Moringa oleifera Lam.
Horseradish-tree, Ben-oil tree, Drumstick-tree
Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.
- Folk Medicine
- Yields and Economics
- Biotic Factors
Almost every part of plant is of value for food. Seed is said to be eaten like
a peanut in Malaya. Thickened root used as substitute for horseradish.
Foliage eaten as greens, in salads, in vegetable curries, as pickles and for
seasoning. Leaves pounded up and used for scrubbing utensils and for cleaning
walls. Seeds yield 3840% of a non-drying oil, known as Ben Oil, used in arts
and for lubricating watches and other delicate machinery. Oil is clear, sweet
and odorless, never becoming rancid; consequently it is edible and useful in
the manufacture of perfumes and hairdressings. Wood yields blue dye. Leaves
and young branches are relished by livestock. Commonly planted in Africa as a
living fence (Hausa) tree. Trees planted on graves are believed to keep away
hyenas and its branches are used as charms against witchcraft. Bark can serve
for tanning; it also yields a coarse fiber.
According to Hartwell (19671971), the flowers, leaves, and roots are used in
folk remedies for tumors, the seed for abdominal tumors. The root decoction is
used in Nicaragua for dropsy. Root juice is applied externally as rubefacient
or counter-irritant. Leaves applied as poultice to sores, rubbed on the
temples for headaches, and said to have purgative properties. Bark, leaves and
roots are acrid and pungent, and are taken to promote digestion. Oil is
somewhat dangerous if taken internally, but is applied externally for skin
diseases. Bark regarded as antiscorbic, and exudes a reddish gum with
properties of tragacanth; sometimes used for diarrhea. Roots are bitter, act
as a tonic to the body and lungs, and are emmenagogue, expectorant, mild
diuretic and stimulant in paralytic afflictions, epilepsy and hysteria.
Per 100 g, the pod is reported to contain 86.9 g H2O, 2.5 g protein, 0.1 g fat,
8.5 g total carbohydrate, 4.8 g fiber, 2.0 g ash, 30 mg Ca, 110 mg P, 5.3 mg
Fe, 184 IU vit. A, 0.2 mg niacin, and 120 mg ascorbic acid, 310 mg Cu, 1.8 mg
I. Leaves contain 7.5 g H2O, 6.7 g protein, 1.7 g fat, 14.3 g total
carbohydrate, 0.9 g fiber, 2.3 g ash, 440 mg Ca, 70 mg P, 7 mg Fe, 110 mg Cu,
5.1 mg I, 11,300 IU vit. A, 120 mg vit. B, 0.8 mg nicotinic acid, 220 mg
ascorbic acid, and 7.4 mg tocopherol per 100 g. Estrogenic substances,
including the anti-tumor compound, b-sitosterol, and a pectinesterase are
also reported. Leaf amino acids include 6.0 g arginine/16 g N, 2.1 histidine,
4.3 lysine, 1.9 tryptophane, 6.4 phenylalanine, 2.0 methionine, 4.9 threonine,
9.3 lucine, 6.3 isoleucine, and 7.1 valine. Pod amino acids enclue 3.6 g
arginine/16 g N, 1.1 g histidine, 1.5 g lysine, 0.8 g tryptophane, 4.3 g
phenylalanine, 1.4 g methionine, 3.9 g threonine, 6.5 g leucine, 4.4 g
isoleucine, and 5.4 valine. Seed kernel (7074% of seed) contains 4.08 H2O,
38.4 g crude protein, 34.7% fatty oil, 16.4 g N free extract, 3.5 g fiber, and
3.2 g ash. The seed oil contains 9.3% palmitic, 7.4% stearic, 8.6% behenic,
and 65.7% oleic acids among the fatty acids. Myristic and lignoceric acids
have also been reported. The cake left after oil extraction contains 58.9%
crude protein, 0.4% Cao, 1.1% P2O5 and 0.8% K2O. Pterygospermin, a
bactericidal and fungicidal compound, isolated from Moringa has an LD50
subcutaneously injected in mice and rats of 350 to 400 mg/kg body weight.
Root-bark yields two alkaloids: moringine and moringinine. Moringinine acts as
cardiac stimulant, produces rise of blood-pressure, acts on sympathetic
nerve-endings as well as smooth muscles all over the body, and depresses the
sympathetic motor fibers of vessels in large doses only.
