Ingredients and Uses

Can You Eat Moringa Leaves? How Do They Detox Your Body?

Reviewed By Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Ionut Ignat, (RDN, PHD, MD)
by
Can You Eat Moringa Leaves? How Do They Detox Your Body? Hyderabd040-395603080 October 30, 2019

Moringa leaves are known to possess high protein and phytochemical content. They are touted to be a replacement for animal protein and have been used in traditional medicine for millennia (1).

Both Asian and African forms of medicine use them to manage anemia, asthma, arthritis, obesity, sexual dysfunction, and even liver disorders. What makes these leaves so special? Is it safe to consume them? Read more on these lines in the following sections. Let’s begin.

Moringa Leaves: In Detail

Moringa Leaves Pinit

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Moringa is also known as ‘drumstick’ or ‘horseradish’ or ‘malunggay.’ It (Moringa oleifera) is a tropical tree and is cultivated and consumed in parts of Asia and Africa.

Interestingly, this plant is a distant relative of broccoli, cabbage, and kale. It also has a similar nutritional profile. The leaves of the moringa plant have a high medicinal value (2).

Moringa leaves are great sources of protein. They contain all the essential amino acids. These leaves are particularly rich in potassium, calcium, phosphorous, iron, vitamins A, D, C, and β-carotene (1), (3).

The moringa tree is also called the ‘Miracle Tree,’ ‘God’s Gift To Man’, and ‘Savior of the Poor’ because it has been used to treat malnutrition and various other disorders (2).

Moringa leaves help deal with cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and inflammatory disorders (3). The following section has a detailed account of their health benefits. Take a look!

9 Benefits Of Having Moringa Leaves

Thanks to their high antioxidant content, moringa leaves can prevent lipid peroxidation and liver disorders. They also boost hemoglobin content and breast milk yield.

1. Boost Hemoglobin And Iron Levels

A cup of chopped moringa leaves has about 0.84 mg of iron, 8 mcg of folate, and 1588 IU of vitamin A (4). Consuming these leaves may be beneficial for pregnant women and women dealing with anemia.

Rat studies show that moringa leaves show a positive effect on blood parameters. These include platelet count, hemoglobin levels, packed cell volume (red blood cell volume), maternal anemia, etc.
Optimal levels of iron and hemoglobin in women prevent complications during pregnancy and delivery, including low birth weight (5), (6).

Moreover, iron absorption is vitamin A-dependent. Since moringa leaves are good sources of vitamin A, they also boost the rate of iron retention. Hence, you will not face rapid iron reserve depletion in your body (7).

2. Normalize Lipid Profile

Alterations in the levels and composition of lipids in your blood can lead to dyslipidemia. Dyslipidemia could be congenital (by birth) or a result of an unhealthy lifestyle (1).

An imbalance in your lipid profile is linked to atherosclerosis, diabetes, and obesity. There are many plant-based remedies to manage dyslipidemia and other lipid disorders.

Animal studies report lipid-lowering properties in moringa leaves (1). Moringa leaf extracts brought down total cholesterol levels in animals on a high-fat diet. In rat studies, the treated animals showed a 14% reduction in total cholesterol levels as compared to a 30% increase in the levels in animals left untreated.

Moringa leaves also increase the levels of good cholesterol (HDL) and balance your lipid profile (1).

3. May Work As A Natural Protein Supplement

Moringa leaves have high levels of protein with all the essential amino acids. Hence, they can supplement animal protein in your diet (8), (9).

Dried moringa leaves have higher levels of leucine, isoleucine, threonine, tyrosine, methionine, phenylalanine, lysine, and histidine. Alanine and leucine are the most abundant, while cysteine and methionine are present in the lowest concentrations (8).

Including these leaves in your diet is a good idea because a high-amino acid diet boosts your immunity. These nutrients protect your GI tract from parasites and microbial infections. The leaves help in replenishing your body’s lost protein content after pathogenic attacks (8).

