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Versatile Moringa tree eyed as wonder drug in Africa
By Shelvia Dancey
Religion News Service
ATLANTA (RNS)--After escaping slavery in Egypt, Israelites wandered in the wilderness, according to the book of Exodus, with little to eat and even less to drink.
Their joy at finding a river was short-lived as they soon discovered its waters were bitter and undrinkable.
But then Moses "cried unto the Lord," and "the Lord showed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet ... ."
Researcher Lowell Fuglie doesn't know for sure what tree helped quench the thirst of Moses and other Israelites in the desert thousands of years ago, but he's got a hunch a similar plant could help end malnutrition and fight AIDS in Africa.
___"The Moringa tree has been around for a very long time--people have always known its value," said Fuglie, who heads the West Africa regional office for Church World Service in Dakar, Senegal. "It can purify dirty water in less than an hour--it can do so many different things."

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-growing tree, there is new hope for AIDS/HIV sufferers. The moringa

produces so many useful vitamins that many call it “the miracle

tree”—seven times the Vitamin C in oranges, four times the Vitamin A in

carrots, four times the calcium in milk. In Africa, where people are

sick and starving, it is a real gift from Mother Nature. Lena Nozizwe

reports. It’s been called “the tree of paradise, the never-die tree,”

and you’re not going out on a limb to refer to the moringa as “the

miracle tree.” Lowell Fuglie/Church World Service: “It is miraculous

that one single tree can offer so many uses for people.” Lowell Fuglie

has become the Johnny Appleseed of the moringa tree. From his office in

Dakar, Senegal, in West Africa, he has been spreading the news—and the

seeds—of the remarkable tree that has edible roots, leaves, flowers and

pods, rich in calcium, iron, potassium, as well as Vitamin A. Lowell

Fuglie: “In the Third World, there are hundreds, thousands, of people

who go blind every year for lack of Vitamin A. So, if you have an easy

source of Vitamin A like the moringa provides, then you’re doing

something very, very good.” Another miracle is how quickly it grows.

Lowell Fuglie: “It grows very rapidly. This particular tree was planted

from seed two years ago and it is already 20 feet tall.” Once an arid

patch of land, United Methodist-supported Church World Service has

planted a million of the drought-resistant plants at this moringa tree

farm about five hours north of Dakar. Here the leaves are washed, dried

and pulverized into a powder for easy use. The moringa is playing an

important role in curbing malnutrition and aiding those with HIV and

AIDS. It’s an inexpensive and accessible way for people to resist

secondary infections and improve their diets. Two studies are under way

to see how much the moringa tree really improves diets. One study will

track weaning babies; the other, HIV patients. If this is a food with

so many nutrients and health benefits, it could offer long-term

solutions to malnutrition that devastates so many places on the planet.


of Israel on from the Red Sea, and they moved out into the wilderness

of Shur and were there three days without water. Arriving at Murah,

they couldn't drink the water because it was bitter (that is why the

place was called Murah, meaning "bitter"). Then the people turned

against Moses. "Must we die of thirst?" they demanded. Moses pleaded

with the Lord to help them, and the Lord showed them a tree to throw

into the water, and the water became sweet." Exodus 15:22-7 powder from

crushed Moringa seed kernels works as a natural flocculant, binding to

the solids in water and causing them to sink to the bottom. Since

bacteria in water is generally attached to solid particles, treatment

with Moringa powder can leave water clear with 90-99% of the bacteria

removed. (Additional treatment of the water by boiling or adding

chlorine or bleach is needed to render it completely safe to drink).

Seed powder from Moringa stenopetala is used by women in the Sudan to

clarify the turbid water of the Nile. To treat 20 liters of water:

Remove the shells from mature Moringa seeds and crush the white kernels

in a mortar until a fine powder is obtained. Do not use discolored

seeds. Add 2 grams (2 teaspoons) of powder to a cup of clean water and

shake for five minutes in order to activate the chemicals in the

powder. (This can be done by putting the powder and cup of water into a

bottle and then shaking the bottle for 5 minutes). Filter this solution

through a clean cloth into the bucket of water to be treated. Stir the

bucket rapidly for 2 minutes, then slowly for 10-15 minutes. Leave the

bucket to sit without being disturbed. After one hour, the solid

particles in the water will have settled. A general rule of thumb is to

use the powder from one Moringa kernel per every two liters of water

when the water is somewhat turbid, and one kernel per liter when the

water is very turbid. Moringa seeds and seed powder can be stored, but

the paste must be made fresh each time water is to be purified. Seed

cake from which oil has been extracted retains its coagulant

properties. It can be dried and stored and the powder used to clarify

water as needed. MORINGA: A MEDICAL PHARMACOPOEIA Moringa oleifera is

already highly esteemed by people in the tropics and sub-tropics for

the many ways it is used medicinally by local herbalists. Some of these

traditional uses reflect the nutritional content of the various tree

parts. The following are but some of the ways the tree is used in Asia,

Africa and the Americas. In recent years, laboratory investigation has

confirmed the efficacy of some of these applications. LEAVES In India,

juice from leaves is believed to have a stabilizing effect on blood

pressure and is used to treat anxiety. In Senegal, a infusion of leaf

juice is believed to control glucose levels in cases of diabetes. Mixed

with honey and followed by a drink of coconut milk 2 or 3 times a day,

leaves are used as a remedy for diarrhea, dysentery and colitis

(inflammation of the colon). Leaf juice, sometimes with carrot juice

added, used as a diuretic (to increase urine flow). Eating leaves is

recommended in cases of gonorrhea on account of the diuretic action. In

India and Nicaragua, leaves and young buds are rubbed on the temple for

headache. In India and the Philippines, a poultice made from fresh

leaves is applied to reduce glandular swelling. It was reported that

Malaysians sometimes applied a leaf poultice to the abdomen to expel

intestinal worms. Leaf juice is sometimes used as a skin antiseptic. In

India, leaves used to treat fevers, bronchitis, eye and ear infections,

scurvy and catarrh (inflammation of the mucus membrane). Leaves are

considered to be anthelmintic (able to kill intestinal worms). Leaves

are used as an irritant and as a purgative. In Nicaragua, Guatemala and

Senegal, leaves are applied as poultice on sores and skin infections.

In the Philippines, eating leaves is believed to increase a woman's

milk production and is sometimes prescribed for anemia. FLOWERS Flowers

are traditionally used as a tonic, diuretic, and abortifacient. Flowers

are considered to be anthelminitic. Used to cure inflammations, muscle

diseases, tumors and enlargement of the spleen. In India, juice pressed

from the flowers is said to alleviate sore throat and catarrh. In

Puerto Rico, an infusion of the flowers is used as an eyewash and a

decoction from the flowers has been used to treat hysteria. PODS are

believed to be anthelminitic Pods are used in affections of the liver

and spleen, and in treating articular pains (pain in the joints). ROOTS
In India, roots are used as a carminative (promotes gas expulsion from

the alimentary canal, against intestinal pain or spasms) and as a

laxative. Roots are considered useful against intermittent fevers and

are sometimes chewed to relieve cold symptoms. Juice from roots is

applied externally as a rubefacient (skin tonic), counterirritant or

vesicant (agent to induce blistering). Roots are used as an

abortifacient, diuretic and a cardiac and circulatory tonic. Roots are

used to treat epilepsy, nervous debility and hysteria. In Senegal and

India, roots are pounded and mixed with salt to make a poultice for

treating rheumatism and articular pains. In Senegal, this poultice is

also used to relieve lower back or kidney pain. Roots are used as a

purgative. In India, Indo-China, Nicaragua and Nigeria, a root poultice

is used to treat inflammations, especially swelling of tissues in the

foot (pedal edema). A decoction of roots is used to cleanse sores and

ulcers. In India and Indo-China roots are used to treat cases of

scurvy. Root juice mixed with milk is considered useful against in

hiccoughs, asthma, gout, lumbago, rheumatism, enlarged spleen or liver,

internal and deep-seated inflammations, and calculous affections.

Crushed root mixed with rum has been used as a liniment on rheumatism.
A snuff made from roots is inhaled to relieve earache and toothache.
A juice made from a combination of fresh roots, bark and leaves is

inserted into the nostrils to arouse a patient from coma or stupor.

