Does Moringa Oleifera Work? Review of Research

Moringa oleifera is an tree and eating the various parts of that tree is said to have many health benefits.  As a result of this, there are a wide variety of moringa supplements now available. As I began to research this supplement I soon learned that there were more claims made about moringa that you can shake a stick. Even Dr. Oz has jumped on the bandwagon calling it an “energy blaster” while others say it helps weight loss too. What I want to do in this review is research the major claims for Moringa oleifera and see if there is any evidence for them. As always, I’ll link to the research I find so you can see it yourself to aid in your own investigations. Hopefully, this review will help you put the claims in a better perspective. If you have heard of benefits and uses I did not cover, please leave a comment below and I will update this review with what I find.

 

What is Moringa oleifera?

Moringa oleifera (pronounced “more-ring-ga  oh-la-fair-a”) is the scientific name for a tree that grows in several places around the world. It has many names including the horseradish tree, drumstick tree and benzolive tree and on some websites, it’s even called the “miracle tree”. I have to say many of the amazing names I see for moringa (“elixir of life,” etc.) are more hype than anything else. The plant however is quite interesting in that because it’s rich in vitamins, minerals, fats and proteins, it has actually been used to battle malnourishment in developing countries. This is likely why some might call moringa a “super food.” Like all plants, moringa contains healthy stuff like natural antioxidants, but whether this makes it superior to other fruits and vegetables remains to be determined. While some websites like to tout that the plant grows in exotic locations like the Himalayan mountains or dead sea, Moringa oleifera can also be grown in more familiar areas, such as Florida.

Now, let’s cover the evidence for some of the major health benefits of moringa with an emphasis on what the research conducted so far says.

Moringa and energy

In a segment of the Dr. Oz show, I found YouTube, Dr. Oz calls Moringa olefera an “energy blaster.” To some, this might be a tip that the plant contains a stimulant, like caffeine. But this is not true. There is no caffeine in Moringa oleifera.  That said, I think the claim that moringa  improves energy levels can be traced to other things.

For example, as Dr. Oz noted on his TV show, the plant has three times as much iron as spinach. Iron is a mineral that is needed to make red blood cells. These are the cells the carry oxygen through the blood. Lack of iron can lead to anemia and one of the symptoms of this condition is lack of energy. Theoretically, Moringa olefera supplements, drinking moringa tea  ―or even eating the plant itself―might correct an iron deficiency and in doing so, give people more energy.

So, with that in mind, I searched the National Library of Medicine for:

  • Moringa oleifera energy
  • Moringa oleifera anemia

I located a 2007 study titled Preventive effects of Moringa oleifera (Lam) on hyperlipidemia and hepatocyte ultrastructural changes in iron deficient rats, which noted that when rats were put on an iron deficient diet, giving them Moringa oleifera, reduced cholesterol levels ― but did not prevent anemia from occurring.  Unfortunately, I could not locate any human studies so its hard to tell if moringa improves iron levels in people.

Another possible explanation for moringa boosting energy might stem from claims that the herb raises thyroid hormone levels.  Before we go further, let me briefly mention that there are two main thyroid hormones. They are called:

  • T4 (Thyroxine)
  • T3

The T4 hormone is converted to T3, which is the active thyroid hormone. People who take synthroid ―synthetic thyroid hormone ―are taking synthetic thyroxine (synthetic T4),  sometimes called levo-thyroxine.

So, in keeping with this line of thinking, I searched the National Library of Medicine for:

  • Moringa oleifera thyroid
  • Moringa olifera thyroxine

I found a study published in 2000 titled Role of Moringa oleifera leaf extract in the regulation of thyroid hormone status in adult male and female rats.

In this study, rats were given an extract of the leaf of Moringa oleifera for 10 days. In the female rats, levels of the T3 hormone decreased while T4 (thyroxine) levels increased. Interestingly, no changes in thyroid hormones were seen in male rats.  So, according to this study, moringa appeared to raise levels of thyroxine― but not the more valuable T3 hormone―in female rats.

The amount of the herb given to the rats in this study was 175 mg per kilogram of body weight. In people terms, if a 200 pound person (91 kg) used this amount, it would be 91 x 175 = 15,909 mg (about 16 grams). Would lesser amounts also raise thyroid hormone levels? I don’t know.

Other than this rat study, I can’t find any evidence that Moringa oleifera improves thyroid levels in humans ―female or male.

As an aside, there is an interesting book, people with thyroid problems may want to read. It’s called Stop The Thyroid Madness.

