If you’ve done a few quick Google searches about Moringa, you might have seen conflicting information about how much of it is edible.
There are some articles that claim that every part of the Moringa tree, from its leaves to its roots, is safe to eat.
There are others that insist you should only eat the leaves or drumsticks, and avoid everything else. When we first started researching Moringa years ago, we ran into this exact same situation.
So we did an awful lot of research, all for the purposes of answering this single question: can you eat every part of the Moringa tree?
Can you eat every part of the Moringa Tree?
Historically, humans have eaten every part of the Moringa tree, either for food or as medicine. However, while some parts of the tree are absolutely safe for consumption (leaves, drumsticks, seed oil), other parts of the tree should only be consumed in very limited quantities and/or only after careful preparation (roots, bark, flowers).
That’s the basic overview. Let’s take a step-by-step look at every part of the Moringa tree and discuss when you should or shouldn’t eat it.
Moringa Leaves and Drumsticks: A Nutritious Addition to Any Meal
Scientists and researchers have been studying Moringa leaves for decades. Humans have been eating both the leaves and drumsticks for thousands of years.
Every piece of research and experiential evidence we have says that both Moringa leaves and drumsticks are entirely safe in commonly-used servings.
Moringa leaves can be used fresh, dried, or in powders. They can be taken in teas, cooked into recipes, or added as a garnish atop any dish. You can eat Moringa leaves directly from the branch, or you can crush and powder them to add to meals for the rest of the year.
We recommend sticking to 5-10 grams of Moringa powder or 5-15 grams of Moringa leaves daily, but all in all, Moringa leaves are entirely safe to consume.
The same is true of drumsticks. Moringa drumsticks are a bit less commonly eaten, but you can absolutely add them to most meals.
They can be sliced, diced, and added to soups and curries. You can eat them fresh, cooked, or pickled. We recommend an individual serving size of 1-2 drumsticks daily.
Regardless of how you choose to add leaves or drumsticks to your diet, both are safe, nutritious, and wildly beneficial. Is the same true of the rest of the tree, however?
Moringa Flowers Edible
Moringa flowers are most often compared to mushrooms re: taste. I think that’s pretty fair; they have a similar spongy texture, and in my experience leave a similar taste in your mouth. If you bite into a flower expecting an exact mushroom taste, though, you’ll probably be surprised.
They might bring mushrooms to mind, but they’re definitely not identical.
While Moringa leaves tend to have a slightly stronger nutritional content, the flowers more than hold their own weight, too. They’re full of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
They contain protein, carbohydrates, and even more dietary fiber than Moringa leaves do. And they also contain the same anti-inflammatory properties as the leaves.
They can also be eaten in nearly as many ways as Moringa leaves and pods. Moringa flowers are often boiled in water and made into a medicinal tea, used for inflammation and UTIs.
They can be fried in oil and tossed into salads. In Ayurvedic practice, they’re even used to help to breastfeed mothers and increase their milk supply.
This, however, leads to the first caveat: Moringa flowers contain contraceptive properties, and in large enough quantities can induce uterine contractions. In other words, eating Moringa flowers while pregnant can result in miscarriage.
There is not enough research available to know exactly what those quantities are. If you’re pregnant or trying to conceive, then, avoid Moringa flowers altogether.
The second caveat is to cook them before eating. Pop them in a bit of oil, and boil them in water; just try to avoid eating them raw.
Caveat three: start with a small portion. Moringa flowers are a powerful laxative. Better to start small and work your way up than to eat a cup of flowers and spend the rest of your day dealing with stomach cramps and trips to the restroom.
Additional reading can be found here, at Morningarden’s signature Moringa 101 post:
Moringa Seed Oil: A Healthy Alternative to Vegetable Oil
Moringa seed oil is one of our favorite Moringa features, mostly because it was entirely unexpected. We didn’t realize that Moringa seed oil existed for years.
Once we finally did, it basically became a staple product in our house.
Moringa oil is derived from the seeds and can be used for a lot more than just cooking. We actually mostly use Moringa oil for hair masks, moisturizers, and DIY perfumes.
But it’s also a fantastic alternative to vegetable, canola, or olive oil, and you can use it just like you would any other cooking oil.
Moringa oil is a little sweeter than you’d expect, but not so much so that it would ruin the flavor of a savory dish. It’s full of the same types of antioxidants and nutrients that the seeds possess.
It’s also pretty easy to make yourself, even without an oil press. If you want to try making your own Moringa oil, check out our article here!