ROOT BARK AND STEM BARK In Senegal, root and tree bark are used to

treat sores and skin infections. Bark is regarded as useful in treating

scurvy. In India, stem and root bark are taken as appetizers and

digestives. In Senegal, a decoction of root bark, roots, leaves and

flowers is used to treat epilepsy, hysteria, and intestinal spasms.
In India, a decoction of the root bark is used as a fermentation to

relieve intestinal spasm and is considered useful in calculous

affections (mineral buildup/kidney stones). Stem bark is used to cure

eye diseases. In India, stem and root bark are believed to be

aphrodisiacs and anthelmintic. In India, root bark is said to prevent

enlargement of the spleen and formation of tuberculous glands of the

neck, to destroy tumors and to heal ulcers. Juice from root bark is put

into the ear to relieve earaches and also placed in a toothache cavity

as a pain killer. Bark is used as a treatment for delirious patients.
In the Philippines it is believed that, roots, chewed and applied to a

snakebite, will keep the poison from spreading. Bark is used as a

rubefacient and as a vesicant. In India, bark is sometimes mixed with

peppercorns and used as an abortifacient (although often with fatal

consequences). GUM Gum, mixed with sesame oil, is used to relieve

headaches. This is also poured into ears for the relief of earache. In

Java, gum is given for intestinal complaints. In India, gum is used for

dental caries. Gum is considered to be diuretic. In India and in

Senegal, gum is considered useful in treating fevers, dysentery and

asthma. Gum is used as an astringent and rubefacient (skin tonics). In

India, gum is sometimes used as an abortifacient. In India, gum is used

to treat syphilis and rheumatism. SEEDS Seeds are used against fevers.
Flowers, leaves and roots used as remedies for various tumors, and the

seed for abdominal tumors. In Aruba, a paste of crushed seeds is spread

on warts. SEED OIL In India, seed oil is applied externally to relieve

pain and swelling in case of gout or rheumatism, and to treat skin

diseases. Oil is used to treat hysteria and scurvy. Oil is applied to

treat prostrate and bladder troubles. Oil is considered to be a tonic

and a purgative. Some of the above traditional remedies have been

supported by recent laboratory studies. Among these: Moringa leaf

extract has been shown to be effective in lowering blood sugar levels

within a space of 3 hours, albeit less effectively than the standard

hypoglycaemic drug, glibenclamide. Effects increased with larger

doses.30 An extract taken from dried leaves showed an impressive

ability to heal ulcers in laboratory animals. Administration of daily

doses by injection caused a very significant improvement in the healing

rate in induced gastric ulcers.31 An extract made from dried powdered

leaves was shown to have a very potent depressive effect on the central

nervous system, resulting in significant muscle relaxation, decreased

body temperatures and increased sleep time among laboratory mice.

Subjects receiving the highest dosages spent twice as much time asleep

as the control group.32 An extract from dried roots, applied orally to

laboratory mice, demonstrated clearly that the roots possess

antiinflammatory properties.33 In another study, infusion of seeds,

roots and flowers significantly inhibited the formation of pedal edema,

although the authors concluded that the seed infusion may be the only

one worthy of further investigation.34 An infusion made from seeds

demonstrated an ability to inhibit intestinal spasms, as well as some

diuretic activity. However, other plant parts (leaves, roots, stalks

and flowers) showed no significant antispasmodic or diuretic

activity.35 An in vitro study showed that an aqueous extract made from

seeds is effective against Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus

aureus and Escheridia coli. This study showed the seed extract to be

equally effective as Neomycin against S. aureus. Similar results were

obtained with aqueous extracts from the roots.36 Fresh leaf juice has

showed some positive inhibition of Pseudomonas aeruginosa37 and an

extract from leaves was found to be effective at inhibiting the growth

of the fungi Basidiobolus haptosporus and B.ranarum. The in vitro

anti-fungal effects of the extract compared favorably the with the

effects of some conventional drugs used to treat zygomycotic

infections.38 Aqueous extract from stem bark were shown to increase the

rate of heart contractions at low concentrations and decrease the rate

at high concentrations, with the effect of lowering blood pressure.39

Moringinine, from root bark, acts on the sympathetic nervous system and

acts as a cardiac stimulant, relaxes bronchioles (bronchial tube

inflammation) and inhibits involuntary intestinal tract movement.

Anthonine, also found in root bark, is highly toxic to the cholera

bacterium.40 Spirochin, found in the roots, is anti-gram+ bacteria,

analgesic, antipyretic, affects the circulatory system (by raising or

lowering heart beat, depending on dose), and affects the nervous

system. In high doses it can paralyze the vagus nerve. Also found in

roots and seeds, benzylisothiocyanate (which works against fungi and

bacteria) may be even better than medicinally utilized

benzylisothiocyanate and other isothiocyanates.41 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. 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. 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." 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.