Rediscovering moringa in the age of globalization

Carlos Andam By Carlos Andam, 3rd Jan 2012 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Nature>Plants

Moringa or malunggay is considered a plant of many uses ranging from its use as a common vegetable to many people to as raw materials for the development of various industrial and medicinal products.

Moringa: a versatile plant

Dislike by many people especially with the youngsters, malunggay or moringa, is a favorite example of an inexpensive vegetable to help in solving malnutrition. In fact, it is a popular recommendation extolled in many fora both here and abroad addressing malnutrition in rural areas. Scientists, researchers and even doctors attest to the nutritional versatility of this vegetable. Its popularity, however, is confined within the four corners of books, magazines and newsletters and proceedings of many nutrition fora in the country and elsewhere in the world. Of course, the Ilocanos of the Philippines prized and relished the pods and leaves for their viand. Sad to say, that research and development support to developing other products that would make it more attractively likeable especially to the children is very limited if there is any, but only lips support. Nowhere can one find an organized program for promoting malungay and its processed products being implemented in the country.
Surely, there is a lot of malunggay product processing technologies in the literatures even in the Philippines alone but they remain in the shelves of researchers and libraries. While this should have been given attention in nutritional priorities even if it is only for the rural people who constitute the bulk of our population, time, efforts and money in addressing and discussing rural malnutrition could have already made significant impact. After all, malunggay can grow even in poor soils, and yet, it is known or recognized by the majority of the Filipinos, even children know how does a malunggay tree look like.
Versatility of malunggay or moringa can be attested by many researches and documentations here and abroad, and some facts about its myriad uses and potential products in relation to nutrition, medicinal and industrial potentials are reviewed herein just to extol once again its versatility and hopefully the government would consider organizing a promotional program to make it a real popular vegetable not only to the Ilocanos but the Filipinos. Thanks to the Porac Foundation, Inc. (PFI) of Pampanga and their partner, World Outreach Foundation of Kansas City (WOFKC), for initiating a malunggay project. Probably, this private initiative is the first organized project in promoting malunggay utilization. The project is intended to enrich food such as pandesal, polvoron, local delicacies, pasta and food supplement with children as target beneficiaries, and also lactating mothers and other members of the households.
Mark Fritz reported in the Los Angeles Times, as cited by R. Valencia and S. Bismark who in August 24, 2002 wrote in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, that malunggay can rebuild weak bones, enrich anemic blood and enable a malnourished mother to nurse her starving baby. They said that ounce for ounce, malunggay has the calcium of four glasses of milk, the vitamin C of seven oranges and the potassium of three bananas.

Impressive attributes

It has more impressive attributes than olive oil and triple the iron of spinach. Both malunggay and carrot are diamonds in roughage but the former has quadruple the beta-carotene which is effective against cancer and good for the eyes. In West Africa, doctors used it to treat diabetes, high blood pressure in India and as a substitute for expensive whole milk powder in nutrition projects in Senegal.
But there’s more that malunggay can offer. In the same report, it was revealed that beriberi, rickets and scurvy are among the diseases caused by the lack of nutrients that are abundant in moringa. Three spoonfuls of moringa leaf powder contains 272% of a typical toddler’s daily vitamin A requirement, along with 42% of the protein, 125% of the iron and 22% of the vitamin C. It contains a full complement of minerals and all the amino acids of meat.
The report further said that malunggay has natural healing powers. “The seeds and roots contain an antibiotic that Guatemala’s University of San Carlos found to be as effective against skin infections as neomycin”. Yet, “studies published in the journal of Phytotherapy Research and HortScience have found different Moringa parts to be effective in lowering blood sugar, reducing swelling, healing gastric ulcers, lowering blood pressure and even calming the nervous system”.
In 1994, Geoff Folkard and John Sutherland reported in the Footsteps – a publication of Tear Fund - a company based in the United Kingdom that Moringa seeds contains 40% by weight of oil. Its oil is of high quality and potentially has a high market value. “The oil is of equal value both for cooking oil and as the main ingredient for soap manufacture. The demand for oil in Malawi is far greater than present production within the country”.
They further revealed that the leaves have a high protein content of 27% and are rich in vitamins A and C, calcium, iron and phosphorus. A particular advantage according to them is that the leaves can be harvested during the dry season when no other fresh vegetables are available.
Still, there is more to know about the malunggay: “Immature green pods are cut into sections and canned in brine for export to Europe and America”, revealed Folkard and Sutherland in 1994.
In a separate research in the Philippines conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), malunggay leaves are an incomparable source of the sulphur-containing amino acids, methionine and cystine, which are the natural minerals that human beings are often lacking of. Cooked leaves of 100 grams contains 3.1 grams protein, 0.6 grams fiber, 96 milligrams calcium, 29 milligrams phosphorus, 1.7 milligrams iron, 2,820 milligrams beta-carotene, 0.07 milligrams thiamine, 0.14 milligrams riboflavin, 1.1 milligrams niacin, and 53 milligrams ascorbic acid or vitamin C.
And for those wanting to staying young, the research also found out that the cooked leaves has antioxidant activity ranging from about 71% with α-tocopherol or vitamin E equivalent to 45.
There are many more studies on malunggay conducted and countless undocumented experiences as a nutritious vegetable and its medicinal properties not only in tropical Asia where the plant is said to thrive luxuriantly but in other parts of the globe as well. The plant deserves to be elevated from its lowly stature in the diet to a global icon of healthy family if only to promote its myriad uses, let alone to start in this country. As it is being relished and prized by the Ilocanos even without someone promoting to them, that icon of a healthy family may raise awareness and eventually attract some more people to include malunggay in the family’s meals. This lowly malunggay should rise from its present stature, after all, it is a global commodity with multifarious uses.


Antioxidant, Antioxidant Rich Food, Green Leafy Vegetable, Malunggay, Medicinal Vegetable, Moringa, Nutritious Vegetable

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author avatar Carlos Andam
Agriculturist, researcher, professor and a freelance science feature writer.

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author avatar Mavicity
6th Jan 2012 (#)

Moringa does not only have these qualities, it tastes good too. Thanks for sharing!

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author avatar avery sandiego
6th Jan 2012 (#)

Malunggay or moringa is popular now and is added to enrich breads..

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author avatar Carlos Andam
7th Jan 2012 (#)

Thank you Mavicity & averygirl72 for your encouraging comments, they add up to my knowledge about malungay!

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author avatar Edelmblase
6th Feb 2012 (#)

Yes sir, moringa is incorporated now in breads, polvoron, yema, cookies, cakes and is a refreshing drink if added with calamansi. The recipes above have been extended to the mothers in Tanza & Buliasnin last November to December 2011 in the extension project entitled nutri projects by yours truly and Mam Gonzales. Your article is very informative and timely for the benefit of everyone. Congrats sir!

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author avatar Carlos Andam
12th Apr 2012 (#)

Thank you for the information and I hope you continue promoting its use in your extension work!

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author avatar Mark Angeles
22nd Apr 2015 (#)

To sustain your everyday consumption of moringa leaves, one person must plant three moringa trees. Therefore, if your family composed of three persons, you must plant nine moringa trees.

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