Molly is a registered dietitian nutritionist who holds a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Texas Christian University and a master’s degree in nutrition interventions, communication, and behavior change from Tufts University.
Meet moringa. Known as the "drumstick tree," "miracle tree," and "tree of life" in its native India and Nepal, moringa has as many aliases as it does scientifically backed benefits.
The powder, which resembles matcha, is made from the leaves of the moringa tree and gets props for its nutrition profile, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powers, and long list of health-promoting properties, everything from boosting your mood to your sex life.
This superfood has been used as a traditional remedy in ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. Here are the 10 things we love most about moringa, plus our favorite ways to add this super green to your diet.
1. It's nutrient-packed.
Many of the healthy foods you eat have a single standout nutrient. Think carrots and vitamin A, citrus and vitamin C, nuts and vitamin E. Moringa sticks out as a superfood because one cup of chopped leaves is considered a good source of iron, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and riboflavin and has notable amounts of potassium, vitamin A, vitamin E, and magnesium. In fact, the leaves are more concentrated in vitamin C than oranges. That means moringa can contribute to everything from better vision and immunity to bone health and skin radiance.
2. It's a super source of plant-based protein.
Whether you're a vegetarian or just trying to cut down on meat, it's not always easy finding convenient plant-based protein. Sure, there are lentils and tempeh, but sometimes you just want a quick, no-cook add-in to sprinkle on smoothie bowls or add to soup. That's where moringa comes in. Powders made from its crushed leaves are packed with protein—3 grams of protein per tablespoon, in fact—and have a leg up on legumes because they contain all the essential amino acids, necessary for muscle repair, energy production, and mood regulation.
3. It can help your sex life.
Stress can stress your sex life. It can throw hormone levels off, spiking cortisol and decreasing dopamine to lower libido. In animal studies, moringa has not only been show to bring down cortisol levels, it may also naturally boost testosterone levels, a known sex drive booster. In one study, moringa extract worked to enhance sexual performance in stressed rats by suppressing cortisol and increasing testosterone.
4. It can balance hormones.
Menopause can throw women's hormones out of whack—and make them feel out of whack, but moringa may help. A study published in the Journal of Food and Science Technology found that postmenopausal women who took a combination of moringa leaf powder and amaranth leaf powder for three months not only had decreased markers of oxidative stress, but they also had better fasting blood glucose and increased hemoglobin levels, which could mean more balanced hormones. Moringa has also been linked to improved thyroid health, which controls hormones related to energy, sleep, and digestion.
5. It protects the liver.
Think of your liver as the body's detoxifier. It filters the blood, detoxifies chemicals, and metabolizes fat—and moringa may help it work better. First off, moringa contains high concentrations of polyphenols to reverse oxidation in the liver, and preliminary research has shown moringa consumption to reduce liver fibrosis and protect against liver damage.
6. It fights free radicals.
Free radicals are created by things like pollution, fried food, and sun exposure. They damage your cells by robbing them of an electron, causing oxidative stress, cell damage, and premature aging. The antidote: antioxidants, like the flavonoids, polyphenols, and ascorbic acid found in moringa. A diet rich in antioxidants has been shown to prevent premature wrinkles and possibly make you live longer.
7. It fights inflammation.
Move over, turmeric, there's a new inflammation-fighter in town. Moringa has been shown to significantly lower inflammation in cells. As well as containing inflammation-lowering polyphenols and isothiocyanates, moringa reduces inflammation by suppressing inflammatory enzymes and proteins in the body. Take that, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
8. It balances blood sugar.
Spikes in insulin and blood sugar can cause mood swings and sugar cravings and even lead to the development of type 2 diabetes and obesity. Enter moringa. The leaf powder has been effective at reducing lipid and glucose levels and regulating oxidative stress in lab studies. One study also showed therapeutic antioxidant properties as well as lower fasting glucose levels in postmenopausal women who took a supplement with moringa, and amaranth, leaves for three months. One animal study even showed that moringa in the diet could help reduce weight gain and insulin resistance.
9. It improves digestion.
Moringa leaf powder contains about 30% fiber, most of it insoluble, something you not only need for digestion but that may also reduce your risk of disease. Moringa is a natural antibiotic and antibacterial and may help inhibit the growth of various pathogens that can cause digestive upset. Moringa's anti-inflammatory properties have been shown to help with digestive disorders, like colitis, plus a recent study in mice found that it may improve gut bacteria.
10. It supports brain health.
It's estimated that one in eight people over the age of 65 have Alzheimer's disease. Moringa leaf is high in vitamins C and E, which combat the oxidative stress associated with Alzheimer's. Animal studies of both Alzheimer's and dementia are showing promising results. More good news: Moringa has also been linked to increased dopamine and serotonin ('happy hormones'), and with more research, it could possibly be used to help treat depression in the future.
Moringa side effects and who should avoid it.
The leaf powder had been deemed safe in human studies, even in larger doses than normal. But you might want to stay clear of seed extract consumption, as they have shown a level of toxicity in immune cells.
Moringa can have a laxative effect when consumed in large quantities or lead to stomach upset, so we suggest starting with a small dose—½ to 1 teaspoon per day—to start.
WebMD states that moringa is likely unsafe for pregnant women to use due to the chemicals possibly found in the root, bark, or flowers of the plant. Consuming moringa may cause the uterus to contract, possibly leading to a miscarriage.
How to use moringa powder.
Made from dried and ground leaves, the powder has a mild flavor with a slightly earthy taste. Add it to everything from green smoothies and oatmeal to hummus and guacamole. It can also be sprinkled into soups and salads, dusted on top of your avocado toast or sweet potato toast, baked into muffins and zucchini bread, or mixed into your favorite energy balls. Or use the powder like matcha and whisk it into hot water for a caffeine-free coffee substitute.
Moringa-infused teas are also common (try Traditional Medicinals Organic Moringa with Spearmint & Sage or Republic of Tea Organic Moringa SuperHerb). It's even been showing up in the chip aisle (try Vegan Rob's Moringa Puffs).
Ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE web class with nutrition expert Kelly LeVeque.