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Compilation by Armando Gonzalez Stuart, PhD

Scientific Name:

Moringa oleifera

Botanical Family:


Other Common Name:

Horseradish tree, drumstick tree, African moringa, radish tree, arango, badumbo,  ben, bentree, ben oil tree,  caragua, murunga, murinna, moringo, la mu shu, maranga- calalu, teberindo (Quattrocchi, 2012).

Common names in Spanish:

Moringa, acacia, árbol de las perlas, brotón, caraño, chinto- borrego, flor de jacinto, jacinto, palo jeringa, paraíso, paraíso blanco, paraíso de España, perla, perla de la India, perla de Oriente, picante blanco, San Jacinto, sasafrás (Quattrocchi, 2012; Berdonces, 2009; White, 2002).

Parts of the plant used:

The leaves, bark, fruit, and root.

Where is it found?

This small to medium-sized tree grows in India, as well as in other parts of Asia. It is also cultivated in various parts of Africa, Australia, and the American tropics, including Mexico (Quattrocchi, 2012; Mabberley, 2008).

How is it used?

Moringa leaves, seeds, bark, roots, sap, and flowers are commonly used in the traditional medicine of various countries around the world, and the leaves and immature seed pods are used as food products in human nutrition (Stohs and Hartman, 2015). Various parts of the plant are decocted in water and taken as a tea. The bark, flowers, and leaves can be pulverized and applied topically for the treatment of various skin disorders. Moringa is reputed to possess important nutritional properties (Khare, 2007, 2004), and can be found in capsules, sold as a nutritional supplement in certain health food stores.

What is it used for?

Moringa is an important medicinal plant in the three main traditional medicinal systems of India: Ayurveda, Siddha, and Unani, and is used alone or in combination with various medicinal plants. The plant is popularly used in African and Asian folk medicine for the treatment of infectious, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, hepatic, and various other ailments, including various types of cancer (Khare, 2016; Iwu, 2014, Quattrocchi, 2012).

In Mexico, the plant is used to treat anemia, asthma, brain tonic, lower blood pressure, as an endocrine regulator, as an anti-inflammatory, against alopecia, for weight loss, liver problems, and to strengthen the kidneys, (Mendoza-Castelán and Lugo-Pérez, 2011).

The flowers, leaves, and roots are used in folk medicine of various countries for tumors, while the seed is used for abdominal tumors. A decoction of the root is used for dropsy (retention of liquids in the body). The juice obtained from the root juice is applied topically as counter-irritant or rubefacient (to promote circulation to the skin). The leaves are applied externally as a poultice to treat sores, rubbed on the temples for headaches, and possess purgative actions. The bark, leaves, and roots have an acrid and pungent taste, and are taken to promote digestion. The oil obtained from the seeds can be toxic if ingested but is applied topically for skin diseases. The decoction made from the seed is a very strong laxative. Preparations made from the bark are used against scurvy (vitamin C deficiency). The bark exudes a reddish gum similar in properties to tragacanth; and is used for diarrhea. The roots have a bitter taste and are considered to have a tonic action on the body and lungs. They are also employed as emmenagogues (to promote menstruation), expectorants, mild diuretics and stimulants for paralytic problems, as well as epilepsy and hysteria. The seeds are used to purify water (Van Wyk and Wink, 2014; Berdonces, 2009; Iwu, 2014; Khare, 2007; Duke, 2002; Hartwell, 1984).

Various clinical studies using powdered Moringa whole leaf preparations have demonstrated its anti-hyperglycemic (anti-diabetic) and anti-dyslipidemic actions in humans. These actions have been confirmed using extracts as well as powdered leaves in animal studies. Alcoholic extracts obtained from the leaves possess a plethora of ancillary biological activities including antioxidant,  protective effects on the liver, kidneys, heart, testes, and lungs, as well as analgesic, antiulcer, antihypertensive, radio-protective, and immune-modulating activities. The plant´s diverse active ingredients (phytochemicals), such as polyphenols and phenolic acids, as well as flavonoids, glucosinolates, and alkaloids have been mentioned as possibly being responsible for the observed effects (Stohs and Hartman, 2015).

