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Moringa

Scientific Name(s): Moringa oleifera
Common Name(s): Ben oil, Benzoil tree, Drumstick tree, Horseradish tree, Moringa, Mulaka, Sajna, Saragva, Shajmah, Shevga, Sujana, Sundan

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Jul 15, 2019.

Clinical Overview

Use

The roots of M. oleifera have traditionally been used as an antispasmodic, stimulant, expectorant, and diuretic. The bark has been used for its emmenagogue, abortifacient, antifungal, and antibacterial properties, and fried pods have been used in diabetes. Juice from the roots has been used as a cardiac tonic and as an antiepileptic and antiasthmatic treatment. However, only limited clinical trial information supports these uses.

Dosing

There is insufficient information to determine clinically safe doses of M. oleifera in humans.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Avoid use. Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Interactions

No adverse or toxic effects are associated with the dietary consumption of M. oleifera fruits and leaves.

Adverse Reactions

Potential adverse effects of M. oleifera are unknown.

Toxicology

No information is available regarding toxicity of M. oleifera fruit in humans.

Scientific Family

  • Moringaceae

Botany

M. oleifera is an evergreen tree that grows to approximately 8 to 9 m in height. The bark of the tree is soft and white from the inside and cork-like on the outside.Mishra 2011, Paliwal 2011 The stem is thin and tall and the twigs finely hairy and green. The taste of its vesicant roots resembles that of horseradish. The leaves are longitudinally cracked, 30 to 75 cm in length, and glandular at joints.Mishra 2011, Paliwal 2011 The leaflets are dark green at the top surface and pale underneath. The flowers are white and sweet smelling, with individual stalks approximately 90 cm in length.Mishra 2011, Paliwal 2011 The plant's distinctive fruits are 90 cm in length and 12 mm broad, gradually tapering at the end; in many regions, the fruits are known as "drumsticks." The fruits split along the length to expose rows of black, oily seeds covered with paper-like rings.Mishra 2011, Paliwal 2011

History

The moringa tree is indigenous to India and grows widely on the foothills of the Himalayas.Paliwal 2011 The plant is also widely cultivated in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and most of Southeast Asia.Paliwal 2011 M. oleifera is the most well known of the 13 species of the Moringa genus (family Moringaceae).Paliwal 2011 The plant is used for food, medicinal purposes, fodder, dyes, and water clarification.Anwar 2007, Mishra 2011, Paliwal 2011 The seeds are used to flocculate contaminants and purify drinking water, and are also consumed in broths; oil from the seeds is used for cooking.Anwar 2007, Mishra 2011, Paliwal 2011

Chemistry

M. oleifera contains many compounds of the rhamnose sugar and the distinctive glucosinolates and isothiocyanates niaziridin and niazirin.Eilert 1981, Faizi 1994, Villasenor 1989 The stem bark contains 2 alkaloids, moringine and moringinine.Singh 2012 Vanillin, beta-sitosterol, beta-sitostenone, 4-hydroxymellin, and octacosanoic are found in the stem of M. oleifera.Singh 2012 The gum exudate from the tree contains L-arabinose, galactose, glucuronic acid, L-rhamnose, mannose, and xylose.Bhattacharya 1982 Moringa flowers contain some flavonoid pigments, such as kaempherol, rhamnetin, isoquercitrin, and kaempferitrin.Siddhuraju 2003 Gallic acid, chlorogenic acid, ellagic acid, and ferulic acid are present in the aqueous extracts of leaves, fruits, and seeds of M. oleifera.Singh 2009 The plant contains a wide range of terpenoids, primary among which are alpha-phellandrene and p-cymene.Ogunbinu 2009