4. May Treat Inflammatory Diseases

May Treat Inflammatory Diseases Pinit

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The drumstick leaves are used in African folk medicine to treat pain and rheumatism. Scientists postulate that the bioactive ingredients of these leaves play a crucial role in managing pain and inflammation (10), (11).

Their extract inhibits the secretion of pro-inflammatory compounds. It also keeps nitric oxide (NO), prostaglandins, cellular messengers (cytokines), and several other components of the immune system under check (12).

With potent anti-inflammatory and anti-nociceptive properties, moringa leaves can relieve several acute/chronic inflammatory disorders to an extent. Studies report the best recovery in the cases of rheumatoid arthritis, edema, ulcers, colitis, irritable bowel disease, and asthma (13).

5. May Increase Sexual Performance

Various herbal extracts have been used as aphrodisiacs. They improve sexual performance and desire. Some of them can also correct erectile and sexual dysfunction caused due to stress (14).

Moringa leaf extracts have similar properties. They inhibit the hydroxylation of testosterone, thus enhancing sexual potential. Their antioxidant capacity reduces the depletion of testosterone-producing Leydig cells (14).

As a part of clinical trials, rats were subjected to oxidative stress. They were then treated with moringa leaf extracts to study these effects. The experiments show the treated rats to have higher levels of spermatozoa (14).

They also exhibit dopaminergic (dopamine-stimulating) action on your brain. Dopamine and testosterone together enhance sexual desire, penile blood flow (vasodilation), and erection in males (14).

6. Can Prevent Weight Gain

Moringa leaves contain abundant isothiocyanates, which are a class of bioactive ingredients. These help in the reduction of body weight and metabolic disorders like type 2 diabetes (15).

Rats fed on these leaves put on 18% less weight compared to their untreated counterparts. Moringa isothiocyanates stimulate lipolysis in adipose tissues. They trigger the breakdown of accumulated fat in the body to yield free fatty acids and triglycerides (15).

These active molecules operate at a molecular level. They interfere with the expression of genes involved in weight gain/lipid accumulation pathways. Hence, having moringa leaves may lower obesity and cut the risk of organ damage induced by lipid accumulation (15).

7. Can Enhance Breast Milk Yield

Can Enhance Breast Milk Yield Pinit

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Another benefit of this miracle herb is enhancing the breast milk yield (galactagogue). Moringa capsules have been prescribed to nursing mothers to promote breastfeeding (16), (17).

A study performed on postpartum mothers demonstrated the positive effect of moringa leaf capsules. Those taking these capsules had higher prolactin levels. Their newborns too were comparatively heavier (17).

Lactation significantly improved in women who took moringa capsules for about two months. It is a common practice in the Philippines to use malunggay leaves to augment breast milk production (16), (17).

8. Can Protect Your Liver

Moringa leaves have been extensively studied for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Chemical studies identified the presence of quercetin, gallic acid, chlorogenic acid, glucosinolates, tannins, and saponins in them (18).

Molecules like quercetin have substantial effects on liver health. They reduce the levels of hepatic enzymes, which include aminotransferase (AST), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), creatinine, and alkaline phosphatase (ALP). As a result, your liver and kidneys stay protected from drug- and inflammation-induced injury (18).

In guinea pigs, moringa leaf extract could prevent non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) by reducing the lipid content in their livers. The extract could also control the expression of genes involved in the uptake of hepatic lipids (18).

9. Possess Antioxidant Effects

Moringa leaf extracts scavenge the stress-causing free radicals from your body. They are known for their antioxidant properties. Terpenoids, saponins, tannins, and flavonoids are the common phytochemicals found in them (18).

Phenolic compounds are the primary antioxidants. They inactivate free radicals, prevent decomposition of complex molecules into free radicals, and neutralize the existing free radicals (18).

It is because of this property that moringa leaves help manage chronic disorders like diabetes, hypertension, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and even cancer (18).

Mind-blowing Moringa!

Moringa has another ability – it purifies water (19).

River water can contain harmful particles, bacteria, and microorganisms. Not all places can have a water purifier. But having a moringa plant close to a water body can ensure good water quality.