Short, slender, deciduous, perennial tree, to about 10 m tall; rather slender
with drooping branches; branches and stems brittle, with corky bark; leaves
feathery, pale green, compound, tripinnate, 3060 cm long, with many small
leaflets, 1.32 cm long, 0.60.3 cm wide, lateral ones somewhat elliptic,
terminal one obovate and slightly larger than the lateral ones; flowers
fragrant, white or creamy-white, 2.5 cm in diameter, borne in sprays, with 5 at
the top of the flower; stamens yellow; pods pendulous, brown, triangular,
splitting lengthwise into 3 parts when dry, 30120 cm long, 1.8 cm wide,
containing about 20 seeds embedded in the pith, pod tapering at both ends,
9-ribbed; seeds dark brown, with 3 papery wings. Main root thick. Fruit
production in March and April in Sri Lanka.
Reported from the African and Hindustani Centers of Diversity, Moringa or cvs
thereof is reported to tolerate bacteria, drought, fungus, laterite,
mycobacteria, and sand (Duke, 1978). Several cvs are grown: 'Bombay' is
considered one of the best, with curly fruits. Others have the fruits 3-angled
or about round in cross-section. In India, 'Jaffna' is noted for having fruits
6090 cm, 'Chavakacheri murunga' 90120 cm long. (2n = 28)
Native to India, Arabia, and possibly Africa and the East Indies; widely
cultivated and naturalized in tropical Africa, tropical America, Sri Lanka,
India, Mexico, Malabar, Malaysia and the Philippine Islands.
Ranging from Subtropical Dry to Moist through Tropical Very Dry to Moist Forest
Life Zones, Moringa is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of 4.8 to 40.3
dm (mean of 53 cases = 14.1) annual temperature of 18.7 to 28.5°C (mean of
48 cases = 25.4) and pH of 4.5 to 8. (mean of 12 cases = 6.5). Thrives in
subtropical and tropical climates, flowering and fruiting freely and
continuously. Grows best on a dry sandy soil. Drought resistant.
In India, the plant is propagated by planting limb cuttings 12 m long, from
June to August, preferably. The plant starts bearing pods 68 months after
planting but regular bearing commenced after the second year. The tree bears
for several years.
Fruit or other parts of plant usually harvested as desired according to some
authors, but in India, fruiting may peak between March and April and again in
September and October. Seed gathered in March and April and oil expressed.
While I have not located specific yield figures for Moringa, I feel, from
personal observations, that its biomass and pod production should approach that
of Prosopis growing in the same habitat. Hence, I would suggest a target yield
of about 10 MT pods per hectare. Horseradish-tree is grown locally in India,
Sri Lanka and elsewhere, and is consumed as a local product, either ripe or
unripe. No commercial data are available.
According to Verma et al. (1976), "saijan" is a fast growing tree being planted
in India on a large scale as a potential source of wood for the paper industry.
It seems doubtful that the wood and seed oil could both be viewed as fountains
of energy. According to Burkill (1966), "The seeds yield a clear inodorous oil
to the extent of 22 to 38.5 percent. It burns with a clear light and without
smoke. It is an excellent salad oil, and gives a good soap... It can be used
for oiling machinery, and indeed has a reputation for this purpose as watch
oil, but is now superseded by sperm oil." Sharing rather similar habitat
requirements with the jojoba under certain circumstances, it might be
investigated as a substitute for sperm whale oil like jojoba. Growing readily
from cuttings, the ben oil could be readily produced where jojoba grows.
Coming into bearing within two years, it could easily be compared to jojoba in
head-on trials. I recommend such.
Fruitflies (Gitona spp.) have infested the fruits which then dried out
at the tip and rotted. Leaves of young plants and freshly planted stumps are
attacked by several species of weevils (Myllocerus discolor var.
variegatus, M. 11-pustulatus, M. tenuiclavis, M. viridanus and
Ptochus ovulum). Also parasitized by the flowering plant, Dendrophthoe
flacata. Fungi which attack the horseradish-tree include: Cercospora
moringicola (Leaf-spot), Sphaceloma morindae (Spot anthracnose),
Puccinia moringae (rust), Oidium sp., Polyporus gilvus.
Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
- Burkill, J.H. 1966. A dictionary of economic products of the Malay peninsula.
Art Printing Works, Kuala Lumpur. 2 vols.
- Duke, J.A. 1978. The quest for tolerant germplasm. p. 161. In: ASA Special
Symposium 32, Crop tolerance to suboptimal land conditions. Am. Soc. Agron.
- Hartwell, J.L. 19671971. Plants used against cancer. A survey. Lloydia 3034.
- Verma, S.C., Banerji, R., Misra, G., Nigam, S.K. 1976. Nutritional value of
moringa. Current Sci. 45(21):769770.
Last update Wednesday, January 7, 1998 by aw