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)
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.