That green powder in your fitness buddy’s smoothie? You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s maca. But wait — it’s… moringa? What’s that? And why is it good for you?

The crushed leaves of the Moringa oleifera — a massive tree in northern India — pack a health-boosting punch.

Some peeps also refer to these leaves as drumstick leaves. This might explain why it helps so many people get into the groove of their health needs.

Here’s what you need to know about adding more moringa to your daily chomp (or slurp).

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Design by Viviana Quevedo; Photograph by Nadine Greeff/Stocksy United

Science has a lot to say about moringa’s powerful health perks.

1. Moringa has got those nutrients on deck

Here’s what you’ll get from one cup of fresh, chopped moringa leaves:

NutrientAmount
protein1.97 grams (g)
vitamin B-60.252 milligrams (mg)
vitamin C10.9 mg
iron0.84 mg
vitamin B-20.139 mg
vitamin A79.4 micrograms (mcg)
magnesium8.82 mg

Moringa leaves add a significant portion of your recommended daily allowance (RDA) for several of these vitamins:

  • 19 percent of your RDA for vitamin B6
  • 12 percent of your RDA for vitamin C
  • 11 percent of your RDA for iron
  • 11 percent of your RDA for vitamin B2
  • 9 percent of your RDA for vitamin A
  • 8 percent of your RDA for magnesium

You’ll also get a little boost of:

  • vitamins B1, B3, and B
  • calcium
  • potassium
  • phosphorus
  • zinc

2. Hello, antioxidant powerhouse!

Your body is always busy fighting off pollution, UV rays, infection… the list goes on. Fortunately, antioxidants can help you protect your cells from damage and disease.

Your body makes some antioxidants (geddem, body!). But it’s important to top up your supply with nourishing foods. Enter moringa.

The authors of a 2009 study suggest moringa leaves have “potent antioxidant activity against free radicals.” Moringa’s plant compounds include antioxidant all-stars like:

  • beta-carotene
  • quercetin
  • chlorogenic acid

What a lineup!

In one 2012 study, women who ate 1.5 teaspoons of moringa leaf powder blended with amaranth leaf powder a day were able to drastically boost their antioxidant levels within 3 months.

However, because the participants consumed a blend of moringa and another supplement, the researchers can’t definitely say that the moringa alone was responsible for the antioxidant level boost.

Still, why not stir a spoonful or two into your morning smoothie and see how you feel?

3. Reduce blood sugar

High blood sugar can lead to heart probs, kidney failure, vision issues, and more. If you have diabetes or other conditions that affect your blood sugar, moringa might help by reducing the amount of glucose in your bloodstream.

In a review of seven studies, five indicated that powdered moringa leaf reduced the blood sugar of people with diabetes. Not bad, moringa!

It’s important to note that the dose of moringa varied with each study in the review. That makes it difficult to recommend a specific amount or how often you should consume it.

Anything that affects blood sugar can have an unexpected impact on symptoms for peeps with diabetes. If you have diabetes, talk to your doc before smashing a moringa smoothie.

4. Soothe inflammation

Moringa seems to reduce inflammation, but we need more research on humans to be sure. But the animal and test-tube studies should give you some cause for hope.

Scientists suggest that moringa’s anti-inflammatory properties can be traced to a compound called moringin. A 2020 test-tube study found that moringin reduced the effect of pain receptors in the nervous system.

Another study looked at the effects of moringa on mice. The authors found that moringa countered inflammation, providing a natural source of pain relief for the mice.

Now if only Disney could teach us now to turn mice into humans…

5. Dial down the cholesterol

High cholesterol is no joke. It can lead you down a road to…

  • stroke
  • heart disease
  • peripheral artery disease (PAD)

The good news is that eating a bunch of nuts, seeds, and other plants can help you tame cholesterol chaos. You could munch on flaxseed, oats, nuts, and — oh yeah — moringa (duh, that’s what this whole party’s about).

Researchers have found that moringa leaf powder definitely reduces cholesterol in rats and *could* do the same for humans.

6. Protect yourself from arsenic poisoning

To quote “Chicago” — “Some men just can’t hold their arsenic.” But maybe if they’d necked a moringa smoothie beforehand, they wouldn’t’ve “had it coming” to quite the same extent.

Stick with us, okay? Because it’s not just murderers from the 1920s that need to think about arsenic. In some parts of the world, arsenic-contaminated water is a big problem.

Where it’s in the water, it could also be in the rice. And long-term arsenic exposure can cause fatal illnesses like cancer and heart disease.

So it’s pretty cool that a 2014 study on mice found that eating moringa leaves protects them from arsenic poisoning.