Uses and Pharmacology

In India and Southeast Asia, M. oleifera is used for the treatment of inflammation and infectious diseases, as well as cardiovascular, GI, hematological, and hepatorenal disorders.Anwar 2007, Mishra 2011, Paliwal 2011 In the Philippines, it is known as "mother's best friend" because of its ability to increase milk production in breast-feeding mothers.Anwar 2007 The seeds can be consumed fresh as peas or pounded, roasted, or pressed into sweet, nondesiccating, high-quality oil, commercially known as Ben oil.Paliwal 2011 The seed cake also serves as a natural coagulant for water treatment. Parts of the plant are used as decoctions for gargling in hoarseness and sore throat, since the plant is believed to have antiparalytic, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic properties.Anwar 2007, Mishra 2011, Paliwal 2011 Along with other therapeutic applications, The Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of India indicates use of the dried root bark in goiter, glycosuria, and lipid disorders.Ayurveda 2008, Mishra 2011

Animal data

Antihyperglycemic activity

Goto-Kakizaki Wistar rats were used as models for diabetes mellitus.Mbikay 2012, Ndong 2007 Following overnight fasting, Wistar controls or Goto-Kakizaki male rats were given glucose 2 g/kg of body weight by oral gavage, with or without M. oleifera leaf powder 200 mg/kg of body weight. Glucose levels were measured for different time intervals, up to 120 minutes. In the absence of treatment, fasting plasma glucose levels (FPG) and postprandial plasma glucose (PPPG) levels at 120 minutes were greater in Goto-Kakizaki rats than in control rats. Treatment with M. oleifera leaf powder resulted in a lower glycemic response in Goto-Kakizaki and control rats. In Goto-Kakizaki rats, treatment reduced area under the curve (AUC) values by 23% (P < 0.05); it did not significantly affect these values in control rats. These observations suggest that M. oleifera treatment improves plasma glucose disposal only in diabetic rats.Mbikay 2012, Ndong 2007 Another study established that the hypoglycemic effect of the M. oleifera plant extract was comparable to that of the antidiabetic drug glipizide administered at 2.5 mg/kg of body weight.Jaiswal 2009

Antidyslipidemic activity

Two studies evaluated the therapeutic potential of M. oleifera leaves on induced dyslipidemia in rabbits receiving a high-cholesterol (5%) diet for 12 weeks.Chumark 2008, Mbikay 2012 When these rabbits were concomitantly fed an M. oleifera aqueous leaf extract at the daily dose of 100 mg/kg of body weight for the duration of the protocol, the following were reduced: total cholesterol and lipoprotein cholesterol by about 50%, triglycerides by 75%, and carotic plaque formation by 97%. This protective effect was comparable to that of the statin drug simvastatin given at a daily dose of 5 mg/kg of body weight.Chumark 2008, Mbikay 2012

Anticancer properties were evaluated for bark, leaf, and seed extracts of M. oleifera in breast and colorectal cancer cell lines. The leaf and bark, but not seed, extracts demonstrated increased late apoptosis, decreased cell motility, and decreased cell survival.Al-Asmari 2015

In addition, the plant has also been shown to have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antifertility, hepatoprotective, cardiovascular, antiulcer, and antiallergic activity.Mbikay 2012

Helicobacter pylori infections

Various GI disorders have been associated with H. pylori including dyspepsia, duodenal and gastric ulcers, mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue lymphoma, and gastric cancer. Extracts of food and spice plants used in traditional Thai medicine for GI conditions were investigated for their antimicrobial effects on 18 strains of H. pylori. Of the 20 extracts tested, 9 inhibited the growth of all 18 strains. Moringa was found to have a minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC) of more than 100 mcg/mL and, therefore, is considered to be inactive. Amoxicillin (MIC range, 0.0039 to 0.25 mcg/mL) and metronidazole (MIC range, 64 to 124 mcg/mL) were used as controls.Bhamarapravati 2003

Clinical data

The potential antidyslipidemic effect of M. oleifera was examined in 35 hyperlipidemic subjects (26 men and 9 women; total cholesterol levels greater than 180 mg/dL or triglycerides greater than 140 mg/dL).Nambiar 2010 The control and experimental groups consisted of 18 subjects and 17 subjects, respectively. The experimental group received 4.6 g of dehydrated M. oleifera leaves daily (as four 550 mg tablets twice daily) for 50 days.