 

Moringa and weight loss

Many websites make claims that moringa oleifera can help people lose weight so I searched the National Library of Medicine for:

  • Moringa  weight loss
  • Moringa obesity

While I found no weight loss studies of Moringa oleifera itself, I did locate a study from 2012 titled Efficacy and tolerability of a novel herbal formulation for weight management in obese subjects: a randomized double blind placebo controlled clinical study. This investigation looked at the weight loss effects of a compound called “LI85008F” (also called Adipromin) in 25 overweight people. The LI85008F compound is composed of Moringa oleifera, Murraya koenigi, and Curcuma longa. While the study does report significantly more weight loss in those getting the supplement than placebo, since the supplement contained 3 different herbs, we can’t say the same effect would be seen if people took only moringa.

 

Moringa and pain

Does moringa reduce inflammation? Is it a natural pain reliever? Some claim it is both of these things, so I searched the National Library of Medicine for:

  • Moringa pain
  • Moringa inflammation

While I saw no human trials showing that this herb reduces pain, I did find a study published in 2011 titled Purification of a chitin-binding protein from Moringa oleifera seeds with potential to relieve pain and inflammation which noted that an extract of moringa seeds exhibited anti-inflammatory properties.  What was this extract? I don’t know. On the downside, this was only a mouse study.

In another study from 2011 titled,  Analgesic effects of methanolic extracts of the leaf or root of Moringa oleifera on complete Freund’s adjuvant-induced arthritis in rats, extracts from the roots and seeds of moringa alleviated pain in rats with arthritis.

What extracts were used in this study, I don’t know, but regardless of that, a  problem with this investigation ―aside from it being a study of rats ―was that the extracts were injected. While oral supplements might work as well, it’s difficult to say at this time.

The amount of the extracts used in this study was 200 mg per kilogram of body weight. Putting this in perspective for people, a 200 pound (91 kg) person were to use this amount, it would be equal to 200 X 91 =18 grams of moringa extract.

Other lab animal research hints that extracts from the roots of moringa might have anti-inflammatory actions, but whether those extracts are available in supplements, and what the optimum dosage might be, remains to be determined.

Moringa and cholesterol

I searched the national library of medicine for “moringa and cholesterol” to see if any studies had been done to see if it helps people with high cholesterol levels. While I found lab animal and test tube studies hinting that moringa might do this, I saw no human studies.  As such, I conclude that while it can’t hurt to add moringa to an otherwise healthy diet (that also includes exercise and weight loss, if needed), currently there appears to be no good human evidence that moringa confers any special cholesterol-lowering benefits over other fruits and vegetables.

Moringa and diabetes

During my investigation, I saw that some websites were mentioning how moringa can help diabetes and diabetes-related symptoms.  Unfortunately, the websites that say stuff like this do not show any proof for their claims. So, I tried to locate that proof. I searched the national library of medicine for:

  • Moringa oleifera diabetes
  • Moringa olifera blood sugar

All of the studies I saw involved either lab animals or were performed in test tubes. So far, no studies appear to involve humans with diabetes.  Moringa does contain antioxidants which I’m sure can add to the overall health of people with type I and type II diabetes. But I don’t feel using moringa is the only thing those with diabetes should do to help themselves.

Remember, there is far more human evidence that exercise helps diabetes than Moringa oleifera.  For those interested in a more scientific review of this issue, this 2012 study titled, Therapeutic Potential of Moringa oleifera Leaves in Chronic Hyperglycemia and Dyslipidemia: A Review will provide additional insights.

My personal website also has additional information on how exercise and weight loss can help type II diabetes.

Moringa and asthma

In 2008, a study was published titled  Antiasthmatic activity of Moringa oleifera Lam: A clinical study. In this investigation, 20 people with mild to moderate asthma were given 3 grams of dried seed kernels of Moringa oleifera, twice per day (6 grams total) with water for 3 weeks. At the end of the study, moringa appeared to significantly improve asthma symptoms. There was no placebo group in this study, so this is a weakness of the investigation. Various lab animal research studies also indicate a possible beneficial effect on asthma as well.

 Moringa and cancer

There is preliminary evidence that extracts from Moringa oleifera may kill cancer cells. The types of cancer that might be most affected include ovarian cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer pancreatic cancer and skin cancer. Most of the research so far looks like its relegated to animals and test tubes. I’m not aware of any human proof at this time. For a more in-depth discussion, see the review titled Possible Role of Moringa oleifera Lam. Root in Epithelial Ovarian Cancer.

