Moringa oleifera is a drought-resistant tree native to South Asia and Africa. It has been cultivated for centuries around the world for its potential health benefits. While the plant’s leaves can be eaten, it is also found as a supplement in pill or powder form. The leaves have a spicy, arugula-like taste and the powder has an earthy, grassy taste that’s similar to matcha. Blend the powder into a green smoothie, pesto, or hummus, or toss it into granola before baking or soups before simmering for a healthy boost.
Meet the experts: Jackie Newgent, R.D.N, C.D.N, plant-forward chef, nutritionist, and author of The Plant-Based Diabetes Cookbook, and Dr. Sherry Ross, women’s sexual health expert and author of she-ology and she-ology the she-quel.
Prized for its nutritional density, moringa contains zinc, iron, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and copper, among other elements essential to our well-being. “Among the many potential benefits of moringa, two standouts to me are its potential to help in managing blood glucose and blood cholesterol levels,” says Jackie Newgent. “Loaded with antioxidants, moringa also has anti-fungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties,” says Dr. Sherry Ross.
More From Prevention
While everyone may benefit from incorporating moringa into their diets, the plant can be especially helpful for women, as it may aid with anemia, bone health, menopause, and lactation.
What are the health benefits of moringa?
More randomized, double-blind studies on humans are needed, but preliminary research helps back up many of the centuries-old claims about moringa, such as its role in treating infections, lowering cholesterol, and managing blood sugar levels, to name a few.
1. May lower cholesterol
Animals (including rabbits and rats) with high cholesterol were fed moringa and had lowered cholesterol levels, according to several studies published in the National Library of Medicine. Lower cholesterol is linked to a decreased risk of heart disease, though more studies are needed to determine if moringa has the same heart-healthy effects in humans.
2. May improve hemoglobin levels
Hemoglobin, which contains iron, is found in red blood cells and is responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. A lack of healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin is known as anemia, and causes tiredness, weakness, and shortness of breath. This condition is common among women. Moringa may help, as it has been shown to significantly increase hemoglobin levels in adolescent girls as well as postmenopausal women.
3. Promotes antioxidant activity
Antioxidants are substances that help remove potentially damaging agents, called free radicals, from our bodies. Too many free radicals can lead to disease. Moringa is high in antioxidants, including blood-pressure lowering quercetin, vitamin A, vitamin C, and beta-carotene. In addition to preventing disease, researchers found that supplementing moringa in the diets of postmenopausal women increased their blood antioxidant levels and might help prevent health complications during post-menopause.
4. Plays a role in breastfeeding
Moringa has been used to aid with milk production in breastfeeding mothers in parts of Asia for centuries, and while scientific research to prove this effect is limited, one study found that moringa leaf cookies improved the protein, fat, carbohydrate, and vitamin A content of breast milk. Another study with 68 postpartum mothers who gave birth to preterm infants found that moringa did, in fact, increase milk production compared to those given a placebo. One study on postpartum women who gave birth to full term infants did not find an increase in the median amount of breast milk, but the total amount of breast milk in the moringa-fed group was 47% more than in the control group.
5. Potentially fights cancer
Extracts from the moringa root were found to kill liver, breast, and colorectal cancer cells, suggesting that moringa may be a natural source of anti-cancer compounds. Moringa leaves also showed anti-cancer properties and the ability to suppress the growth of cancer cells, but the seeds did not. Studies on human patients, rather than cells, are needed.
6. May support bone health
The loss of estrogen after menopause is one reason women are susceptible to osteoporosis, or low bone density. But consuming foods rich in bone-building vitamins and minerals, like boron, vitamin C, magnesium, and potassium, can help ward off this degradation. Moringa contains all of these micronutrients, plus others that are critical to bone health and calcium absorption. While one study found no increase in bone density in postmenopausal women who consumed the plant for 12 weeks, another study in rats found a significant increase plus other benefits, like an improved gut microbiota composition. Yet another fermented the moringa leaves and found that this increased the plant’s calcium bioavailability, which significantly promoted the bone growth and strength of calcium-deficient rats.
7. May help fight infections
All parts of the moringa tree have been shown to demonstrate activities against bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites. For example: Compounds extracted from moringa seeds may reduce the ability of a bacteria to produce disease, while those from the moringa leaf may help eliminate harmful microbes. Kaempferol, a natural flavonoid extracted from moringa, has an anti-microbial effect. What’s more, a protein from moringa seeds can be used to purify polluted water.
8. Acts against inflammation
Although some inflammation is natural (it occurs as a result of the body’s response to infection or injury), chronic inflammation can lead to health problems like heart disease and cancer. Moringa demonstrated significant anti-inflammatory activity in one animal study, though it was not as effective as ibuprofen, and showed similar impressive results in another study on cells. In one study on guinea pigs, it was shown to reduce airway inflammation, which may help treat asthma. In fact, a study of 20 patients with asthma given moringa seed powder found an improvement in the patients’ conditions after just three weeks.
9. Heals wounds and reduces pain
Moringa has historically been used to treat cuts, burns, and other injuries. In one study on rats, researchers observed a significant increase in wound closure rate and a decrease in scar area after applying moringa leaf extract. Additionally, several studies have validated the pain-killing effects of moringa, such as one where mice were fed an extract of moringa tree fruits for three days and experienced more pain relief than the control group, and another where moringa was found to be comparable to the anti-inflammatory drug indomethacin.
What are the side effects of moringa?
There are few apparent side effects when taking moringa leaves, fruit, seeds, or supplements, but the roots and bark of moringa may contain potential toxins. In some cases, “moringa can cause gastrointestinal discomfort including an upset stomach and diarrhea,” says Dr. Ross.
If taking whole leaf moringa powder, a maximum intake of 50 grams in a one-time dose—or 8 grams per day over a 40-day period—does not seem to be associated with adverse effects, says Newgent. Since there is only about 3 grams of powder in a 1-tablespoon serving, it’s unlikely that you will exceed the maximum recommended dosage.
Moringa supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA, so there isn’t a standard dose to take for the optimal health benefit. Consult your primary healthcare provider or registered dietitian to determine a personalized level advisable—or not advisable—for you.
Where can I buy moringa?
While the lack of standardization in moringa products is an issue, Newgent suggests looking for a whole leaf moringa powder that’s USDA organic certified, such as Life Extension or Terrasoul. Before buying, read the ingredients list to ensure there are no fillers or additives. Dr. Ross adds that it’s best to buy moringa from a reputable brand with third-party certifications: “Ensure that the moringa supplement manufacturer follows the Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMP) and has done testing for contaminants like heavy metals,” she says.
Avoid moringa root or its extracts, “which contain a potential toxin called spirochin,” Newgent cautions.
Dietary supplements are products intended to supplement the diet. They are not medicines and are not intended to treat, diagnose, mitigate, prevent, or cure diseases. Be cautious about taking dietary supplements if you are pregnant or nursing. Also, be careful about giving supplements to a child, unless recommended by their healthcare provider.
Samantha (she/her) is an Assistant Editor in the Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen, where she writes about tasty recipes, must-try food products and top-tested secrets for home cooking success. She has taste-tasted hundreds of products and recipes since joining GH in 2020 (tough job!). A graduate of Fordham University, she considers the kitchen to be her happiest place.