Another of my professional passions is Moringa oleifera, which is a rapidly-growing tree (also known as the horseradish or drumstick tree), that is native to the sub-Himalayan tracts of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. This tree was utilized by the ancient Romans, Greeks and Egyptians; it is now widely cultivated and has become naturalized in many locations in the tropics. It is a perennial softwood tree with timber of low quality, but which for centuries has been advocated for traditional medicinal and industrial uses. It is already an important crop in India, Ethiopia, the Philippines and the Sudan, and is being grown in West, East and South Africa, tropical Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, Florida and the Pacific islands.

All parts of the Moringa tree are edible and have long been consumed by humans, and it has been used for biomass production, animal forage, biogas, blue dye (wood), fencing (living trees), fertilizer, green manure (from leaves), gum (from tree trunks), honey- and sugar cane juice-clarifier (powdered seeds), honey (flower nectar), medicine (all plant parts), ornamental plantings, biopesticide, pulp (wood), rope (bark), tannin for tanning hides (bark and gum), water purification (powdered seeds). Moringa seed oil (accounting for 30-40% of the weight of the seeds), also known as Ben oil, is a sweet non-sticking, non-drying oil, that resists rancidity. It has been used in salads, for fine machine lubrication, and in the manufacture of perfume and hair care products. In the West, one of the best known uses for Moringa is the use of powdered seeds to flocculate contaminants and purify drinking water, but the seeds are also eaten green, roasted, powdered and steeped for tea or used in curries. This tree has in recent times been advocated as an outstanding indigenous source of highly digestible protein, Ca, Fe, Vitamin C, and carotenoids suitable for utilization in many of the so-called “developing” regions of the world where undernourishment is a major concern.

The nutritional properties of Moringa are now so well known that there seems to be little doubt of the substantial health benefit to be realized by consumption of Moringa leaf powder in situations where starvation is imminent. In many cultures throughout the tropics, differentiation between food and medicinal uses of plants (e.g. bark, fruit, leaves, nuts, seeds, tubers, roots, flowers), is very difficult since plant uses span both categories and this is deeply ingrained in the traditions and the fabric of the community. Nonetheless, well controlled and well documented clinical studies are still by and large absent from the scientific literature and are greatly needed.

Interview with the InFocus Africa Health Network’s health correspondent Linord Moudou, 2013.

Viewpoint on “superfoods” in the Johns Hopkins Health Review.

A recent lecture on Moringa at an agroforestry symposium in Missouri.

Recent review of the medical evidence supporting the use of Moringa oleifera.

Short feature on our Moringa work in the Johns Hopkins Magazine.

Dr. Fahey recently talked about the edible tropical tree Moringa on SmartDrugSmarts, with host Jesse Lawler and Lisa Curtis.  In this 38 minute podcast  Fahey discussed research on Moringa at the Chemoprotection Center, including their plans to evaluate it in the clinic.

Related Publications

Carrie Waterman, Jed W. Fahey, and Mark E. Olson.  A review of scientific results on uses of Moringa-based leaf products. Acta Horticulturae  (in press)
Fahey JW. (2019)  Moringa oleifera medicinal potential and benefits.  Chapter 13 in The Miracle Tree: Moringa oleifera, Second Edition.  MC Palada, AW Ebert, and RC Joshi (Eds). September 2019.  494 pp. Xlibris. ISBN 9781796044546
Fahey JW, KL Wade, KK Stephenson, Y Shi, H Liu, AA Panjwani, C Warrick, ME Olson. (2019) A strategy to deliver precise oral doses of the glucosinolate or isothiocyanate from Moringa oleifera leaves for use in clinical studies. Nutrients 11(7), 1547.
Fahey JW, ME Olson, KK Stephenson, KL Wade, GM Chodur, D Odee, W Noumann, M Massiah, J Alt, PA Egner, WC Hubbard.  (2018) The diversity of chemoprotective glucosinolates in moringaceae (Moringa spp.). Scientific Reports 8: art. no. 7994, doi:10.1038/s41598-018-26058-4.
Chodur, GM, ME Olson, KL Wade, KK Stephenson, W Nouman, Garima, JW Fahey.  (2018)  Wild type and domesticated Moringa oleifera differ markedly in taste, glucosinolate composition, and antioxidant potential, but not myrosinase activity or protein content Scientific Reports 8: art. no. 7995, doi:10.1038/s41598-018-26059-3.
Fahey JW.  (2017)  Moringa oleifera: A review of the medical potential.  Acta Horticulturae ISHS 1158: 209-224. DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2017.1158.25. [Abstract]
Olson ME, RP Sankaran, JW Fahey, MA Grusak, D Odee, W Nouman.  (2016)  Leaf protein and mineral concentrations across the “miracle tree” genus Moringa. PLOS One. [Article]
Wade KL, Y Ito, A Ramarathnam, WD Holtzclaw, and J W Fahey. (2014) Novel purification of active myrosinase from plants by aqueous two-phase counter-current chromatography. Phytochemical Analysis (online 7/7/14; DOI 10.1002/pca.2535).[Abstract]
Fahey JW, KK Stephenson, KL Wade, P Talalay. (2013) Urease from Helicobacter pylori is inactivated by sulforaphane and other isothiocyanates. Biochemical & Biophysical Research Communications 435: 1-7. [Abstract]
Olson ME and JW Fahey. (2011) Moringa oleifera: un árbol multiusos par las zonas tropicales secas. Revista Mexicana de Biodiversidad 82:1071-1082. [Full Text]
Thurber, M and JW Fahey. (2009) Adoption of Moringa oleifera to combat under-nutrition viewed through the lens of the ‘Diffusion of Innovations’ theory. Ecology of Food and Nutrition 48: 212-225. [Abstract] [Full Article]
Doerr, B, KL Wade, KK Stephenson, SB Reed, and JW Fahey. (2009) Cultivar effect on Moringa oleifera glucosinolate content and taste: A pilot study. Ecology of Food and Nutrition 48: 199-211. [Abstract]
Fahey, JW. (2005) Moringa oleifera: A review of the medical evidence for its nutritional, therapeutic, and prophylactic properties. Part 1. Trees for Life Journal, 1:5. [Full Article]
Haristoy, X, JW Fahey, I Scholtus and A Lozniewski. (2005) Evaluation of antimicrobial effect of several isothiocyanates on Helicobacter pylori. Planta Medica 71: 326-330. [Abstract]
Stephenson, KK and JW Fahey. (2004) Development of tissue culture methods for the rescue and propagation of endangered Moringa spp. germplasm. Economic Botany 58: s116-s124. [Full Text]
Fahey, JW, AT Dinkova-Kostova, and P Talalay. (2004) The “Prochaska” microtiter plate bioassay for inducers of NQO1. Chapter 14 in Methods in Enzymology, Vol. 382, Part B, pp. 243-258 (Eds.) H. Sies and L. Packer, Elsevier Science, San Diego, CA. [Abstract]
Fahey, JW, AT Zalcmann and P Talalay. (2001) The chemical diversity and distribution of glucosinolates and isothiocyanates among plants. Phytochemistry 56(1):5-51. [corrigendum: Phytochemistry 59, 237.] [Abstract]

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