“My first impression was that it’s too good to be true,” said Waterman, who has researched the benefits of moringa for nearly a decade.
More studies are needed to assess how the plant works in the body and how its nutrients and phytochemicals affect the body, she said, but the “miracle tree,” as it is sometimes described, shows great potential as a solution for a healthful, sustainable food supply for a rapidly growing global population.
Food, supplement, medicine
The moringa tree, also known as the drumstick tree because of its slender foot-long pods, has been consumed mainly in parts of Southeast Asia for centuries.
The plant is distantly related to cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale and cabbage, and shares the same nutritious compounds. Its leaves, when tossed on salads or on meat, taste a bit peppery like arugula. Young pods are reminiscent of Chinese long beans, with a hint of spice. Seeds can be eaten or boiled to make salad oil. The fragrant flowers are often used to make tea.
More commonly, the leaves are dried and ground into a powder that’s added to soups, curries and stews.
“If it’s dried, it’s much more concentrated,” said Waterman. “You get a lot more of the nutrients but can certainly lose some of the heat sensitive nutrients, like Vitamin C, in the drying process.”