7 February 2017

Gambia: What Do We Know About Moringa (Never Die) (Nebedai in Wolof, Jamboo in Mandinka and Binebeddai in Jola)

Photo: St. Paul's Church
Moringa - plant

The plant moringa oleifera is very popular (locally known as 'Nebedai') in the Senegambia region where it exists principally in scattered uncultivated forms. It is mainly consumed in various forms as food in the region although a few useful extra-culinary attributes have been suggested.

The moringa oleifera variously known as drumstick tree, etc has been systematically investigated during the last three years at ITC. The moringa plant is well known for its enormous biomass production and it promises to be the plant of the future. Although not completely strange in the West African biosphere, this grossly underexploited plant has a lot to offer as a food and fodder resource in the sub-region.

Infertility has been a global challenge and there is lots of treatment: some good, some failed, some ineffective. Research from various labs has shown that natural herbal medicines can be applied to cure both male and female infertility, one of which is Moringa.

Dealing with infertility problems both for men and women poses psychological trauma and affects the

Considering the agro-ecological characteristics of the sub-region in general and The Gambia in particular, the plant needs to be further investigated and modalities of integration into the farming system carefully conducted on the merits of the respective locations.

Moringa herbal medicine has been discovered to be very rich in: minerals, antioxidants, high protein density and vitamins: Vitamin A (beta carotene), Vitamin B1 (Thiamine), Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B3 (Niacin), Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine), Vitamin B7 (Biotin), Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid), Vitamin D (Cholecalciferol), Vitamin E (Tocopherol) and Vitamin K and good cholesterol.

The breakdown of the nutrients was further analysed:

Calcium equivalent: 4 glasses of milk

Vitamin C equivalent: 7 oranges

Potassium equivalent: 3 bananas which is 3 times the iron of spinach

4 times the amount of vitamin A in carrots

2 times the protein in milk

Moringa, the multi-purpose super food with endless health benefits

What is particularly unique about moringa is the fact that every part of the plant, including its bark, leaves, flowers, and roots serves a unique purpose in promoting human health. Its seeds, for instance, contain up to 40 percent of a non-drying, edible oil known as "Ben Oil" that is rich in antioxidants and similar in its nutritional profile to olive oil. The clear, sweet, odourless oil also has an indefinite shelf life, as it does not turn rancid like many other oils.

"The leaves, flowers, seeds, pods, roots, bark, gum, and seed oil from the moringa (malunggay) plant are continually being subjected to intensive research and development programs because the various constituents of the moringa are known to have, among other properties, anti-diabetic, anti-hypertensive, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-viral, anti-parasitic and anti-aging activities."

Perhaps the most utilized component of Moringa is its leaves, which can be dried and ground up into a nutrient-dense, tart-flavoured powder. According to another report in the Manila Bulletin, Moringa powder contains seven times the amount of vitamin C typically found in oranges, four times the amount of vitamin A in carrots, 36 times the amount of magnesium in eggs, 25 times the amount of iron in spinach, 50 times the amount of vitamin B3 in peanuts, and 50 times the vitamin B.

Like Ben Oil, moringa leaf powder does not spoil, which makes it an excellent long-term survival food. Particularly in the developing countries, moringa powder provides nutritional sustenance at a level unparalleled by most other food plants. And because moringa seeds can grow to full-size, harvestable trees in as few as 65 days, the moringa plant is a highly-sustainable source of food that is virtually unmatched in its viability and usefulness.

Processes involved

1. Making herbal tonic: Get the extracts of five to ten drumstick flowers by boiling it.

2. Mix 1 with a cup of cow milk.

3. To sweeten the mixture, add 1 teaspoon of sugar.

This process should span between a week and a month while tests should be carried out for changes or improvements. The resulting tonic can cure infertility of both males and females.

Also, additional facts for men suffering from erectile dysfunction making a soup out of moringa drumstick seeds mixed with a bit of pepper and ginger. The bark of moringa tree is turned into powder and when taken internally improves semen quality.

The moringa tree with its edible leaves, flowers, and pods are one of most power packed, nutritious trees in the world. It is also one of the most healing trees in the world. The entire tree is either used for food, medicine, or cooking. It has been used in Ayurveda medicine for hundreds of years to both prevent and treat almost 300 diseases.

