DistributionThe "Moringa" tree is grown mainly in semi-arid, tropical, and subtropical areas, corresponding in the United States to USDA hardiness zones 9 and 10. While it grows best in dry sandy soil, it tolerates poor soil, including coastal areas. It is a fast-growing, drought-resistant tree that is native to the southern foothills of the Himalayas in northwestern India. Reports that it grows wild in the Middle East or Africa are completely unsubstantiated. Today it is widely cultivated in Africa, Central and South America, Sri Lanka, India, Mexico, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. It is considered one of the world’s most useful trees, as almost every part of the Moringa tree can be used for food or has some other beneficial property. In the tropics, it is used as forage for livestock, and in many countries, Moringa micronutrient liquid, a natural anthelmintic (kills parasites) and adjuvant (to aid or enhance another drug) is used as a metabolic conditioner to aid against endemic diseases in developing countries.
A traditional food plant in Africa, this little-known vegetable has potential to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development, and support sustainable landcare.
General nutritionThe immature green pods called “drumstick” are probably the most valued and widely used part of the tree. They are commonly consumed in India and are generally prepared in a similar fashion to green beans and have a slight asparagus taste. The seeds are sometimes removed from more mature pods and eaten like peas or roasted like nuts. The flowers are edible when cooked, and are said to taste like mushrooms. The roots are shredded and used as a condiment in the same way as horseradish; however, it contains the alkaloid spirochin, a potentially fatal nerve-paralyzing agent. The presence of this compound is not worrying because large amounts are required to elicit deleterious effects, and spirochin even displays antibacterial properties when consumed in smaller amounts. 
nutritious, being a significant source of beta-carotene, Vitamin C, protein, iron, and potassium. The leaves are cooked and used like spinach. In addition to being used fresh as a substitute for spinach, its leaves are commonly dried and crushed into a powder, and used in soups and sauces. Murungakai, as it is locally known in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, is used in Siddha medicine. The tree is a good source for calcium and phosphorus. In Siddha medicines, these drumstick seeds are used as a sexual virility drug for treating erectile dysfunction in men and also in women for prolonging sexual activity.
Moringa leaves and pods are helpful in increasing breast milk in the breastfeeding months. One tablespoon of leaf powder provide 14% of the protein, 40% of the calcium, 23% of the iron and most of the vitamin A needs of a child aged one to three. Six tablespoons of leaf powder will provide nearly all of the woman's daily iron and calcium needs during pregnancy and breastfeeding. The Moringa seeds yield 38–40% edible oil (called ben oil from the high concentration of behenic acid contained in the oil). The refined oil is clear, odorless, and resists rancidity at least as well as any other botanical oil. The seed cake remaining after oil extraction may be used as a fertilizer or as a flocculent to purify water. The bark, sap, roots, leaves, seeds, oil, and flowers are used in traditional medicine in several countries. In Jamaica, the sap is used for a blue dye.
The flowers are also cooked and relished as a delicacy in West Bengal and Bangladesh, especially during early spring. There it is called shojne ful and is usually cooked with green peas and potato.
MalnutritionMoringa trees have been used to combat malnutrition, especially among infants and nursing mothers. Three non-governmental organizations in particular — Trees for Life, Church World Service, and Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization — have advocated Moringa as "natural nutrition for the tropics." Leaves can be eaten fresh, cooked, or stored as dried powder for many months without refrigeration, and reportedly without loss of nutritional value. Moringa is especially promising as a food source in the tropics because the tree is in full leaf at the end of the dry season when other foods are typically scarce.
A large number of reports on the nutritional qualities of Moringa now exist in both the scientific and the popular literature. It is commonly said that Moringa leaves contain more Vitamin A than carrots, more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach, more Vitamin C than oranges, and more potassium than bananas,” and that the protein quality of Moringa leaves rivals that of milk and eggs. However, the leaves and stem of M. oleifera are known to have large amounts of their calcium bound in calcium oxalate crystals, which is not a form of calcium available to the body. Whether the claim of "more calcium than milk" includes this non-bioavailable calcium needs to be addressed. The oral histories recorded by Lowell Fuglie in Senegal and throughout West Africa report countless instances of lifesaving nutritional rescue that are attributed to Moringa. In fact, the nutritional properties of Moringa are now so well-known that there seems to be little doubt of the substantial health benefit to be realized by consumption of Moringa leaf powder in situations where starvation is imminent. Nonetheless, the outcomes of well-controlled and well-documented clinical studies would still be clearly of great value.