You can add crushed moringa seeds to vats of water to get rid of harmful particles. The particulate matter settles down with the seed bits at the bottom of the water body.

An hour of this treatment should give you clean water, which can be collected from the top vats.

Let us take a look at the nutritional and phytochemical details of moringa leaves. These components are the driving force behind the above-discussed therapeutic applications. Scroll on!

Phytonutrition of Moringa Leaves

NutrientUnit1 cup, chopped or 21 g
Waterg16.52
Energykcal13
EnergykJ56
Proteing1.97
Total lipid (fat)g0.29
Ashg0.47
Carbohydrate, by differenceg1.74
Fiber, total dietaryg0.4
Minerals
Calcium, Camg39
Iron, Femg0.84
Magnesium, Mgmg9
Phosphorus, Pmg24
Potassium, Kmg71
Sodium, Namg2
Zinc, Znmg0.13
Copper, Cumg0.022
Manganese, Mnmg0.223
Selenium, Seµg0.2
Vitamins
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acidmg10.9
Thiaminmg0.054
Riboflavinmg0.139
Niacinmg0.466
Pantothenic acidmg0.026
Vitamin B-6mg0.252
Folate, totalµg8
Folate, foodµg8
Folate, DFEµg8
Vitamin A, RAEµg79
Vitamin A, IUIU1588
Amino Acids
Tryptophang0.03
Threonineg0.086
Isoleucineg0.095
Leucineg0.166
Lysineg0.113
Methionineg0.026
Cystineg0.029
Phenylalanineg0.102
Tyrosineg0.073
Valineg0.128
Arginineg0.112
Histidineg0.041
Alanineg0.148
Aspartic acidg0.193
Glutamic acidg0.217
Glycineg0.109
Prolineg0.095
Serineg0.087
Other
Isorhamnetinmg0.1
Kaempferolmg1.2
Quercetinmg3.5

The leaves contain the highest amount of glucosinolates found in the moringa plant. They also contain potent flavonoids like quercetin, kaempferol, and isorhamnetin (20).

Carotenoids, such as luteolin, lutein, zeaxanthin, luteoxanthin, are recorded in the foliage, flowers, and seeds of this plant. These leaves are also good sources of vitamin E, omega-3 (ω-3), and omega-6 (ω-6) acids (PUFAs) (20).

Now, the obvious concern would be: How should you take moringa leaves to make the most of their phytonutritional profile?

What Are The Different Ways To Take Moringa Leaves?

What Are The Different Ways To Take Moringa Leaves Pinit

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You can find moringa leaves in the market in various forms. The most preferred option is dried leaves. These are edible and have a horde of uses. Get the leaves here.

If you don’t like the feel of whole leaves, moringa leaf powder is an excellent option. Buy it here.

You can add a spoonful of the leaf powder to hot or cold water and drink it up. Brewing a cup of moringa tea is another fabulous idea.

You can also blend this leaf powder into smoothies, protein shakes, meal shakes, porridges, and soups.

The leaves can also be added to readymade or home-made salad dressing. Toss in the veggies as well, and you are sorted with the day’s protein requirement.

Add fresh and clean moringa leaves directly to the salad. They taste somewhat like arugula – bittersweet.

If none of these options looks impressive to you, you can check out moringa capsules. Buy them here.

With so many ways to use them, moringa leaves are on their way to become the next superfood!

You should make them a part of your diet. Before you get there, it is better to check for the potential risks and pitfalls. Read the next section for details.

What Are The Side Effects Of Moringa Leaves?

No adverse effects have been reported with using moringa leaves. Neither human nor animal studies have sufficient data to prove their toxicity (21).

Laboratory experiments on rats concluded that doses of up to 2000 mg/kg of moringa leaves were safe. A human study was conducted with whole leaf powder at a dose of 8 g per day for 40 days. No toxicity or side effects were observed in this study (21).