The information in this article is not based on double blind research but on the historical and current usage of moringa leaves, flowers, and pods in India, and many other countries. This is how the people have used it in the past and how they use it now. Much of this information was observed and documented in the different health projects by physicians in their treatment of AIDS, malnutrition, and disease.

How Moringa leaves can have an impact on so many problems

Many health problems are due to poor nutrition, malnutrition and imbalanced disease states, which result in immune system breakdown and disease. When you correct those imbalances and nutritional deficiencies with super packed nutritious food, it is bound to improve health and disease states. The ability for moringa leaves, flowers, bark, and pods to have such diverse healing effects is due to the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healing elements the tree contains.

A review of Moringa's power packed nutrition:

Here is a nutritional breakdown of fresh moringa leaves: 7 times the Vitamin C of Oranges; 4 times the Calcium of Milk; 3 times the Potassium of Bananas; 2 times the Protein of Yogurt; 4 times the Vitamin A of Carrots; and 2 quarters the iron of Spinach.

Moringa leaves when dried become a even greater, powerhouse of nutrition containing: ½ the Vitamin C of Oranges; 17 times the Calcium of Milk; 15 times the Potassium of Bananas; 9 times the Protein of Yogurt; 25 times the Vitamin A of Carrots; and 20 times the Iron in Spinach. All elements except the Vitamin C is increased when you dry the leaves in the shade. Drying the leaves in direct sunlight decreases its nutritional values.

Moringa leaves and its effects on blood pressure, blood sugar, and breast milk production and anaemia:

Moringa leaves mixed with honey then followed with coconut milk drunk 2 to 3 times a day is used for diarrhoea, dysentery and colitis.

Moringa leaves have been observed and documented by doctors in the health projects to increase breast milk production and the health of nursing mothers. This is due to the nutrition in the leaves especially the protein, calcium and iron content.

Given to failure to thrive infants, it encourages weight gain and improved health due to the super packed nutritional content of the leaves.

Moringa leaves are given to improve anaemia in infants, children and adults because of its high iron content. Iron tablets cause stomach distress, constipation, and are difficult to digest. Iron tablets are not easy to obtain in these poor communities. Given their compromised digestive systems due to malnutrition, the iron tablets would most likely not even be utilized by the body.

The Health Benefits of Moringa Seeds

Moringa seeds are a potentially incredible find, with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cholesterol-lowering effects listed among some of their benefits. Moringa seeds also offer many nutritional benefits. They contain:

Seven times more vitamin C than oranges; Four times the amount of vitamin A found in carrots; Four times more calcium than milk; Three times more potassium than bananas; and Two times more protein than yogurt.

If research pans out, it's possible that the moringa tree (also known as the drumstick tree) and its seeds will become a new superfood.

Why Eat Moringa Seeds

The moringa plant has been eaten by indigenous cultures worldwide for over 4,000 years. Moringa is a nutrient-dense plant, rich in calcium, iron, vitamins, and essential amino acids that are found in other complete proteins such as quinoa and meat. Moringa can benefit the body in many ways including improved energy, sleep, blood pressure level, blood sugar level, hair, and skin, to name a few.

In Ayurveda, moringa leaves are believed to prevent over 300 diseases and are used all the time in traditional healing. Moringa comes from Moringa oleifera, a fast-growing tree found in South Asia and throughout the tropics. The tree is hardy and thrives even in rough growing conditions, so it can be planted almost anywhere and harvested in a short time. It's been used as a nutritional enhancement in developing countries such as Malawi, Senegal, and India because of its rapid growth rate and year-round harvest.

Moringa Seeds Nutrition Facts

The following table is a breakdown of the nutritional information for moringa seeds, per 100 grams. Two key values to note are that these seeds have zero cholesterol and are very high in fibre, which can make them essential to a healthy food regimen.

7 Health Benefits of Moringa Seeds

The following are just a few of the health benefits associated with moringa seeds. More research is happening every year on the medicinal value of moringa; we have only just begun to understand how potentially powerful moringa tree seeds are.