A study by Yassa and Tohamy (2014) evaluated possible antioxidant and anti-diabetic effects of a Moringa leaf aqueous extract for the treatment of streptozotocin-induced diabetic albino rats. The results of the study showed that the aqueous leaf extract was a potent anti-diabetic agent.

Photo: /Google images
Moringa oleifera flowers

A study undertaken by Madi et al. (2016) using a Moringa powdered leaf decoction on various cancer cell lines showed that the aqueous preparation decreased  the viability of HepG2, CaCo2, Jurkat, and HEK293 cells. The results of the study demonstrated that the  plant extract possessed anti-cancerous effects and that its cytotoxic effect on A549 cancer cells was due to its effects upon mitochondrial viability as well as inducing apoptosis (programmed cell death) by the production of free radicals or in a reactive oxygen species (ROS) dependent manner.

Moringin is one of various phytochemical compounds contained in Moringa, noted for its chemo-preventive and medicinal properties. This compound may have the ability inhibit essential signaling pathways that are frequently upregulated in cancer and immune diseases. Studies have shown that the glucosinolate compounds present in Moringa may have a positive role in the prevention of chronic diseases such as cancer, inflammatory ailments, and immune disorders (Michl et al., 2016).

Tiloke et al. (2016) investigated the antiproliferative effect of a Moringa cude aqueous leaf extract on a cancerous esophageal cell line. The results of the study showed that the plant extract exerted antiproliferative effects on the cancer cells by increasing lipid peroxidation, DNA fragmentation, and induction of programmed cell death (apoptosis).

A study by Tiloke et al. (2013) researched the antiproliferative effect of a Moringa aqueous leaf extract on cancerous A549 lung cells. The results of the study indicated that the plant extract affected the cancer cells by inducing apoptosis or programmed cell death.


Safety / Precautions


  • Moringa’s safety during pregnancy and lactation has not been established.
  • Avoid during pregnancy and lactation (Quattrochi, 2012; Berdonces, 2009; Duke, 2002).
  • Extracts made from the root, leaves, and bark of the tree have been shown to possess abortifacient action in laboratory animals (Khare, 2016; Nath et al., 1994).

Before you decide to take any medicinal herb or herbal supplement, be sure to consult with your health care professional first. Avoid self-diagnosis and self-medication: Always be on the safe side!



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Madi N, Dany M, Abdoun S, Usta J. Moringa oleifera's Nutritious Aqueous Leaf Extract Has Anticancerous Effects by Compromising Mitochondrial Viability in an ROS-Dependent Manner. J Am Coll Nutr. 2016 Jun 17:1-10. [Epub ahead of print]

Michl C, Vivarelli F,, Weigl J, De Nicola GR, Canistro D, Paolini M, Iori R, Rascle A. The Chemopreventive Phytochemical Moringin Isolated from Moringa oleifera Seeds Inhibits JAK/STAT Signaling. PLoS One. 2016 11(6):e0157430. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0157430.

Mendoza-Castelán G, Lugo-Pérez R. Plantas Medicinales en los Mercados de México.
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Quattrocchi, U.  World Dictionary of Medicinal and Poisonous Plants (Vol. 4).
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Stohs SJ, Hartman MJ. Review of the Safety and Efficacy of Moringa oleifera.
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Tiloke C, Phulukdaree A, Chuturgoon AA. The antiproliferative effect of Moringa oleifera crude aqueous leaf extract on cancerous human alveolar epithelial cells.
BMC Complement Altern Med. 2013 ;13:226. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-13-226.

Tiloke C, Phulukdaree A, Chuturgoon AA. The Antiproliferative Effect of Moringa oleifera Crude Aqueous Leaf Extract on Human Esophageal Cancer Cells. J Med Food. 2016 ;19(4):398-403. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2015.0113.

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Yassa HD, Tohamy AF. Extract of Moringa oleifera leaves ameliorates streptozotocin-induced Diabetes mellitus in adult rats. Acta Histochem. 2014;116(5):844-54. doi: 10.1016/j.acthis.2014.02.002.