In Summary

Moringa plant has been attributed to several therapeutic benefits. Of all the plant parts, moringa leaves have been extensively studied for their antioxidant properties – thanks to their high phenolic content.

You can consume them raw or dry. Moringa leaf powder has found vast applications in diet regimens. Leaf capsules are a good investment too. Check with your healthcare provider for a suitable dose.

If you have further queries related to moringa leaves and their usage, post them in the comments box below. Relevant suggestions and feedback are also welcome.

Until next time, make merry with moringa!

References

  1. Therapeutic Potential of Moringa oleifera Leaves in Chronic Hyperglycemia and Dyslipidemia: A Review” Frontiers in Pharmacology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
  2. Moringa — the next superfood?” News, The Reagents of the University of California, University of California.
  3. Moringa Leaves” Plants for Human Health Institute, North Carolina State University.
  4. Drumstick leaves, raw” Food Search, National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release, Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture.
  5. The Effect of Moringa oleifera Leaves on Blood Parameters and Body Weights of Albino Rats and Rabbits ” Jordan Journal of Biological Sciences, University of Khartoum Repository, University of Khartoum.
  6. Effect of Moringa Oleifera Leaf Extracts Supplementation in Preventing Maternal Anemia and Low-Birth-Weight” International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications, Academia.
  7. Effect of Beta Carotene from Dehydrated Drumstick Leaf Powder on the Haematological Indices of Non-Pregnant Non-Lactating Young Women Aged18 – 25 Yrs (Preliminary Trials)” Research Article, International Journal of Pharmaceutical & Biological Archives.
  8. Nutritional characterization of Moringa (Moringa oleifera Lam.) leaves” Full Length Research Paper, African Journal of Biotechnology, CiteSeerX, The Pennsylvania State University.
  9. Leaf Protein and Mineral Content across the “Miracle Tree” Genus Moringa” PLoS One, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
  10. [Contribution to the study of the anti-inflammatory activity of Moringa oleifera (moringaceae)].” Dakar Medical., US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
  11. Bioactive Extract from Moringa oleifera Inhibits the Pro-inflammatory Mediators in Lipopolysaccharide Stimulated Macrophages” Pharmacognosy Magazine, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
  12. Anti-inflammatory effect of Moringa oleifera Lam. seeds on acetic acid-induced acute colitis in rats” Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
  13. In vivo anti-arthritic and anti-nociceptive effects of ethanol extract of Moringa oleifera leaves on complete Freund’s adjuvant (CFA)-induced arthritis in rats” Integrative Medicine Research, Elsevier, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
  14. Moringa oleifera extract enhances sexual performance in stressed rats” Journal of Zhejiang University Science B, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
  15. “Isothiocyanate-rich Moringa oleifera extract reduces weight gain, insulin resistance and hepatic gluconeogenesis in mice” Author manuscript, HHS Public Access, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
  16. “A Review of Herbal and Pharmaceutical Galactagogues for Breast-Feeding” The Ochsner Journal, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
  17. Moringa oleifera Moringa oleifera (Malunggay) as a Galactagogue for Breastfeeding Mothers: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials” The Philippines Journal of Pediatrics, Academia.
  18. Bioactive Components in Moringa Oleifera Leaves Protect against Chronic Disease” Antioxidants, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
  19. Moringaoleifera: Nature is Most Nutritious and Multi-Purpose Tree” International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications, CiteSeerX, The Pennsylvania State University.
  20. Phytochemicals of Moringa oleifera: a review of their nutritional, therapeutic and industrial significance” 3 Biotech, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
  21. Review of the Safety and Efficacy of Moringa oleifera” Review, PHYTOTHERAPY RESEARCH, Academia.

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Swathi Handoo

Swathi holds a Master’s degree in Biotechnology and has worked in places where actual science and research happen. Blending her love for writing with science, Swathi writes for Health and Wellness and simplifies complex topics for readers from all walks of life.And on the days she doesn’t write, she learns and performs Kathak, sings Carnatic music compositions, makes plans to travel, and obsesses over cleanliness.