Drumstick Tree – Moringa oleifera

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I was talking with Michael HindmarshSTFC, one of our members who’s a Vet down at Gerringong, south of Sydney about the Moringa as I’ve been wanting to do an article on this tree for a while so he sent me a note from the report he wrote while on a Churchill Fellowship to the UK & Europe in 1992 titled “The Biomanipulation of Blue-Green Algae” so those of you who have dams with this problem might like to have a chat with him. Ph: 02 4234 0281 He’s going to write an article on it for us. Michael studied Vet Science at Qld Uni between 1971-75. 

“The Horseradish Tree is being studied by Dr. Bill Grant and Mr. John Sutherland of the University of Leicester. A special role of this tree is growing in sewage wastes and producing seeds which can flocculate turbid water. John Sutherland is establishing pilot plants in Africa where landholders can grow the seeds then grind them to clean their water supplies. Bill has found a thousand fold reduction in bacteria from water samples treated with a meal from these seeds. Here is a new permaculture system capable of growing on sewage, producing pods for human consumption or a natural water flocculant.”

From the net: The idea of using moringa tree seeds to clear water came from the country of Sudan. The women there learned to use the seeds to clarify water from the muddy Nile River. The method works like this: When added to water, the crushed seeds attract particles of dirt that are floating in the water including certain disease organisms. The dirt attaches to the seeds and they fall together to the bottom of the jar. Then you pour off the good water to drink. However you must learn to follow all the steps carefully if you are going to clarify water with moringa seeds. The dirtier the water the more seeds you will need. After you have the correct number of seeds there are a number of steps including crushing the seeds, adding water to make a paste, shaking, straining, shaking again, and so on. If you don’t do all the steps you won’t have clean water. It’s been two hours since adding the seeds to the water and it’s clean. When people can’t boil dirty, polluted water, they can use moringa seeds.

George found the following from Aisha El-Awady:

The resilient, fast growing Moringa tree is packed with so many vitamins and nutrients and has such a high nutritional value that it has been rightly dubbed by some as the miracle tree. All parts of this scruffy looking tree are edible; the leaves can be eaten raw, cooked like spinach or made into a powder that can be added to sauces, soups or chowders. The new leaves have a tendency to appear towards the end of the dry season when few other sources of green leafy vegetables are available. The young, green pods can be eaten whole and are comparable in taste to asparagus. The older pods can be used for their seeds, which can be prepared as peas or roasted and eaten like peanuts. The flowers which bloom around 8 months after the tree is planted, can be eaten fried and have the taste and texture of mushrooms. In Hawaii, the flowers are used to make a tea that cures colds. In addition to this, the flowers are a year- round source of nectar and can be used by beekeepers. When the pods mature and turn brown, the seeds can be removed and pressed to extract high quality oil similar to olive oil rich in oleic acid (73%). The mature seed contains about 40% oil. The oil, which is known as Ben oil, can be used for cooking, lubrication, in soaps, lamps and perfumes. The oil was highly valued by ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians and was used in perfumes and for skin protection; it was also used in Europe in the 19th century for the same purpose and was imported from the West Indies. The taproot of young trees can be used to make a spice resembling horseradish when vinegar and salt are added to it. Not only is the Moringa oleifera tree extraordinary in that all parts of the tree are edible, but the most amazing aspect of the tree is its exceptionally high nutritional value. The leaves of the Moringa tree are an excellent source of vitamin A (four times the amount in carrots), the raw leaves are rich in vitamin C (seven times the amount in oranges), and they are also a good source of vitamin B and other minerals. The leaves are also an outstanding source of calcium (four times the amount in milk), protein (twice the amount in milk), and potassium (three time the amount in bananas). The content of iron is very good as well and the leaves have purportedly been used for treating anaemia in the Philippines. The content of amino acids such as methionine and cystine is also high. Carbohydrates, fats and phosphorous content are low making this one of the finest plant foods to be found.

Africa’s Solution to Malnutrition?      These qualities have made the Moringa oleifera tree a candidate in the fight against malnutrition. A group of health workers from the Church World Service have been utilizing this highly nutritious and fast growing tree as a means to cure and prevent malnutrition in infants, pregnant and lactating women as an alternative to the classic and expensive condiments usually used such as whole milk powder, sugar, vegetable oil, and sometimes peanut butter. It takes around ten days to see an improvement in malnourished infants when Moringa leaves are used whereas it takes months for recovery with conventional methods. According to Dr. Lowell Fuglie, the West Africa representative of the Church World Service who used the Moringa tree as a base for a nutrition program, “for a child aged 1-3, a 100 g serving of fresh cooked leaves would provide all his daily requirements of calcium, about 75% of his iron and half his protein needs, as well as important amounts of potassium, B vitamins, copper and all the essential amino acids. As little as 20 grams of leaves would provide a child with all the vitamins A and C he needs.”