In many cultures throughout the tropics, differentiation between food and medicinal uses of plants (e.g. bark, fruit, leaves, nuts, seeds, tubers, roots, and flowers), is very difficult because plant uses span both categories, and this is deeply ingrained in the traditions and the fabric of the community.
In traditional Indian medicine, children and adults used to drink a cup of decoction (kasayam) every Sunday, normally after an oil bath, made of ginger, garlic, a piece of Murungai tree bark (Murungai pattai ..in Tamil) and Mavelingam tree bark (mavelinga pattai, and the root nodules of Kolinji plant (a leguminous plant with nitrogen nodules in the root).
CultivationIn the Philippines, the plant is propagated by planting limb cuttings 1–2 m long, from June to August, preferably. The plant starts bearing pods 6–8 months after planting, but regular bearing commences after the second year. The tree bears for several years. It does not tolerate freeze or frost. It can also be propagated by seed. As with all plants, optimum cultivation depends on producing the right environment for the plant to thrive. Moringa is a sun- and heat-loving plant. Seeds are planted an inch below the surface and can be germinated year-round in well-draining soil.
There is a saying in Tamil Language in India "Murungaiyai odithu vala, pillaiyai adithu vala" (Meaning: the murungai tree must be cultivated by regular pruning, children must be groomed with proper guidance(by punishing too).
Rajangam et al. write:
India is the largest producer of Moringa, with an annual production of 1.1 to 1.3 million tonnes of tender fruits from an area of 380 km². Among the states, Andhra Pradesh leads in both area and production (156.65 km²) followed by Karnataka (102.8 km²) and Tamil Nadu (74.08 km²). In other states, it occupies an area of 46.13 km². Tamil Nadu is the pioneering state insomuch as it has varied genotypes from diversified geographical areas and introductions from Sri Lanka.Moringa is common in India, where its triangular, ribbed pods with winged seeds are used as a vegetable crop. It is particularly suitable for dry regions. The drumstick can be grown using rainwater without expensive irrigation techniques. The yield is good even if the water supply is not. The tree can be grown even on land covered with 10–90 cm of mud.– In "Development potential for Moringa products" (2001)
Moringa is grown in home gardens and as living fences in Thailand, where it is commonly sold in local markets. In the Philippines, Moringa is commonly grown for its leaves, which are used in soup. The leaves (called dahon ng malunggay in Tagalog, bulung malungge Kapampangan or dahon sa kamunggay in Cebuano) are commonly sold in local markets. Moringa is also actively cultivated by the AVRDC in Taiwan. The AVRDC is "the principal international center for vegetable research and development in the world. Its mission is to reduce poverty and malnutrition in developing countries through improved production and consumption of vegetables."
Culinary usesfruit of the tree is quite popular as a vegetable in Asia and Africa. The fruit is a long thin pod resembling a drumstick. The fruit itself is called drumstick in India and elsewhere. Moringa leaves are also eaten as a leaf vegetable, particularly in the Philippines, South India and Africa.
Tender drumstick leaves, finely chopped, are used as garnish for vegetable dishes, dals, sambars, salads, etc. It is also used in place of or along with coriander, as these leaves have high medicinal value. In some regions the flowers are gathered and cleansed to be cooked with besan to make pakoras.
It is also preserved by canning and exported worldwide.
PhilippinesIn the Philippines, the leaves are widely eaten. Bunches of leaves are available in many markets, priced below many other leaf vegetables. The leaves are most often added to a broth to make a simple and highly nutritious soup. The leaves are also sometimes used as a characteristic ingredient in tinola, a traditional chicken dish consisting of chicken in a broth, Moringa leaves, and either green papaya or another secondary vegetable. The leaves can also be processed with olive oil and salt for a pesto-like pasta sauce that has become popular on the Filipino culinary scene.
The leaves are now used in making "polvoron", which is a milky and powdered snack, bio-fuel, and moringa oil.
In Leyte, extracted moringa juice is mixed with lemonsito juice to make ice candies or cold drinks, making it more palatable and agreeable to children who detest vegetables.