 

Moringa and AIDS

According to a 2012 survey of HIV positive patients in Zimbabwe appearing in the Journal of Public Health in Africa, at least 80% of people with HIV have used Moringa  oleifera to boost their immune systems.  If this holds true elsewhere, it means moringa may be a popular alternative treatment by those with HIV and AIDS.  But, does it work? I searched the National Library of Medicine for:

  • Moringa HIV
  • Moringa AIDS
  • Moringa Immune
  • Moringa CD4 (an immune cell effected by HIV)

I saw no published human studies on the use of moringa and AIDS. Therefore, I can’t say if it helps HIV/AIDS or not. I did see some test tube and lab animal studies suggesting that extracts of moringa might have an immune inhibiting effect.  Since HIV also inhibits the immune system, I don’t know what this means for those with HIV who take Moringa oleifera supplements.

On the site ClinicalTrials.gov, I did locate a trial where researchers were testing whether Moringa altered  the metabolism of some HIV drugs. In other words, they wanted to see if it helped or hindered the drugs. As of the time of this review, the results were not posted.

 

How much to take?

There really isn’t enough human evidence to know for sure how much Moringa oleifera is effective. Also, the amount could be different depending on the reason it was being taken. On the Dr. Oz segment I saw, he recommended taking 400 mg per day in a supplement drinking moringa tea twice a day. While no citation was given to say how Dr. Oz arrived at 400 mg per day, I assume it was extrapolated from lab animal research. Given that the Dr. Oz segment was about boosting energy levels, I assume that the 400 mg per day he advocated would be limited to those who are looking to improve energy levels. For those who are interested, here is a Moringa oleifera tea on Amazon that’s gotten a lot of comments from people.

What about Moringa supplements?

There are many different ways to add moringa to a healthy diet. Looking at Amazon, I found

And there are even proprietary Moringa supplements like Zija

The good news is that most moringa supplements are not expensive. On the downside, as far as I can tell, no supplement appears to have better evidence than what I’ve attempted to outline in this review.

 

Moringa side effects

Since moringa has been given to people in developing countries who dont get enough to eat, I think it is safe for most people. That said, currently there isn’t a lot of human research to show what the side effects of moringa might be in people who have health issues or who take medications. As such, I feel it’s prudent to consult  a pharmacist or doctor before using moringa supplements just to be on the safe side. Below are a couple of things I turned up that I feel are worth mentioning.

Pregnant women should not take Moringa oleifera. There is some lab animal evidence that it might cause an abortion . I’m not aware of any human evidence to prove this happens in people, but it is best to avoid while pregnant, just to be safe.

There is an extract in moringa that may raise blood pressure and heart rate. While the plant itself might have little of this extract, it’s possible that some supplements may contain concentrated levels as a way of attaining a specific effect (as in weight loss for example). This may be an problem for people with heart disease or high blood pressure or conditions related to these issues.  Currently, I’m not aware of anyone having blood pressure or heart problems while taking moringa supplements.

Does Moringa work?

I think some of the evidence on Moringa oleifera is really interesting but it seems that most of the health benefits people are making for it are based lab animal and test tube research.  That doesn’t mean Moringa has no value ―it might ―but rather that there just isn’t enough human research yet for me to have an opinion either way. While it’s been used to treat malnutrition in developing countries, it’s hard to say whether moringa adds anything to the health of those who are healthy and eat well. The tree does have a lot of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients and so I can understand why people would want to add it to their diet. As far as I can tell, no specific brand of moringa supplements stands out over others as being the “best.” The good news is that most moringa supplements are not too expensive for those who want to try it.

What do you think?

Comments

  1. George Mancer says

    I appreciate your efforts. However, limiting your searches the National Library of Medicine is vastly inferior to doing the many hours of boots-on-the-E-ground global internet searches. You may want to consider checking with GreenMedinfo’s research database, just for one example. With a truly global search, though, you may have to translate some of the resultant links. Research published in English is not the only arena for finding gold-standard published research. Short: don’t limit to NLM. Downside: expect to spend manyfold hours to find the larger picture. I do. I’m tempted to just give you some of the research links on Moringa, but let’s see if you can find them on your own.

    Nevertheless, I have found your diggings helpful in several cases, and appreciate your efforts.

    • Joe says

      George, thanks for your feedback. Truth be told, I consult other resources when I review supplements (I also consult many of the books I personally own too) but you are correct, NML does make up a good part of what I link to because its freely accessible to anyone. Since I only speak English I’m limited to English studies. I’ve book marked the green med info website so I thank you for that.