“For pregnant and breast-feeding women, Moringa leaves and pods can do much to preserve the mother’s health and pass on strength to the fetus or nursing child. One 100 g portion of leaves could provide a woman with over a third of her daily need of calcium and give her important quantities of iron, protein, copper, sulfur and B-vitamins.”

 “One rounded tablespoon (8 g) of leaf powder will satisfy about 14% of the protein, 40% of the calcium, and 23% of the iron and nearly all the vitamin A needs for a child aged 1-3. Six rounded spoonfuls of leaf powder will satisfy nearly all of a woman’s daily iron and calcium needs during pregnancy and breast-feeding.”

Water Purification    The Moringa tree has other extraordinary qualities; the powder from ground Moringa seeds and the presscake left over from oil extraction have the ability to clear murky water as it acts as a coagulant which attaches to particulate matter and bacteria in the water and falls to the bottom of the container. The purified water can then be poured out and boiled. This method has been used for centuries domestically and has recently been tried commercially and was found to be equally efficient to, if not surpassing, alum which is usually used and at a fraction of the cost.

Practical Uses      The bark of the tree can be used to make mats or rope and in tanning hides. The gum from the cut tree trunks is used in calico printing and in some medicines. The wood can be used to make a blue dye and can also be used as firewood. The flowers and roots of Moringa trees contain a powerful antibiotic known as pterygospermin, which also has fungicidal properties. An effective plant growth hormone can be extracted from fresh leaves and has been found to increase crop yields by up to 25-30%, and the leaves can also be used as a green manure to enrich farmlands.

Mother’s Best Friend The family Moringaceae contains 14 species of Moringa trees. Moringa oleifera, is a drought tolerant tree, and is the best-known member of this family. It is native to sub-Himalayan regions of northern India and is distributed all over the world in tropics and sub tropics. Moringa stenopetala, which produces larger seed and leaves than M. oleifera, inhabits Ethiopia and northern Kenya. M. peregrina is native in Egypt, Sudan, and the Arabian Peninsula and as far north as the Dead Sea. M. ovalifolia is found in Angola and Namibia. The tree has many different names. It is called the drumstick tree in India due to the long pods, or the horseradish tree as the roots may be used to make a spice resembling horseradish. In some parts of the world it is known as ‘Mother’s best friend’. In Senegal, it is known as Nebeday, which means “Never Die,” because the tree is outstandingly hearty. It is also known as the Ben Oil tree; the Benzolive tree in Haiti; Marum in Thailand; Yoruba in Nigeria and Malunggay in the Philippines.                           www.islamonline.net/English/Science/2003/02/article06.shtml

Sources:  Sreenivasan, Jyotsna, 2000:The Drumstick Tree A Natural Multi-Vitamin.

NCCCUSA, 2000: Expedition to Distribute 20,000 Moringa Tree Seeds in Tanzania.

ECHO. Moringa, Nature’s Medicine Cabinet:  ECHO Moringa and Carotene.

ECHO. Effectiveness of a Moringa Seed Extract in Treating a Skin Infection.

Fuglie, Lowell. New Uses of Moringa Studied in Nicaragua. ECHO.

ECHO. The Moringa Tree, Moringa oleifera, is Called Mother’s Best Friend.

ECHO. Using Moringa on a Larger Scale;    Portalmarket, Moringa Tree Powder.

Gardner, Ellen, 2002: Moringa tree has many uses, From Food to Firewood. Yumasun.

Price, Martin L., 1985: Fruits & Others: Articles The Moringa Tree. Tropical-Seeds.

Willi says

She heard that it is rich in B17 which is believed by some to be an anti cancer nutrient. In Indonesia all  parts of the plant are always cooked. Its Indonesian names are Klentang or Kelor. It was used to make a soup with Chicken to help recovery from sickness. The ingredients were leaves, pods, flowers, tamarind & chicken. The fibres from the pods had to be removed from the broth after cooking.

Article compiled by Sheryl Backhouse