Moringa oleifera is a tree native to the southern foothills of the Himalayas in northwestern India and widely cultivated in Africa, Central and South America, Sri Lanka, India, Mexico, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
I’ve been really interested in Moringa for a number of years. It has quite a reputation internationally as one of the world’s most nutritious foods. As an herbalist, I’ve been intrigued by the possibilities of a food that offers so much benefit to anyone ingesting it, and also hope to those looking for dynamic botanical solutions to the problems of world hunger. There are so many aspects of Moringa oleifera to consider. For now, we are looking primarily at the leaf as a dynamic source of nutrition, though the ‘drumstick’ fruit pods are very commonly eaten as well. The roots and the seeds, when harvested, provide other diverse benefits.
This is an extremely important plant! It is a complete protein, contains a good deal of nutrients including calcium, iron, magnesium, is a complete protein source and contains many different vitamins and unique phytochemicals. It would be ridiculous to ‘standardize’ or extract this plant, it is a leaf vegetable used across the world for many years.
Yet it has been virtually absent from the U.S. market. Unfortunately what little I myself have found on the market has been of very low quality. As I’ve worked with the Food Movement to find a premium raw material internationally (which we have finally secured – more on that to come) I have come to appreciate why it is so easy to get it wrong with Moringa.
(The Food Movement biodynamic freeze-dried Moringa whole leaf powder will be available here in September.)
Initially, suppliers of Ayurvedic herbs would offer Moringa leaf powder at a surprisingly low price. Then, we found that some suppliers would only offer it as an extract, because the fresh raw material was often easily contaminated with potentially harmful microbes. I myself believe that the only preparation one should consider is the whole leaf. It is, after all, a food.
There is definite misinformation out there causing some to consider something other than whole leaf Moringa. Just look to the wiki page on Moringa oleifera and you find this nugget of (mis)information
“Some of the calcium in moringa leaves is bound as crystals of calcium oxalate which may inhibit calcium availability to the body. It is not clear whether the calculation of the reported amount of calcium in moringa leaves includes such non-bioavailable calcium.”
However, the reference they provide only documents that Moringa contains calcium oxalate (which it does, and many plant sources of calcium do) not that calcium oxalate is a non-bioavailable calcium. A study published in 1999 in The Journal of Nutrition found that calcium oxalate indeed was a bioavailable form of calcium. The researchers concluded “Thus, calcium bound as a small, neutral, calcium salt such as calcium oxalate does not have to be dissociated prior to absorption. Possibly other small compounds would be similarly absorbed. These results alter our current understanding of calcium bioavailability from foods and therapeutic agents.”
Anybody good at doing wikipedia edits? I believe many people who have a negative opinion of calcium in plants as “non-bioavailable” would benefit from seeing this study.
Oh, and if the waters weren’t all ready murky enough for you… now Dr Oz has entered the arena…
Stay tuned to this bat channel for more examinations of the many healing aspects of Moringa to come. Harvest time is now!