Moringa: An Indian Panacea

Moringa most likely originated in northern India but today it grows all over South Asia as well as parts of Africa and South America. It has been a staple medicine in Ayurveda for thousands of years. Practitioners of Ayurveda may have been using parts of the moringa tree for as long as 5,000 years. There is evidence the Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all used it.

In ancient times, people considered Moringa a cure-all and some still see it as one. Among the benefits that have been attributed to it are the ability to aid in digestion and improve eye health while also acting as a tonic.  
The name moringa is from Tamil and means twisted pod and describes the appearance of the tree’s fruit.  

Along with being used by ancient royalty to improve skin health and for mental sharpness, India’s Mauryan warriors used moringa. The Mauryan warriors consumed an extract from moringa leaf that was said to give them more energy while treating the stress and pain from combat.  

In recent years, the Western world has recognized moringa’s value and many have given it super-food status.  

Moringa flavor profile

Multiple parts of the moringa tree are edible. The leaves have a mildly bitter flavor with a peppery bite in the background similar to mild spiciness from arugula. While the flavor of moringa leaves does have some distinctive characteristics, it is relatively subtle so that you can add them to many Western dishes without throwing off a traditional flavor profile.

Moringa pods’ taste is herbaceous and bright in a way that you could liken to asparagus and they have the peppery bite as well. You can remove the seeds from the pods and use them similar to peas. The root is similar in taste to horseradish and is used as a condiment.  

Health benefits of moringa

The leaves of the moringa tree are rich in several important nutrients that include:  

  • Vitamins: You can get a significant amount of your daily vitamins A, B and C from moringa. A serving of moringa pods has more vitamin A than a serving of carrots.  
  • Minerals: Moringa leaves are an exceptional source of certain minerals. They contain significant amounts of potassium, calcium and iron.  
  • Antioxidants: Along with vitamins C and E, moringa leaves contain a variety of flavonoids.  
  • Fatty acids: Moringa is a good source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. 
  • Protein: Moringa leaves contain all of the essential amino acids. They are comparable with soybean in terms of the amount of protein that they can provide.  

Moringa is effective for treating a range of health problems such as: 

  • Malnutrition: Moringa provides enough micronutrients to meet the needs of someone suffering from malnutrition. 
  • Inflammatory diseases: Moringa leaves have anti-inflammatory properties that make them effective for preventing and treating diseases including arthritis and asthma.    

Common uses

One of the most traditional uses for moringa pods is for making sambar, a South Indian vegetable soup. You can use moringa in any dish that has a cooked vegetable component. Use it in lasagna in place of or along with spinach. If you want a convenient way to enhance your dishes with moringa, opt for moringa powder. Moringa powder can be used to make teas or be sprinkled on food like a spice. In the west, moringa powder might be easier to find when compared to the fresh plant.