I have a bias towards cheap, locally available, easy-to-prepare and yet very powerful antioxidants. Malunggay, scientifically known as Moringa oleifera, fits such description.
Moringa is a ubiquituos backyard plant in the Philippines. It requires very little water and soil nutrients and thus thrives even with very little care. I grew up knowing that its leaves are my first-aid remedy for cuts. My mother would just crush a stem or two off the tree and apply it as a poultice to our wounds. And as is the case with something so widely available, it has been taken for granted.
Yet recent interest in moringa came because of researches which show its varied health benefits.
Gram for gram, moringa has 7 times the Vitamin C in oranges, 4 times the calcium in milk, 3 times the potassium in bananas, 4 times the Vitamin A in carrots and 2 times the protein in milk.
An ounce of moringa leaves contains Vitamin C equal to 7 oranges.
A hundred gram dish of moringa leaves has more protein than the same mass of cauliflower, more carbohydrates than papaya and more Vitamin C than camote tops. Moringa also tops the list for thiamin and phosphorus content.
Moringa also has the substance pterygospermin which is both antibacterial and fungicide. This explains why its leaves can treat various skin infections.
Not only the leaves are beneficial to health. So are the pods and the seeds in them. In Nicaragua, moringa seeds are used to clean dirty water. In fact, 90 to 99% of bacteria in polluted water can be neutralized by moringa seeds.
It is the discovery of these wide array of health benefits that many products are now manufactured from the lowly moringa. I have seen moringa powder, tea, capsules and coffee. There are also breads and cakes with moringa. Soaps, toners and moisturizers also have included Moringa oleifera extract.
All these products have the basic ingredient – moringa leaf powder. The procedure is very simple, anybody can do it. Just remove leaves from the stalks and dry in the shade. Drying in the shade, rather than under the sun, preserves more of the nutrients. When fully dried, crumble the leaves to powder and store.
You can use this powder to make capsules that you can ingest daily as a food supplement. You can also sprinkle this on your baby’s cereal, in your coffee or tea, or in noodles to make them nutritious. The uses are rather limitless.
A simpler, quicker and better alternative is this (and I have tried it): remove leaves from stalk to fill a cup, pour hot water into the cup up to the brim, cover for a minute then eat along with a side dish of soy sauce and vinegar. You can then season with salt and drink the remaining liquid in the cup for an instant moringa soup.
Temperate countries do not have the blessing of our climate. They do not have moringa. Never again should I take it for granted.
Photo Credit: hendrycreekhideaway.com