(NaturalNews) Moringa oleifera, also called the drumstick tree, is a tree that grows in the foothills of the Himalayas in northern India. It is also cultivated throughout Central and South America and Africa due to the ease with which it grows in tropical and sub-tropical environments.
While moringa remains relatively unknown in the West, it has developed a reputation in its native lands for its unusually high nutritional value. Indeed, health researchers have started to give it nicknames such as "The Miracle Tree" and "The Elixir of Long Life" due to its miraculous healing abilities. Let's take a closer look at the health benefits of moringa and see whether these names are justified.
Moringa's health benefits
Antioxidant activity - According to analysis, the powdered leaves of the moringa tree (which is the way most people consume moringa) contains 46 types of antioxidants. One serving, in fact, contains 22 percent of our recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamin C, one of the most important antioxidants on Earth, and a whopping 272 percent of our RDI of vitamin A. Antioxidants help to neutralize the devastating impact of free radicals, thereby guarding us from cancer and degenerative diseases such as macular degeneration and cystic fibrosis.
Rich in amino acids - The leaves of the moringa tree contain 18 amino acids, eight of which are essential amino acids, making them a "complete" protein - a rarity in the plant world. Indeed, moringa's protein content rivals that of meat, making it an excellent source of protein for vegetarians and vegans. Protein is, of course, needed to build muscle, cartilage, bones, skin and blood and is also needed to produce enzymes and hormones.
Calcium and magnesium - One serving of moringa leaves provides us with approximately 125 percent of our RDI of calcium and 61 percent of our RDI of magnesium. These two trace minerals work in synergy; while calcium is needed to build strong bones and teeth, we also need magnesium to help us absorb it. Since moringa contains generous quantities of both, it is especially good at guarding us from osteoporosis and other bone conditions.
Extensive nutrient concentrations - Moringa leaves contain 90 different types of nutrients, including four times more calcium than milk, four times more potassium than bananas, four times more vitamin A than carrots, 50 times more vitamin B3 than peanuts, 36 times more magnesium than eggs, and 25 times more iron than spinach. It also includes high amounts of additional nutrients such as dietary fiber, iodine, lutein, zinc, selenium, zeatin and beta-carotene.
Produces a healthy oil - Although moringa is mostly celebrated for its leaves, its seeds also have a worthwhile purpose: the pods contain almost 40 percent of an edible, non-drying oil called "ben oil," which is comparable to olive oil in nutritional and antioxidant value. Ben oil is odorless, sweet-tasting, clear and - most importantly - lasts indefinitely. In fact, moringa leaf powder is also immune from spoiling, making both the tree's oil and leaves excellent survival foods.
Nourishes the skin - Due to their trace mineral content, dried and powdered moringa leaves are great for nourishing the skin. Indeed, more and more cosmetic companies are starting to include moringa extracts in their products for this reason. Moringa creams and lotions can be applied topically on the desired areas, thus allowing the nutrients to soak into, and rejuvenate, the skin.
Regularly consuming moringa leaves has also been linked to lower blood pressure, improved digestion and mood, immune-boosting effects and, thanks to their high fiber levels and low fat and calorie levels, weight loss.
About the author: Michael Ravensthorpe is an independent writer whose research interests include nutrition, alternative medicine, and bushcraft. He is the creator of the website, Spiritfoods, through which he promotes the world's healthiest foods.