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Moringa oleifera

"Drumstick Tree" and variants thereof redirect here. This name is also used for the Golden Shower Tree (Cassia fistulosa L.).
Moringa oleifera

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Brassicales
Family: Moringaceae
Genus: Moringa
Species: M. oleifera
Binomial name
Moringa oleifera

Moringa oleifera, commonly referred to simply as Moringa, is the most widely cultivated variety of the genus Moringa. It is of the family Moringaceae. It is an exceptionally nutritious vegetable tree with a variety of potential uses. The tree itself is rather slender with drooping branches that grows to approximately 10 m in height; however, it normally is cut back annually to one meter or less, and allowed to regrow, so that pods and leaves remain within arms reach.

The Moringa tree grows mainly in semi-arid tropical and subtropical areas. 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, and possibly Africa and the Middle East[1]. Today it is widely cultivated in Africa, Central and South America, Sri Lanka, India, Mexico, Malaysia and the Philippines. 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 foliage for livestock. The tree has its origin from the South Indian State of Tamilnadu.

The immature green pods, called “drumsticks” 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, so such practices should be strongly discouraged.

The leaves are highly 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 Tamil as it is locally known in Tamil Nadu is used in Siddha medicine. Its leaves are full of medicinal properties. The tree is a good source for calcium and phosphorus. In Siddha medicine, the drumstick seeds are used as a sexual virility drug for treating erectile dysfunction in men and also in women for prolonging sexual activity.

The Moringa seeds yield 38–40% edible oil (called ben oil, from the high concentration of behenic acid contained in the oil) that can be used in cooking, cosmetics, and lubrication. 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 flocculant 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 sojne ful and is usually cooked with green peas and potato.



Interest is growing in the use of moringa in addressing malnutrition in developing areas of the world. Also Because of its high vitamin and mineral content, in Africa it has become popular as a locally produced nutritional supplement for individuals infected with the HIV/AIDS virus. It can be grown cheaply and easily, so several governments in Africa have promoted Moringa oleifera as locally produced food beneficial to HIV-positive individuals.


It has been used successfully to combat malnutrition among infants and women of childbearing age. In Africa, nursing mothers have been shown to produce far more milk when Moringa leaves have been added to their diet, while severely malnourished children have made significant weight gains when the leaves have been added to their diets. It is commonly added to porridge increase its nutritional content.

One doctor in Senegal (West Africa) explained: "We have always had problems with the classical approach to treating malnourished children. This was based on industrial products: whole milk powder, vegetable oil and sugar. All these things are expensive. When you tell a parent to go out and buy these things—this can be truly costly for him. On the other hand, with Moringa the resource is locally available. The people themselves can produce it. We have done experiments in treating malnourished children with this plant and the results have been really spectacular.”


In India, 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 commenced after the second year. The tree bears for several years. It does not tolerate freezes 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. As a seedling, however, you must monitor the environment in the beginning until the tree is established. Seeds can be germinated year round.


Moringa needs well draining soil. Increase the drainage of your soil by adding perlite or other porous substance.

Planting seeds

Plant an inch from the surface of the soil, cover and tamp gently.

Planting seedlings

Dig a hole twice the depth of the pot. Be careful not to disturb the root when transplanting. Cut the bottom of the pot out and slit one side. Place the pot and seedling into the hole and back fill with soil, tamp gently. Water frequently. Do not let the soil dry out.

Moringa creates a taproot. Sometimes the top plant may die out due to heat, dry soil, or a change in the environment. This does not necessarily mean the plant has died. Check the taproot to see if it is still firm. If it is, keep the seedling damp with filtered sun. Moringa is a very hardy plant and can revive itself given time and good conditions. If the taproot is soft, it is dead. Moringa will die from root rot, which is from poor draining soil.

Frost may cause the tree to drop leaves and even die down to the ground. Keep damp. It will revive in the spring. Freezing temperatures or continuous days of frost can kill Moringa. If you live in a cold climate you must keep the plant warm.

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, as well as introductions from Sir Lanka.[2]

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 even grown on land covered with 10-90 cm of mud.

Moringa is grown in home gardens and as living fences in Thailand, where it is commonly sold in local markets. [3] In the Philippines, moringa is commonly grown for its leaves, which are used in soup. [4] The leaves (called dahon ng malunggay in Tagalog 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 uses


The fruit of the tree is quite popular as a vegetable in Asia and Africa. The fruit is a long, thin pod, resembling a drum stick. The fruit itself is called drumstick in India and elsewhere. Moringa leaves are also eaten as a leaf vegetable, particularly in the Philippines and Africa.


The moringa pod is known as drumstick or saragwa or saragwe in India. In South India, it is used to prepare a variety of sambar and is also fried. It is also preserved by canning and exported worldwide. In other parts of India, especially West Bengal and also in a neighboring country like Bangladesh it is enjoyed very much. It can be made into varieties of curry by mixing with coconut, poppy seeds and mustard. It can just be boiled, until the drumsticks are semi-soft and consumed directly without any extra processing or cooking. It is used in curries, sambars, kormas, and dals, although it is also used to add flavor to cutlets, etc.