      • George Mancer says

        Thanks for the prompt reply. I honor your work. A few other published works found on greenmedinfo’s research section, regarding Moringa, for any interested:

        Moringa oleifera leaves have high antioxidant properties, probably due to direct free radical trapping and metal chelation.
        Pubmed Data : Food Chem Toxicol. 2009 Jun 9. PMID: 19520138
        Article Published Date : Jun 09, 2009
        Study Type : Human Study

        Moringa oleifera are a valuable source of vitamin A.
        Pubmed Data : Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2001;56(1):83-95. PMID: 11213172
        Article Published Date : Jan 01, 2001
        Study Type : Animal Study

        Moringa oleifera exhibits antioxidant, hypolipidaemic and antiatherosclerotic activities.
        Pubmed Data : J Ethnopharmacol. 2008 Mar 28;116(3):439-46. Epub 2007 Dec 23. PMID: 18249514
        Article Published Date : Mar 28, 2008
        Study Type : Animal Study

        Moringa oleifera exhibits liver protective properties in rats receiving antitubercular drugs.
        Pubmed Data : J Med Food. 2002 Fall;5(3):171-7. PMID: 12495589
        Article Published Date : Sep 01, 2002
        Study Type : Animal Study

        Moringa oleifera has a cholesterol lowering effect in an animal model.
        Pubmed Data : J Ethnopharmacol. 2003 Jun;86(2-3):191-5. PMID: 12738086
        Article Published Date : Jun 01, 2003
        Study Type : Animal Study

        Moringa oleifera has a preventive and curative effect on calcium oxalate stone formation (urolithiasis) in rats.
        Pubmed Data : J Ethnopharmacol. 2006 Apr 21;105(1-2):306-11. Epub 2006 Jan 4. PMID: 16386862
        Article Published Date : Apr 21, 2006
        Study Type : Animal Study

        Moringa oleifera has an ameliorating effect for glucose tolerance in rats.
        Pubmed Data : J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2007 May;40(3):229-33. PMID: 18398501
        Article Published Date : May 01, 2007
        Study Type : Animal Study

        Moringa oleifera has significant wound healing property.
        Pubmed Data : Indian J Exp Biol. 2006 Nov;44(11):898-901. PMID: 17205710
        Article Published Date : Nov 01, 2006
        Study Type : Animal Study

        Moringa oleifera inhibits arsenic-induced oxidative stress and may act as an arsenic chelator.
        Pubmed Data : Cell Biol Int. 2007 Jan;31(1):44-56. Epub 2006 Sep 15. PMID: 17055307
        Article Published Date : Jan 01, 2007
        Study Type : Animal Study

        Moringa oleifera inhibits skin lesions associated with herpes simplex virus type 1 in mice.
        Pubmed Data : Antiviral Res. 2003 Nov;60(3):175-80. PMID: 14638393
        Article Published Date : Nov 01, 2003
        Study Type : Animal Study

        Moringa oleifera leaf possesses significant cardioprotective properties.
        Pubmed Data : J Med Food. 2009 Feb;12(1):47-55. PMID: 19298195
        Article Published Date : Feb 01, 2009
        Study Type : Animal Study

        Moringa oleifera leaves have significant anti-diabetic activity in a rat model.
        Pubmed Data : J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 Jun 25;123(3):392-6. Epub 2009 Apr 5. PMID: 19501271
        Article Published Date : Jun 25, 2009
        Study Type : Animal Study

        Moringa oleifera may have therapeutic value in the treatment of hyperthyroidism.
        Pubmed Data : Pharmacol Res. 2000 Mar;41(3):319-23. PMID: 10675284
        Article Published Date : Mar 01, 2000
        Study Type : Animal Study

        Moringa oleifera may prevent hyperlipidemia and tissue changes in liver cells due to iron-deficiency.
        Pubmed Data : Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2007 Aug;71(8):1826-33. Epub 2007 Aug 7. PMID: 17690476
        Article Published Date : Aug 01, 2007
        Study Type : Animal Study

        Moringa oleifera may provide protection against Alzheimer’s disease in a rat model.
        Pubmed Data : Indian J Med Res. 2008 Dec;128(6):744-51. PMID: 19246799
        Article Published Date : Dec 01, 2008
        Study Type : Animal Study

        Moringa oleifera prevents acetaminophen induced liver injury through restoration of glutathione level.
        Pubmed Data : Food Chem Toxicol. 2008 Aug;46(8):2611-5. Epub 2008 Apr 25. PMID: 18514995
        Article Published Date : Aug 01, 2008
        Study Type : Animal Study

