Dit artikel is hier in het Nederlands te lezen.
“The hardest thing to see is what is in front of your eyes”
The words above seem to apply more and more to the Moringa oleifera tree, or just Moringa tree as I will call it throughout this article. With it by many already called a Miracle Tree, more and more clinical studies have started confirming that the Moringa tree truly delivers wonders and that traditional medicine has since long been on the right track. Below, I will mainly focus on the highly valued nutritional benefits of the tree.
In 2017, 821 million people worldwide were suffering from malnutrition and their number has started growing again, after it had been halved in previous years. The pain and suffering of these people cannot even be imagined. It is a chronic and urgent problem that is obviously very hard to eliminate. Of course also in Uganda, the country we are as HWMCO-Nederland & NiCA Foundation focusing on, which belongs to the poorest countries in the world and even has the youngest population in the world, malnutrition occurs on a large scale. As we are continuously looking for ways to offer help, we are very hopeful about what we have learned about the beneficial effects of the Moringa tree. It may play a big role in the elimination of malnutrition in communities we can reach out to.
About the Moringa Tree.
Native to the Indian sub-continent (the southern region and peninsula of Asia), Moringa has from there spread around the world. It is a simple, yet elegant looking, leafy tree with drooping branches and tiny rounded leaves. The tree is resistant to drought, and it can withstand dry and hot climates. It even grows very well in degraded soils and helps there to re-establish fertility, therewith encouraging the development of a food forest for the small scale cultivation of other useful crops. Once it has rooted, it doesn’t need much attention and it will last forever.
The Moringa tree is prized as a multi-purpose tree with all parts being usable either raw or cooked. The leaves are typically the most common part which is used as an edible green, dried and ground into a powder that can be added to various foods and drinks. Yet, every single part of the tree can be used for food (except the bark, which is used for dyeing or making bags). Nothings goes to waste. There is the root, the leaf, the blossom, the pods and the seeds. Every single stage can be used internally and externally.
Moringa Leaves Combat Malnutrition.
Moringa leaves are a good source of protein, fats, vitamins, minerals, etc. that are necessary for proper growth and development. In the picture can be seen how much both fresh and dried leaves contain compared to common food. Because it is easy so to grow and resistant to drought, it is an important food source for malnourished communities. Government agencies in some developing countries, especially in parts of West-Africa, have taken steps to introduce Moringa cultivation to suburban villages suffering from malnutrition.
In 1997/1998, Alternative Action for African Development (AGADA) and Church World Services have tested the ability of Moringa leaf powder to prevent or cure malnutrition in pregnant of breast-feeding women and their children in southwestern Senegal. Malnutrition was a major problem in that area, with more than 600 malnourished infants treated every year. During the test, doctors, nurses, and midwives were trained in preparing and using Moringa leaf powder for treating malnutrition. Village women were also trained in the preparation and use of Moringa powder in foods.
The test showed the following results:
– Children maintained or increased their weight and improved overall health.
– Pregnant women recovered from anemia and had babies with higher birth weights.
– Breast feeding women increased their production of milk.
The Moringa tree is to be seen as a vegetable. Use of it cannot be overdosed. The effects will even adapt to anyone’s personal body needs; there are no side effects. The only exception is that Moringa leaves, due to their high iron and protein content, are not appropriate for the initial treatment of the severely malnourished.
Very striking is the fact that also, as can be seen in the picture below, the Moringa tree grows very well exactly there in the world where it is most needed.
Claims of Traditional Medicine
As mentioned above, more and more clinical studies are currently confirming that the Moringa tree truly delivers wonders and that traditional medicine has since long been on the right track. Already for centuries, people in many countries have used Moringa leaves as well as other parts as traditional medicine for common ailments such as, abnormal blood pressure, anemia, anxiety, asthma, blood impurities, bronchitis, catarrh, cholera, conjunctivitis, cough, diabetes, diarrhea, eye and ear infections, fever, headaches, hysteria, intestinal worms, malaria, pain in joints, pimples, psoriasis, respiratory disorders, scurvy, semen deficiency, skin infections, sores, sprain, stomach ulcers, tuberculosis, urinary disorders.
With such great medical value being claimed by traditional medicine, further clinical testing is very much needed. If even some of the claims turn out to be correct, Moringa could become an invaluable resource, especially for people in areas where other forms of treatment are scarce.
In addition to everything mentioned above, Moringa seeds are known to be useful for water purification. When the oil (which was already known in the ancient world, with the Romans, Greeks and Egyptians using it for perfume and skin lotion) is extracted from the seeds, a protein-rich extract is left behind which can inhibit bacterial growth and be used to purify water for humans and animals.
Why Has Moringa So Far Not Been Acknowledged As It Deserves?
It has turned out that, although the tree has in many regions been present since centuries, inhabitants lacked knowledge on its (nutritional) benefits overall and also on how to best use the leaves and other parts. Yet, with more and more research being conducted following which awareness and knowledge is growing, this has started changing very fast.
Sources: Trees For Life, The Hunger Project.
HWMCO-Nederland & NiCA-Foundation
‘We Fight Poverty by Bringing Development.’
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