (drumsticks) are prepared similarly to green beans, while the seeds are removed from more mature pods and cooked like peas or roasted like nuts.
- The leaves are cooked and used like spinach, and they are also dried and powdered for use as a condiment.
- The seed cake (residue left after the extraction of oil) can be used as fertilizers and to purify well water to remove salt from it.
- Moringa is an antioxidant and also used as a “waterpill” (diuretic).
- It helps to prevent spasms, increase sex drive (as an aphrodisiac), prevent pregnancy, boost the immune system, and increase breast milk
- It is a germ-killer or drying agent which when applied on skin protect it from athlete’s foot, dandruff, gum disease(gingivitis), snakebites, warts, and wounds.
- Edema (a disease characterized by buildup of fluid in specific tissues of body) can be treated by Moringa due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
- Moringaprotect the liver from anti-tubercular drugs and can quicken its repair process.
- Moringa extracts can protect body from cancer due to some of its magical properties. One of this property is the presence of niazimicin (a compound which suppress the development of cancer cells).
- Moringa due to its antibacterial, antifungal, and antimicrobial properties, moringa extracts can combat infections caused by Salmonella, Rhizopus, and coli.
- Moringa can helps to make bones stronger as it contains calcium and phosphorous and thus it can also protect arthritis.
- Cardiac damage can be protected due to the presence of powerful antioxidants found in Moringa.
- Moringa can treat diabetics as it can help to reduce the amount of glucose in the blood, as well as sugar and protein in the urine.
- Moringa contains eyesight-improving properties thanks to its high antioxidant levels. Moringa may stop the dilation of retinal vessels, prevent the thickening of capillary membranes, and inhibit retinal dysfunction.
Prof. Dr. Farah Khan is an academician and chairperson Department of Botany at Lahore College Women University Lahore.