We wouldn’t recommend chugging Moringa oil as you would water, but when used in cooking, it is entirely safe. In other words, this is one part of the Moringa tree you can definitely eat.
Moringa Seeds: Edible, but Use Moderation!
First thing’s first: immature Moringa seeds are absolutely edible. We just recommend taking them similar to how you’d take pills: one or two a day.
There are a couple of different ways to eat Moringa seeds. You can fry them in a few tablespoons of oil; they’ll inflate almost like popcorn kernels.
They can be added to salads, soups, or meat or vegetable dishes. You can boil them and eat them solo, or toss them into lunch or dinner. You can even use them to create Moringa oil.
Moringa seeds taste vaguely sweet at first, but leave a bitter after-taste in your mouth. The taste is pretty easy to get used to, though, and after a while, you might be tempted to eat them like nuts or sunflower seeds.
Don’t do it. Moringa seeds are very healthy, and they’ll give you a solid amount of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, but they’re also a pretty powerful laxative.
You will go to the restroom repeatedly. You will probably have to deal with an hour or two of stomach cramps.
Start small. Start by eating a single seed, or even half of one if you have a delicate stomach.
Then, after you feel comfortable adding a bit more, you can slowly increase your intake. Just don’t eat them by the handful. You (and your toilet) will regret it.
All of the above can be eaten pretty safely, albeit in moderation. There are two parts of the Moringa tree that we do not recommend you ever eat, however.
Moringa Root: Medicinal, but Dangerous in Large (And Possibly Even Small) Quantities
Moringa roots have been used medicinally for thousands of years. The root bark has been used to treat and prevent ulcers, to treat inflammation, and as a cardiac stimulant.
The roots themselves have anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial properties. They’re diuretics, and they have pain-killing/analgesic properties.
They’re used as a spice (in fact, one of Moringa’s many nicknames, the horseradish tree, comes from the taste of these roots). They contain vitamins, alkaloids, and minerals, and are a good source of calcium, magnesium, and sodium.
The problem is that some of those chemicals and alkaloids (which, for the record, include morphine), can be toxic in large enough quantities.
They can induce nausea, dizziness, and nerve paralysis. Moringa roots can also induce uterine contractions. They’ve been used for thousands of years as a contraceptive, and in pregnant women can cause miscarriage.
Eating too much Moringa root can result in illness or death. The issue is that as of April 2019 we don’t have enough research to definitively say how much Moringa root is too much.
One day in the future, researchers will have a clear answer to this. Right now, though, we simply don’t know enough. Because of this, we do not recommend consuming Moringa root. There are so many other parts of the Moringa tree that you can safely eat. Avoid this one.
Moringa Bark: Medicinal, but Dangerous Enough That It’s Best to Avoid
Like Moringa roots, Moringa bark (especially root bark) has been used for medicinal purposes for millennia. It’s used to treat inflammation, urinary tract infections, and ulcers.
And research has shown that it does work! In one study regarding the use of Moringa to treat UTIs, researchers gave half of their participants 40 mL of bark decoctions (made by boiling 15 grams of bark powder in 100 mL of water) twice daily for a period of three weeks.
The other half were given typical modern-day UTI treatments.
Researchers concluded that Moringa was absolutely effective in the treatment of UTIs, even more than modern medical treatments.
They also concluded that Moringa could also be used to treat some of the causes of UTIs, like E.coli.
No adverse effects were reported in this particular study, indicating that the specific decoction used is probably safe at least for periods of 3 weeks. However (and this is a big however), Moringa bark is absolutely toxic when taken in larger quantities.
Moringa bark contains a number of alkaloids that, in improper quantities, can cause everything from nausea to paralysis to death.
Like Moringa roots and flowers, the bark can also cause uterine contractions and potential miscarriage in pregnant mothers.
We don’t know exactly what quantities can cause those negative side effects. We don’t know how those quantities might vary depending on age, gender, or any number of other reasons.
There simply hasn’t been enough research on Moringa bark to give a definitive answer one way or another. Therefore, we recommend avoiding the bark entirely.
Moringa is one of the healthiest food products out there, and we can eat almost all of it.
The leaves, the drumsticks, and the seeds are all healthy, nutritious, and great additions to any meal.
However, Moringa flowers can be dangerous for the pregnant, and the alkaloids in the bark and roots can make consuming them incredibly dangerous, and we, therefore, recommend avoiding Moringa flowers if pregnant, and avoiding Moringa roots and bark entirely.
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