Date Published: 2 May 2016

Nutritional benefits and other medicinal uses of the drumstick tree

The drumstick tree (scientific name Moringa oleifera) and its uses both as a food source and for its healing properties are not new to the people who live in the areas where it grows and / or are familiar with the traditional medicine of those places. It is a fast-growing deciduous tree that can grow to heights of approx. 30-40 ft. It has fragrant yellowish-white flowers between April and June followed by seed capsules that contain seeds about 1 cm in size.

It thrives in India, which is thought to be the largest producer, and also grows in Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia and Taiwan, among other places.

The various uses of the bark, sap, roots, leaves, seeds and flowers of the drumstick tree in traditional medicine have prompted more and more scientific studies of Moringa oleifera and its uses for human health, followed in turn by reviews and overviews of those studies 1,2 .

Writing about traditional uses of this plant in mid-2015, scientists led by Prof Alessandro Leone of the University of Milan explained that the leaves of the Moringa oleifera tree are rich in protein, mineral, beta-carotene and antioxidant compounds in which the populations of underdeveloped or developing countries are often deficient. It is, therefore, not surprising to find that this plant is used to treat malnutrition, especially among infants and nursing mothers

They stated that1 :

" Moringa leaves are added to food preparations as integrators of the diet. In traditional medicine, these leaves are used to treat several ailments including malaria, typhoid fever, parasitic diseases, arthritis, swellings, cuts, diseases of the skin, genito-urinary ailments, hypertension and diabetes. They are also used to elicit lactation and boost the immune system (to treat HIV/AIDS related symptoms), as well as cardiac stimulants and contraceptive remedy. "

Uses of other parts of the tree such as the seeds, roots and flowers were also acknowledged in addition to non-food or medicinal uses such as in agriculture and water purification.

The nutritional content of the various parts of the drumstick tree is particularly interesting, so much so that the chemistry and nutritional potential of this plant would justify a separate lengthy article. It has been noted for its content of many important nutrients including vitamin A, beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E (esp, alpha-tocopherol) and B vitamins B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin) and B3 (niacin),

More recently scientists based in India have published (April 2016) another review of the nutritional and medicinal uses and benefits of Moringa oleifera based on a study of approx. 70 scientific studies. Their report2 also includes information about use of the leaves to treat malnutrition as well as many other possible uses of various parts of the plant as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic and antimicrobial agent as well as discussion of the anticancer properties of Moringa oleifera.

Some of the medicinal uses of parts of the Moringa oleifera tree are said to include use in treatments for the following conditions, or use as the following types of agents 2:

Leaves

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asthma, hyperglycemia, heart burn, syphilis, malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea, headaches, scurvy, skin diseases, bronchitis, eye and ear infections, to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, anticancer, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antidiabetic and anti-atherosclerotic agents

Seeds

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treating hyperthyroidism, Chrohn's disease, antiherpes-simplex virus, arthritis, rheumatism, gout, cramp, epilepsy, some sexually transmitted diseases, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory agents

Root Bark

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cardiac stimulant, anti-ulcer, anti-inflammatory agent

Flower

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hypocholesterolemic, anti-arthritic, urinary problems, treatment of the common cold

Pods

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diarrhea, liver and spleen problems, joint pain

Further uses of Moringa oleifera mentioned include:

  • As a neuroprotectant, i.e. protecting the brain from the effects of blockages to blood flow. Use to treat dementia.
  • Antiulcer agent, decreasing acidity in gastric ulcers
  • Boosting immune system e.g. to help people with AIDS (HIV positive people)
  • Antibacterial agent, e.g. against Bacillus subtilis, Staphylococcus aureus and Vibrio cholera.

Overall, the indications seem to be that the nutritional properties of various parts of this tree are considerable. The authors of this recent study2 pay particular attention to the anti-diabetic and anti-cancer potential of Moringa oleifera.

In common with other authors of reviews of the scientific literature on this subject, they also concluded that more research is needed in order to better understand the mechanisms involved and to further confirm the promising observations and conclusions from some of the studies to date.

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This is not medical, First Aid or other advice and is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment. Consult an expert in person. Care has been taken when compiling this page but accuracy cannot be guaranteed. This material is copyright.

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