The Moringa oleifera tree, often known as the Tree of Life, has been making a stir in wellness circles across the globe. Looking at this unassuming plant, one wonders why.
For centuries, the people of Africa and Northern India have known of the many benefits to cultivating a Moringa plant. It goes by a variety of names, based on its many uses: the clarifier tree, the horseradish tree, and the drumstick tree (referring to the large drumstick shaped pods). In East Africa the plant is known as "mother's best friend”. India's ancient tradition of Ayurveda holds that the leaves of the Moringa plant prevent 300 diseases.
In modern lingo, this plant is dubbed as a superfood and with plenty of reason. All parts of the plant can be used for beneficial purposes. It is chock-full of vitamins, minerals, proteins, amino acids, antioxidants, and bio-nutrients.
In fact, no plant can claim all the benefits Moringa offers.
The plant species was originally native only to the foothills of the Himalayas and has rapidly spread around the world’s tropical and sub-tropical climates. It regenerates itself quickly, second to only bamboo, making it viable as a crop. Much of the plant is edible by both humans and livestock, and the bark and wood is used as firewood.
The Moringa tree prefers well drained sandy or loam soil, though it can be grown in a clay based soil. It does not tolerate water logging. New growth starts in spring, and the slender plant may grow up to a height of 10 meters, and will require frequent pruning. The tree produces flowers from January to March, and the fruit ripens from April to June. They are long, narrow in shape, and contain winged seeds.
The young, immature Moringa oleifera pods are the most valued and widely used of all the plant’s parts. They are extremely nutritious, containing all the essential amino acids required for complete protein, as well as many vitamins and other nutrients. The Moringa plant’s immature pod can be eaten raw or prepared like peas or green beans.
Seeds from the pod yield 38 - 40% of non-drying oil known as Ben oil or Behen oil. This oil is clear and odorless, and resists becoming rancid. It is a highly desirable oil for the formulation of cosmetics as it has many anti-oxidants and documented skin-rejuvenating properties. With an oleic acid content of 72%, Moringa oil penetrates deeply into the skin, bringing vital nutrients and also helping the skin retain moisture. The plant is often credited as the secret behind the Asian and African people’s long-standing reputation for clear, vibrant, beautiful skin.
Moringa plants are now being introduced into the USA, as the plant gains popularity among health-conscious people. Moringa plants for sale are a common sight on the internet, usually in seedling form. Many people grow their own Moringa plants from seed. Remarkably, this is not a difficult task, given the right growing conditions, because the tree is a hardy and fast-growing species. However, it is important to know that Moringa does not take well to cold climates and requires steady sunlight to thrive, which can be supplemented with lights during the winter season.
As Western cultures continue to study and learn more about the Moringa plant, demand for its leaves, seeds, and oil will undoubtedly continue to increase.
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