What Is Moringa, and Should You Try It?

updated May 30, 2019
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(Image credit: Alexander Ruiz Acevedo)

So you’ve been into açaí bowls for ages, have eaten kale in every possible form, and you’ve considered printing T-shirts that say “Don’t Even Talk to Me Until I’ve Had My Golden Milk.” Yeah, we get it, you’re into wellness trends — but, as usual, other parts of the world have been into your #currentobsession for literally hundreds of years.

The health and wellness crowd has started Insta-buzzing about moringa, an antioxidant-rich, anti-inflammatory wonder-tree. But like other “recent” super supplements including turmeric, matcha, and chia seeds, moringa is only new to you (and we mean the generic you, not you specifically, unless your username is @RunsOnMoringa2018).

What Is Moringa?

According to Bon Appetit, moringa leaves, flowers, and “drumsticks” have long been ingredients in both traditional cuisine and traditional medicine in India and southeast Asia, and its seeds are used to purify water in parts of Africa. It’s such a staple elsewhere that the widely cultivated plant has more than 100 names around the world, including “The Tree of Life.”

That might not just be a flattering nickname, either — the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has highlighted moringa’s protein-rich leaves, as well as its high concentration of Vitamins A, B, and C. In a widely cited 2005 paper, a nutritional biochemist at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine said that it “appears to be a nutritional and medicinal cornucopia,” and praised its better-than-milk calcium content, better-than-spinach iron levels, and better-than-bananas amount of potassium.

This same paper was slightly more measured in its assessment of moringa’s medicinal properties, noting that additional research and clinical trials are still needed to prove some of the many, many health benefits attributed to the plant. The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology has published a number of studies about the plant, and its research into its anti-inflammatory properties seems promising. (It may be more effective than last year’s darling, turmeric).

Where Can I Buy Moringa?

If you’re interested in adding moringa to your daily routine, it is becoming more widely available in powders, capsules, and teas — and as an ingredient in juices, smoothies, and nutrition bars. Unless you’re fortunate enough to plant and nurture your own moringa tree (we’re looking at you, Floridians), you’ll probably consume it in its powdered form, because it’s simple to add to juices and smoothies, to mix into salad dressings and dips, or to stir into hot or cold tea. (And here’s where we add the disclaimer that you should consult a physician if you have concerns about nutritional supplements, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding).

It’s totally OK — and totally justified — if moringa really is your #currentobsession. Especially if it means we can stop talking about kale for a bit.