Tender drumstick leaves, finely chopped, make an excellent garnish for any vegetable dishes, dals, sambars, salads, etc. One can use the same in place of or with coriander, as these leaves have high medicinal value. If the pulp has to be scraped out after cooking the sticks, then keep the pieces as long as 4-5 inches long. Also do not scrape the skin before boiling. This will help to hold and scrape them more easily and with less mess. For drumstick sambar follow recipe for traditional sambar, adding boiled drumstick fingers, along with onions in the oil, while stir frying.

Scraped drumstick pulp can be made into drumstick bhurtha, more or less like the baingan bhurtha after the pulp has been obtained. It is a wonderfully unusual and tasty dish. The recipe is identical to that of baingan bhurtha.

Drumstick dal, is also a very tasty version of the traditional 'toor dal'. Add some of the pulp to the boiled dal, and hand beat it along with the dal before seasoning. This will give an unusual, novel flavor to this dal. In another variation you may add pieces of boiled drumstick including the water in which it was boiled, to the traditional toor dal while it is simmering. The pieces are delightful to chew on with the dal & rice. In addition to being known as Drumstick Dal, the South Indian version which is a spiced lentil soup is more popular by the name - sambar or sambhar. Sambar is usually cooked with toor dal, drumsticks and other locally grown vegetables. The spices used typically in this stew are turmeric, chili powder and cumin among others. It is eaten with rice just like the Drumstick dal.


In 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, composed of chicken in a broth, moringa leaves, and either green papaya or another secondary vegetable.

On September 14, 2007, Senator Loren Legarda campaigned for the popularization of moringa, after a recent scientific report that it boosts male potency. She asked the government to make moringa among its priority crops for propagation. Research at the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) found that a steady consumption of its fruit increases sperm count: "helps to raise sperm count and mobility, which both translate to increased opportunity for the sperm to fertilize an egg." It is also rich in vitamins C and A, iron, and high density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol. The BPI 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 carrots, and 2 times the protein in milk. Moringa also helps to purify water, a cheaper alternative to mechanical filtration.[5][6]

Other uses

The tree's bark, roots, fruit, flowers, leaves, seeds and gum are also used medicinally in India. Uses include as an antiseptic and in treating rheumatism, venomous bites and other conditions. The moringa seed pod is also used to cleanse water (e.g. desalination of ocean salt water).


Other names for the Moringa in English include:

  • Drumstick tree, from the appearance of the long, slender, triangular seed pods.
  • Horseradish tree, from the taste of the leaves, which can serve as a rough substitute for horseradish.
  • Ben oil tree, from the oil derived from the seeds

The Chinese name of the Moringa (辣木), pronounced "la mu" in Putonghua and "lat mok" in Cantonese, means "spicy (hot) wood", and is reminiscent of the English name "horseradish tree".

In some Indian languages, the name is phonetically somewhat similar to "moringa", while in others it is quite different:

  • In Tamil it is called Murungakka in singular form, the plural form being Murungakkai.
  • In Hindi it is called Munuga.
  • In Marathi is it called Shevga.
  • In Kannada it is known as Nuggaeekayee.
  • In Telugu it is called as Mulakkaya.
  • In Gujarati is it called Saragvo.
  • In Oriya is it called Munika.
  • In Bengali it is called Sojne danta.
  • In Kerala state its known as Muringa Tree and the fruit called Muringakka in Malayalam.
  • In Nepali it is known as Sajiwan or Swejan.
  • In Guyana it is called Saijan

The Tagalog name, in the Philippines - Malunggay - is also phonetically similar to "moringa". In Ilocano, another Filipino language, its called Marungay. It is called "Kamunggay" in Bisaya.

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. In Javanese, it is called limaran.

The MMPND entry for Moringa gives names in many other languages.

Popular beliefs

There are several popular beliefs associated with the tree and the fruit in southern India.

  • The fruit is said to increase sexual libido in men. This belief is so common in the state of Tamil Nadu that there have been passive references to this in its legislative assembly.
  • The tree is said to host ghosts during the night. This combined with the fact that the tree attracts a host of insects make it unattractive for people to grow it in their backyards.


  1. ^ James A. Duke, (1982). Handbook of Energy Crops: Moringa oleifera. From the Purdue Center for New Crops Web site.
  2. ^ Rajangam J., et al. Status of Production and Utilisation of Moringa in Southern India. In "Development potential for Moringa products", October 29th - November 2nd, 2001, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
  3. ^ Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, The Vegetable Sector in Thailand, 1999
  4. ^ Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Country Pasture/Forage Resource Profiles: Philippines
  5. ^, Legarda pushes for malunggay, her beauty soup
  6. ^ AHN, Philippine Lawmaker Urges Agriculture Department To Propagate Highly Potent Malunggay Vegetable
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Moringa_oleifera". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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