Nutritional and medicinal properties of malunggay

Malunggay, known as horse-radish tree or Ben oil tree in English and whose scientific name is Moringa oleifera is indeed a very useful plant. It is rich in nutrients; it helps clean turbid water because it acts as a flocculant that is able to precipitate suspended particles; it is a source of oil; and it has some medicinal properties.

Malunggay is easy to plant and is drought resistant. It is grown all over the Philippines as a backyard tree and is available throughout the year.

The leaves, flowers and fruits (that are pods) of malunggay are edible and Filipinos eat them as vegetable.

Malunggay leaves are loaded with nutrients, especially vitamins and mineral. Research study conducted by Dr. Lydia Marero of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) of the Philippines revealed that one hundred grams or one cup of cooked malunggay leaves contain 3.1g protein, 0.6 g fiber, 96mg calcium, 29mg phosphorus, 1.7 mg iron, 2,820 mg beta-carotene, 0.07 mg thiamin, 0.14 mg riboflavin, 1.1 mg niacin and 53 mg ascorbic acid (Vit. C).

Compared to equivalent amounts (in weight) of other foods, malunggay has seven times more Vitamin C than oranges, fout times more calcium and two more times more protein than milk, four times more vitamin A than carrots and three times more potassium than bananas.

Malunggay has numerous reported medicinal properties, but only a few have been scientifically proven.

Regular consumption of malunggay can greatly help in preventing micronutirent deficiency (especially among children), a condition that is still prevalent in many parts of the country.

To this end, the Department of Agriculture’s Biotechnology Program has successfully conducted studies on how to fortify all sort of food products including noodles, juices, milk and bread with malunggay.

Sen Legarda has picked up the idea and is advocating for the fortification of instant noodles with malunggay as ans inexpensive way to enrich the Filipino household diet and put in check widespread micronutrient deficiency.

Malunggay contains high levels of beta-carotene, Vitamin C and E, and the phytochemical niaziminin. These substances are potent antioxidants that protect the cells of the body from getting damaged by free radicals.

Free radicals are believed to contribute to such disorders as cancer, heart disease and many other conditions associated with aging. In other words, malunggay could help prevent many forms of cancer and delay the aging process.

Among lactating mothers, eating malunggay leaves increases the flow of milk. This is another health benefit of malunggay that has already been proven.

The numerous other reports on the medicinal properties of malunggay are mostly folkloric in nature and still scientifically unproven. At any rate, let me enumerate some of them.

Malunggay pods when eaten are reported effective against intestinal parasites. Decoction of boiled malunggay roots when used as gargle evidently alleviates hoarseness and sore throat;when used to wash sores and ulcers, it helps dry these lesions because it has antibacterial properties.

Malunggay seeds are apparently good for gout, asthma, and hiccups, and rheumatic pains. The juice of the roots when infused into the ears relieves otalgia or earache, while eating the leaves and fruits relieves constipation. The flowers when boiled with soy milk act as aphrodisiac. Malunggay has also been reported to be of help in controlling diabetes and high blood pressure.

source: Manila Bulletin
Health & Science