Compared to the control group, the experimental group experienced a 1.6% decrease in plasma total cholesterol (P < 0.05) and a 6.3% increase of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, with nonsignificant trends toward lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, very low–density lipoprotein cholesterol, and triglycerides.Nambiar 2010

A controlled study of patients with untreated type 2 diabetes mellitus evaluated the effect of M. oleifera added to a standardized meal (after an overnight fast) on 1- and 2-hour PPPG, relative to the standard meal alone or to a 75 g oral glucose load.William 1993 M. oleifera was compared to bitter gourd (Momordica charantia) and curry leaves (Murraya koenigii). Compared to the glucose load, standard meals with or without vegetable supplements induced a lower rise in PPPG (glycemic response) according to AUCs. However, when leaf-supplemented meals were compared with standard meals, only the M. oleifera leaf-supplemented meal elicited a lower response (−21%; P < 0.01).William 1993

Both glycemic and lipidemic effects were examined in type 2 diabetic patients (N = 46) receiving 8 g/day of M. oleifera.Stohs 2015 Both FPG and PPPG were reduced, by 28% and 26%, respectively, at 40 days. Total cholesterol, triglycerides, and low-density lipoprotein levels were reduced by 14%, 14%, and 29%, respectively, compared with those of the control group.

Hemoglobin A1C was reduced by 0.4% in another study of M. oleifera in type 2 diabetic patients, with an average reduction in FPG of 29% at 3 months; however, the exact dosage was not reported.Stohs 2015

Dosing

There is insufficient information to determine clinically safe doses of M. oleifera in humans. However, the fruits and leaves are consumed as food and are a part of a regular diet in India and other parts of South Asia.Anwar 2007, Mishra 2011, Paliwal 2011 The various parts of M. oleifera are also incorporated into formulations marketed for a variety of human health disorders.Paliwal 2011

Pregnancy / Lactation

Avoid use. Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Interactions

Although M. oleifera is used for the treatment of a variety of disorders, no clinical studies have evaluated herb-herb interactions or herb-drug interactions with its use. In vitro testing revealed that components of M. oleifera extracts may inhibit both cytochrome P450 (CYP-450) 3A4 and P-glycoprotein, so concomitant use of drugs that are 3A4 substrates or P-gp dependent is discouraged.Aworte 2016

Adverse Reactions

Animal test groups of rats were given M. oleifera extract in graded doses up to 3 g/kg of body weight and were observed for signs of toxicity and mortality for 60 days.Singh 2014 The extract was practically nontoxic when given orally to rats; its median lethal dose (LD50) was determined to be higher than 3 g/kg body weight.Singh 2014 Human studies have used dosages as high as 8 g/day.

Toxicology

Information regarding toxicity in humans is lacking.

