The ‘Miracle’ Of Malunggay Leaves

5 October 2012

MANILA, Philippines - With the rising cost of medicine and the prolifiration of illnesses and ailments that are perceived to be incurable like cancer and HIV - many of us, including exporters and other businessmen and entrepreneurs have been attracted to herbal and organic food -related products. Sometime ago, I wrote about an oriental herb known as gotu kola. The response from the readers of this column was overwhelming. Confirming once again my suspicion that more and more of us are looking for alternatives to the expensive pharmaceutical medicines that are being marketed in drugstores.

Encouraged by the positive response of the readers of this column on subjects dealing with herbal and organic foods, I am again sharing information about a tree known in English as the drumstick tree or the horseradish tree. In the Philippines, it is known as malunggay in Tagalog. In Ilocano it is known as marungay. Many of us have been taking for granted this slender tree with drooping branches that grows to approximately ten (10) meters in height. Little realizing that the leaves of this tree are highly nutritious with high medicinal value.

Many of us Filipinos are familiar with the chicken tinola dish. It is chicken cut into desired pieces sautéed in garlic, onions, and with thinly-sliced ginger. Malunggay leaves and chayote (sayote in the Philippines) are added to the boiling broth before being served. There are other native dishes of course where malunggay leaves are added. But not as popular as the chicken tinola. The malunggay leaves are cooked like spinach and any other green leafy vegetable.

Let me share with you some interesting information about malunggay:

• The malunggay tree is known as the moringa oleifera and simply referred to as moringa, for short ;

• The tree is wildly cultivated in Africa, Central and South America, Sri Lanka, India, Mexico Malaysia and the Philippines. Almost every part of the moringa tree can be used for food or has some other beneficial property. The bark, sap, roots, leaves, seeds, oil and flowers are used in traditional medicine in several countries. In fact the sap is used for dyeing;

• The fruit of the tree is used as a vegetable in Asia and Africa. The fruit is a long, thin pod, resembling a drumstick. In India and elsewhere, the fruit is called drumstick. In the Philippines and in Africa the moringa leaves are eaten as a leaf vegetable;

• Unbelievably, the leaves of malunggay prevent three hundred (300) diseases. Amazingly, it have been reported and supported by medical research that the malunggay leaves are in fact a "powerhouse of nutritional value" ;

• One report says that gram for gram, malunggay leaves contain four (4) times the calcium in milk; four (4) times the vitamin A in carrots; seven (7) times the vitamin C in oranges; three (3) times the potassium in bananas ; and two (2) times the protein in milk;

• Malunggay leaves abound in essential disease-preventing nutrients like vitamin A (a shield against eye disease, skin disease, heart ailments, diarrhea, and many other diseases); Vitamin C, fighting many infections and illnesses including colds and flu; calcium , which builds strong bones and teeth and helps prevent osteoporosis; potassium, essential for the functioning of the brain and nerves; and protein, the basic building blocks of all our body cells;

• Malunggay is used by doctors to treat diabetes in West Africa and high blood pressure in India. It is also reported to contain properties which help rheumatism, arthritis and other joint afflictions as well as being cardiac and circulatory stimulants. Biological studies have also confirmed that malunggay has anti-flammatory, antispasmodic and diuretic activities;

• Philippines is now exporting dried malunggay leaves for tea to Japan;

• There is already moringa capsules in the market; also moringa leaf powder; moringa seed kernels used for oil extraction purposes; moringa seed cake as a natural coagulation for water purification; and also moringa juice from the leaves;

• Many of us are unaware that the young seed pods and seeds (which taste like asparagus) and flowers (which taste like mushrooms) can also be eaten;

• In the provinces, nursing mothers eat the malunggay leaves usually with broth as this is believed to increase a woman's milk production. Also prescribed for anemia. The leaves are also considered to be anthelmintic (able to kill intestinal worms), as well as used to treat fevers, bronchitis, eye and ear infections, scurvy, catarrh ( inflammation of the mucus membrane); a remedy too for dysentery and colitis; and to reduce glandular swelling. Some rub the leaves on the temples for relief from headache;

• Surprisingly, many researches disclose that there is higher nutritional value in the moringa dried leaf when compared to the fresh moringa leaf;

• No wonder, many say that moringa is the most nutrient-rich plant yet discovered. They say that moringa provides a rich and rare combination of nutrients, amino acids, antioxidants, antiaging and anti-inflammatory properties used for nutrition and healing.

We should realize that there are many essential nutrients that are lacking in our diets. No matter how expensive the foods we are eating. Malunggay leaves undoubtedly is one of the richest sources of such nutrients that are lacking in our diet. And we are greatly blessed because malunggay trees abound in our country. Easily accessible to everybody at a very affordable price. The trouble with many of us is that we prefer the imported expensive food and medicines. We have to change our thinking on a lot of things. Including educating us about the beneficial value of malunggay as well as other herbs and plants that are all around us.

Have a joyful day!