Research on humans would be the logical next step. But how cool would it be if this had the same effects on us? #NaturesNarcan #ThanksForTheHeadsUpRodentFriends

7. Prevent edema

Edema = water weight. But what starts as feeling puffy can quickly become painful if you have severe edema.

Remember how moringa can soothe inflammation? Well, a 2020 study on mice found that applying a topical treatment made from moringa seed oil reduced ear edema.

A 2018 study also found the moringa extract reduced edema on the paws of rats. Much more research is necessary. But the current findings from studying moringa’s effects on animals are promising.

8. Nourish and protect your skin

Ahhh, face oils. From antibacterial tea tree oil to collagen-boosting coconut oil, there’s a plant-based moisturizer for every skin concern.

Masseuses throughout history (salute to you all) have used Moringa seed oil as a massage slick and dry skin remedy for centuries. A 2016 review puts this down to the skin-cleansing effects of oleic acid, a fatty acid in moringa.

Some research suggests it might also protect against UVB rays.

Dab some moringa seed oil on your skin for a nourishing glow. To try it as a hair mask, apply it like you’d apply coconut oil.

9. Soothe your sensitive stomach

Tummy troubles got you scanning for the nearest bathroom? Moringa might help!

In one 2010 study, moringa leaf extract showed antibacterial properties that combated bacteria found in the diarrhea of folks who’d drank contaminated water.

Another study (on mice) suggests that a blend of moringa leaf extract and orange rind extract can soothe ulcerative colitis symptoms. Moringa’s stomach-soothing superpowers can be traced to its antibacterial nature and high vitamin B content.

10. Fight infection

Moringa isn’t the only herb you can use to fight off bad bacteria. But it is a pretty good one.

On top of being anti-inflammatory, moringa boasts antibacterial properties. In one 2016 study, researchers found that topical application of moringa leaf extract could speed up wound healing.

Show those bacteria who’s in charge!

11. Boost heart health

Antioxidants are critical for protecting your heart from damage and disease. Remember how moringa leaves are brimming with them? That means that eating them is like a little TLC for your ticker.

A 2020 study on rats concluded that compounds in moringa extract may have several effects that balance out your ticker’s health.

12. Regulate blood pressure

This plant could be hella healthy for folks with blood pressure problems.

In one study, rats drank water spiked with moringa leaf extract. The researchers found that the extract helped their blood vessels function more regularly and reduced their high blood pressure.

Again, this doesn’t confirm that moringa would have the same effect in humans (in the same way that Pixar’s “Ratatouille” isn’t a useful guide for setting up a Michelin-star restaurant).

13. Absorb more iron (maybe!)

Your body needs iron to produce the red blood cells that keep you energized and strong. For folks with anemia or sickle cell disease, iron absorption is even more of an issue.

Moringa provides plenty of iron, which makes it seem like a great choice for folks with iron absorption issues like anemia and sickle cell disease. That *might* be the case, but more studies need to take place before we can sing this from the rooftops.

(You can put aside your dreams of becoming Tony Stark for now.)

A 2014 study showed how moringa affected children with iron deficiency anemia in Tanzania. The researchers compared a group that only received education to improve their nutrition with another that also got a nutritional knowledge boost but added moringa supplements.

The moringa group had a much lower prevalence of anemia by the end of the study.

However, another study suggests that moringa’s iron bioavailability — meaning your body’s ability to absorb it — is actually quite low. So while the iron content in moringa shows some promise, it might not be as helpful as the Tanzania study suggested.

14. Improve eyesight

All those antioxidants in moringa may do wonders for your eye health.

In a 2019 research review, experts suggested that noshing on antioxidant-rich food can reduce the risk of macular degeneration, an age-related eye disease.

Maybe.

Moringa is considered generally safe, according to a 2016 review of studies. But all foods come with the potential to trigger an allergic reaction. And the review accepts that it’s hard to standardize all moringa products so they’re safe.

However, as with any supplement, it’s important to be vigilant. This FDA notice to a vendor of moringa supplements lays the smack down pretty firmly on their overhyped claims about the health benefits.

If a moringa product is making outlandish promises about cancer cures and the like, it might be best to avoid it and choose one that’s making more sensible claims.

Talk to your doc before popping moringa supplements or adding moringa seeds to your daily snack rotation. Moringa could interfere with meds you take for underlying conditions such as:

It’s also super important to follow the label’s instructions when trying a new supplement. Start with the lowest dose, then *sloooowly* up it if necessary.

For thousands of years, people have used Moringa oleifera as a natural remedy for pain, inflammation, and more.

Research on moringa is still limited. But it does have some obvious help benefits. It’s nutritious, full of antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory. It’s also known to protect against arsenic poisoning.

If you’re interested in cashing in on moringa’s health benefits, you can buy it as a supplement or powder. Just talk to your doctor first to make sure it won’t mess with any meds or health conditions.