References

Al-Asmari AK, Albalawi SM, Athar MT, Khan AQ, Al-Shahrani H, Islam M. Moringa oleifera as an anti-cancer agent against breast and colorectal cancer cell lines [published online August 19, 2015]. PLOS One. 2015;10(8);e0135814.2628831310.1371/journal.pone.0135814
Anwar F, Latif S, Ashraf M, Gilani AH. Moringa oleifera: a food plant with multiple medicinal uses. Phytother Res. 2007;21(1):17-25.17089328
Aworte C, Bouic P, Rosenkranz B. In vitro and in silico screening of Moringa oleifera for drug interactions on cytochrome P450 and P-glycoprotein. Naunyn Schmiedebergs Arch Pharmakol. 2016;389(1)(suppl 1):S96.
Bhamarapravati S, Pendland SL, Mahady GB. Extractsof spice and food plants from Thai traditional medicine inhibit the growth of the human carcinogen Helicobacter pylori. In Vivo. 2003;17(6):541-544.14758718
Bhattacharya SB, Das AK, Banerji N. Chemical investigations on the gum exudate from sajna (Moringa oleifera). Carbohydr Res. 1982;102(1):253-262.
Chumark P, Khunawat P, Sanvarinda Y, et al. The in vitro and ex vivo antioxidant properties, hypolipidaemic and antiatherosclerotic activities of water extract of Moringa oleifera Lam. leaves. J Ethnopharmacol. 2008;116(3):439-446.18249514
Eilert U, Wolters B, Nahrstedt A. The antibiotic principle of seeds of Moringa oleifera and Moringa stenopetala. Planta Med. 1981;42(1):55-61.7255568
Faizi S, Siddiqui BS, Saleem R, Saddiqui S, Aftab K, Gilani AH. Isolation and structure elucidation of new nitrile and mustard oil glycosides from Moringa oleifera and their effect on blood pressure. J Nat Prod. 1994;57(9):1256-1261.7798960
Jaiswal D, Kumar Rai P, Kumar A, Mehta S, Watal G. Effect of Moringa oleifera Lam. leaves aqueous extract therapy on hyperglycemic rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2009;123(3):392-396.19501271
Mbikay M. Therapeutic potential of Moringa oleifera leaves in chronic hyperglycemia and dyslipidemia: a review. Front Pharmacol. 2012;3:24.22403543
Mishra G, Singh P, Verma R , et al. Traditional uses, phytochemistry and pharmacological properties of Moringa oleifera plant: An overview. Der Pharmacia Lettre. 2011;3(2):141-164.
Nambiar VS, Guin P, Parnami S, Daniel M. Impact of antioxidants from drumstick leaves on the lipid profile of hyperlipidemics. J Herb Med Toxicol. 2010;4(1):165-172.
Ndong M, Uehara M, Katsumata S, Suzuki K. Effects of oral administration of Moringa oleifera Lam on glucose tolerance in Goto-Kakizaki and Wistar rats. J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2007;40(3):229-233.18398501
Ogunbinu AO, Flamini G, Cioni PL, Adebayo MA, Ogunwande IA. Constituents of Cajanus cajan (L.) Millsp., Moringa oleifera Lam., Heliotropium indicum L. and Bidens pilosa L. from Nigeria. Nat Prod Commun. 2009;4(4):573-578.19476009
Paliwal R, Sharma V, Pracheta. A review on horse radish tree (Moringa oleifera): A multipurpose tree with high economic and commercial importance. Asian J Biotechnol. 2011;3(4)317-328.
Siddhuraju P, Becker K. Antioxidant properties of various solvent extracts of total phenolic constituents from three different agroclimatic origins of drumstick tree (Moringa oleifera Lam.) leaves. J Agric Food Chem. 2003;51(8):2144-2155.12670148
Singh BN, Singh BR, Singh RL, et al. Oxidative DNA damage protective activity, antioxidant and anti-quorum sensing potentials of Moringa oleifera. Food Chem Toxicol. 2009;47(6):1109-1116.19425184
Singh D, Arya PV, Aggarwal VP, Gupta RS. Evaluation of antioxidant and hepatoprotective activities of Moringa oleifera Lam. leaves in carbon tetrachloride-intoxicated rats. Antioxidants (Basel). 2014;3(3):569-591.26785072
Singh GP, Sharma SK. Antimicrobial evaluation of leaf extract of Moringa oleifera Lam. Int Res J Pharm. 2012;3(4):212-215.
Stohs SJ, Hartman MJ. Review of the safety and efficacy of Moringa oleifera. Phytother Res. 2015;29(6):796-804.25808883
The Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of India. Pt 1, Vol 2. New Delhi, India: Government of India, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Department of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy; 2008:155-157.
Villasenor IM, Lim-Sylianco CY, Dayrit F. Mutagens from roasted seeds of Moringa oleifera. Mutat Res. 1989;224(2):209-212.2797036
William F, Lakshminarayanan S, Chegu H. Effect of some Indian vegetables on the glucose and insulin response in diabetic subjects. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 1993;44(3):191-196.

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