        Moringa oleifera protects against antitubercular drug induced damage in rats.
        Pubmed Data : J Med Food. 2003 Fall;6(3):255-9. PMID: 14585192
        Article Published Date : Sep 01, 2003
        Study Type : Animal Study

        Moringa oleifera protects against ulcer formation by modulating serotonin.
        Pubmed Data : Drug Alcohol Depend. 1994 Feb;34(3):225-9. PMID: 20637582
        Article Published Date : Feb 01, 1994
        Study Type : Animal Study

        Moringa oleifera seed extract has anti-arthitic activity in rats.
        Pubmed Data : J Immunotoxicol. 2007 Jan;4(1):39-47. PMID: 18958711
        Article Published Date : Jan 01, 2007
        Study Type : Animal Study

        Moringa oleifera seed extract have therapeutic activity in systemic and local anaphyalaxis.
        Pubmed Data : J Immunotoxicol. 2007 Oct;4(4):287-94. PMID: 18958739
        Article Published Date : Oct 01, 2007
        Study Type : Animal Study

        Moringa oleifera seed extract may have value in the treatment of chemically stimulated immune-mediated asthma.
        Pubmed Data : Drugs. 2003;63(1):71-100. PMID: 18958717
        Article Published Date : Jan 01, 2003
        Study Type : Animal Study

        This traditional dietary supplement is justified in hypertensive patients according to its composition and its ability to reduce blood pressure has been demonstrated experimentally.
        Pubmed Data : J Ethnopharmacol. 2012 Mar 24. Epub 2012 Mar 24. PMID: 22480886
        Article Published Date : Mar 23, 2012
        Study Type : Animal Study

        Extracts of Moringa oleifera inhibit DNA damage and free radical activity.
        Pubmed Data : Food Chem Toxicol. 2009 Jun;47(6):1109-16. PMID: 19425184
        Article Published Date : Jun 01, 2009
        Study Type : In Vitro Study

        Moringa oleifera contains compounds which show promise as anti-cancer agents.
        Pubmed Data : Mutat Res. 1999 Apr 6;440(2):181-8. PMID: 10209341
        Article Published Date : Apr 06, 1999
        Study Type : In Vitro Study

        Moringa oleifera contains compounds with hypotensive activity.
        Pubmed Data : Planta Med. 1998 Apr;64(3):225-8. PMID: 9581519
        Article Published Date : Apr 01, 1998
        Study Type : In Vitro Study

        Moringa oleifera has antifungal activity against various deromatophytes.
        Pubmed Data : PLoS One. 2011;6(1):e14575. Epub 2011 Jan 24. PMID: 16406607
        Article Published Date : Jan 01, 2011
        Study Type : In Vitro Study

        Moringa oleifera inhibits Epstein-Barr virus activity.
        Pubmed Data : Planta Med. 1998 May;64(4):319-23. PMID: 9619112
        Article Published Date : May 01, 1998
        Study Type : In Vitro Study

        Moringa oleifera prevents ulcer formation in gastric tissue.
        Pubmed Data : Indian J Exp Biol. 2007 Aug;45(8):726-31. PMID: 17877150
        Article Published Date : Aug 01, 2007
        Study Type : In Vitro Study

        Review: Moringa oleifera has a variety of medicinal uses.
        Pubmed Data : Phytother Res. 2007 Jan;21(1):17-25. PMID: 17089328
        Article Published Date : Jan 01, 2007

        Study Type : Review

        • Joe says

          George, I truly appreciate you listing all of those studies especially since they come from a source other than the national library of medicine, as that was a concern you had expressed previously with my research methods. I looked at all of the studies you provided and they are all either lab animal (rats, mice) or test tube studies or review articles. I didn’t see any human studies of moringa listed. I believe you corroborated my conclusions about moringa and I do thank you for that.

    • Michel says

      I’m tempted too……but I’ll just be vague……tempted,vague…..that’s what I am before I read sup geek. Thanks for the work and effort you put into providing this information Joe.

  2. Basem says

    Thanks for the efforts. We should know that the dose for the animal is different from the dose of the human., for example when we want to calculate the 200 mg/kg dose of moringa for the rat we should divide it to 6.2, so 200/6.2 x 91=2.94 gm

  3. amalia lacreo says

    Do you think GOD let moringa plant grow and loaded it with vitamins and minerals just for nothing… Why humans take supplements because they want to be healthy and moringa has it all..

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