The wonders of the Moringa tree

Here’s a blog post we wrote for the Greenpop Blog, reflecting on the Moringa tree and the work we’ve done planting them with the local farming cooperative, Sons of Thunder.

Moringa Oliefera is a tree native to the Southern foothills of the Himalayas that has been widely cultivated and used in tropical and subtropical areas around the globe. Moringa is often referred to as the ‘miracle tree’ for it’s wide range of medicinal uses.

At Sons of Thunder, a farming cooperative based just outside of Livingstone where Greenpop has worked for the past six years, Moringa Olifera trees are being grown to boost access to affordable nutrition for the rural communities around the farm. The dried and pounded leaves are given to HIV patients and nursing mothers at the Sons of Thunder Clinic as an immune boosting supplement.

Moringa trees are resilient, fast growing nitrogen fixing trees that quickly produce a large quantity of nutrient packed leaves during the rainy season or if irrigated. These leaves can be harvested up to 6 times per year and will grow back rapidly if regularly picked through the growing season. At Sons of Thunder, due to the extended dry season, the trees are currently only harvested 3 times per year. The trees are managed under a ‘pollarding’ system where the upper branches of the tree are regularly removed to stimulate the growth of a dense canopy of fresh leaves which can then be harvested.

Pollarding encourages leafy growth and increases yields

Once the leaves are harvested, they are dried in a cold room and pounded using a large pestle and mortar. The crushed leaves can then be used in teas, porridge, or added to any meal to boost its nutritional balance. Fresh leaves can also be used and are considered to have higher nutritional value, though their shelf life is reduced.

Greenpop has planted 2 000 Moringa trees with the Sons of Thunder farmers over the last 5 years during the annual Zambia Festival of Action. Over that time, the farm has harvested over 300kgs of dried leaves. Benson, the local headman who is responsible for the management of the Moringa trees, is passionate about the trees and is working on acquiring a solar pump to extend the harvest of the Moringa trees into the dry season to increase yields and open up an opportunity to sell the Moringa on local and international markets.

Moringa Olifera is internationally recognised as one of the most powerful and beneficial medicinal plants in the world. Below are 5 ways it may help your health:

1. Improve nutrition

The leaves of the tree are a source of many vitamins and minerals and have a relatively high protein content as well. One cup of fresh leaves can contain:

  • Protein- 2 grams
  • Vitamin B6- 19% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA)
  • Vitamin C- 12% of the RDA
  • Iron- 11% of the RDA
  • Vitamin B2- 11% of the RDA
  • Vitamin A- 9% of the RDA
  • Magnesium- 8% of the RDA

The seed pods of the moringa tree are also edible and can contain up to 157% of your RDA for Vitamin C

2. Increase antioxidants

Several antioxidant compounds can be found in moringa: Vitamin C, beta-carotene, quercetin, and chlorogenic acid. These compounds can help reduce the likelihood of chronic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

 

3. Lower blood sugar levels

Several studies have shown that Moringa may help lower blood sugar levels. However, most of these were based on animal studies and few thorough human studies have been conducted.

Freshly picked Moringa has the best nutritional profile

 

4. Reduce inflammation

The plant has been shown to reduce inflammation in animals and may have a similar effect on people.

5. Lower cholesterol

Animal and human studies have shown that Moringa can lower cholesterol levels in the blood, reducing the risk of heart disease.

However, despite the above-mentioned benefits, be aware that, as with all herbal medicines, you should be careful of how often and at what quantities of Moringa you are taking. Additionally, some studies have argued that the tree does indeed have a variety of health benefits, a simple well-balanced diet would be able to supply most people with a similar range of nutritional benefits.

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