1. Lowers Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a serious cardiovascular issue that can lead to heart attacks and stroke if it isn't managed. Medications are sometimes necessary, but the ideal route if possible is through exercise, a healthy lifestyle and diet, and proper supplementation. While studies have shown that moringa can lower blood pressure, these studies are preliminary and more research needs to be done on humans, so talk to your doctor before stopping any prescribed treatment for high blood pressure.

2. Acts as a Sleep Aid

For a good night's rest, steep moringa leaves in hot water for 15 minutes and then drink before bed. It will help you sleep soundly, which in turn will leave you energized to tackle the day.

3. Boosts Energy

A single serving of moringa has almost three times the amount of iron as spinach. This is especially important for vegetarians/vegans and those who suffer from low iron issues, as the body needs iron to enrich the blood and carry oxygen to our muscles, organs, and tissues.

4. Lowers Blood Sugar Levels

A 2014 study published in Acta Histochemical reported that moringa seeds can lower blood sugar levels, which would provide therapeutic management (or even prevention) of diabetes. However, the study was done on lab rats and research is needed on humans before any recommendations can be made.

5. High in Fibre

Moringa is high in fibber, and as a result it can do a great job of moving food along your digestive system. Fibber is also a key component in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system.

6. Can Lower Cholesterol

Too much cholesterol in the blood has been linked to heart disease. In traditional Thai medicine, moringa is used as a cardio tonic (a drug or herb used to improve how the heart contracts). Some plants have been known to reverse bad cholesterol and research is showing that moringa is among them.

7. Promotes Healthy, Beautiful Skin

The oil extracted from the seeds contains almost 30 antioxidants. The skin absorbs the oil well and can receive these nourishing antioxidants easily. The oil can be used as a moisturizer and antiseptic.

Ways to Use Moringa and Moringa Seeds

Many parts of the moringa plant are edible, but how to eat moringa seeds, that's the question. The pods (7) are often used in cooking (though you won't likely have a chance to have moringa in this form in North America at the moment unless you grow your own tree). The leaves are used more readily.

- Moringa oil, also called ben oil because of the high levels of behenic acid in it, is pressed from the seeds. It can be used in cosmetics and is edible, though the price is steep; it's almost 15 times higher than olive oil.

- The roots are often ground down for use in supplement capsules. Traditional medicine uses the roots, leaves, and seeds.

- If you do get your hands on moringa leaves (and they will be dried unless you decide to plant your own tree), they can be cooked much like spinach and kale. Add them to a grilled cheese or any other sandwich for a nutrient boost, or use them in soups and stews. The leaves have high levels of vitamins C, A, and B.

The seeds can be eaten just like nuts, so add them to granola or a trail mix you prepare with other nuts and dried fruit. Mix them with hemp seeds for an incredible boost of energy and health.

- If you can get a hold of fresh seeds, you can boil them as you would peas and use them as a side dish to any meal. The seeds don't have as many vitamins and minerals as the leaves do, but they are high in vitamin C.

- If you opt for moringa leaf powder, you have more options for use. Add the powder to yogurt, soups, and smoothies.

Moringa Seeds: Dosages

Though human trials and studies for moringa seeds are limited, the results of studies done on rats show that 150 to 200 mg/kg taken orally (as a tincture in water) seems to be an ideal dose. From there the following can be estimated:

1,600 to 2,200 mg for a 150-pound person

2,100 to 2,900 mg for a 200-pound person

2,700 to 3,600 mg for a 250-pound person

Use the above as guidelines for maximum dosages; start at the lowest amount and then work your way up once you determine how your body reacts to it.

More research is needed to know the full range of moringa seeds benefits. And side effects may exist as well, but again, not enough research has been done to make any known just yet. Use caution and if anything odd does happen, stop using moringa and see a doctor. And if you start experiencing abnormal side effects such as hives, a severe rash, heart palpitations, dizziness, or signs of anaphylaxis, please seek medical help immediately.

For further information email azadehhassanmd10@gmail.com and to Mr Matthias Ketteler Chairman of Project Aid The Gambia an NGO producing Moringa Plantation at Jahali village projectaid@work.gm or send text only to DR AZADEH on 7774469/3774469.

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