On September 14, 2007, Senator Loren Legarda campaigned for the popularization of Moringa. She asked the government to make Moringa among its priority crops for propagation. The Bureau of Plant Industry, in its report, stated that weight per weight, Moringa leaves have the calcium equivalent of 4 glasses of milk, the vitamin C content of 7 oranges, potassium of 3 bananas, 3 times the iron of spinach, 4 times the amount of vitamin A in carrot, and 2 times the protein in milk. Moringa also helps to purify water, a cheaper alternative to mechanical filtration.
MaldivesThe leaves are often fried and mixed with dried-fried tuna chips (Maldive fish), onions and dried chillies. This is equivalent to a sambal and eaten along with rice and curry or Garudhiya. The pods are called "Muranga Tholhi" and it is used to cook a mild curry called "Kiru Garudhiya".
Other usesThe tree's bark, roots, fruit, flowers, leaves, seeds, and gum are also used medicinally. Uses include as an antiseptic and in treating rheumatism, venomous bites, and other conditions.
Extract from the seeds is used as a flocculant in a low-cost form of water treatment. In February 2010, Current Protocols in Microbiology published a step by step extraction and treatment procedure to produce "90.00% to 99.99%" bacterial reduction.
The seeds are also considered an excellent biofuel source for making biodiesel.
NamesOther names for Moringa in English include:
- "Drumstick tree", from the appearance of the long, slender, triangular seed pods.
- "Horseradish tree", from the taste of the roots, which can serve as a rough substitute for horseradish.
- "Ben oil tree", from the oil derived from the seeds
In some Indian-origin languages, the name is phonetically somewhat similar to Moringa, while in others it is quite different.
- In Assamese, it is called Sojina.
- In Punjabi, it is called Surajana.
- In Tamil, the tree is called Murungai Maram (முருங்கை மரம்) and the fruit is called Murungai-kaai (முருங்கைக்காய்).
- In Hindi, it is called sahjan.
- In Urdu, it is called Mungephalli.
- In Marathi, it is called Shevaga (शेवगा).
- In Malayalam, it is known as Muringa, and the fruit is called Muringakaya or Muringakka.
- In Dhivehi (Maldivian) , it is called Muranga.
- In Kannada, it is known as Nuggekayee.
- In Tulu, it is known as Noorggaee.
- In Telugu, it is known as Munagachettu (మునగచెట్టు), and the fruit is called Munagakaya (మునగకాయ).
- In Konkani, it is called Muska Saang.
- In Gujarati, it is called Saragvo.
- In Oriya, it is called Sajana or Sujuna.
- In Bengali, it is called Shojne danta (সজনে ডাঁটা).
- In Nepali, it is known as Sajiwan or Swejan.
- In Guyana, it is called Sijan.
- In Hausa language, it is called Zogale
- In Sinhalese, it is called Murunga.
- In Thai, it is called ma rum (มะรุม).
- The Tagalog name in the Philippines - Malunggay - is also phonetically similar to "Moringa". In Ilocano, another Filipino language, it is called Marungay. It is called Kamunggay in Visayan. Malungge in Pampango or Kapampangan. In the Bikol language, it is referred to as Kalunggay.
- In Vietnamese, it is called "chùm ngây".
- In Haiti, the Moringa is called the benzolive (or benzolivier).
- In Nicaragua, the plant is referred to as Marango.
- In Indonesian, the Moringa is called kelor (kalor in Malay).
- In Javanese, it is called limaran.
- In Mooré (Burkina Faso), it is called "Arzan Tiiga," which means "tree of paradise".
- In Zarma (Niger), it is called Windi Bundu which means, loosely, "fencepost wood", a reference to its use as live fencing. The leaves are the primary part eaten, and in fact are so common that the Zarma word "kopto", or "leaf", is synonymous with cooked Moringa leaves.
- In Dioula (Côte d'Ivoire), it is called "Arjanayiiri".
- In Mauritius, the leaves are called "Brède Mouroum", while the drumstick part is known as "Bâton Mouroum".
- In Konkani (Goa) it is called Saang or Maska Saang.
- In Ilokano it is called marunggay or marunggi.
- In Myanmar (Burma) it is called "Dandalun". The fruit meat of drum sticks, including young seeds, is good for soup. Young leaves can either be fried with shrimp or added as a topping in fish soup. Dandalun leaves soup is said to increase urination and thus benefit the kidneys. It is widely used in Myanmar traditional medicine.
- The MMPND entry for Moringa gives names in many other languages.