Fun Plants in the Azuero: Moringa

Young Moringas

Young Moringas Wait Out the Panamanian  Dry Season in Pots

The “Magic Moringa,” the “Miracle Tree,” the “Superfood Tree,” the “Tree of Life.” These are some of the names applied to the moringa oleifera, a small tree from Africa being used for nutrition, health, energy enhancement, weight-loss, and anti-aging, as well as feed for animals, water purification and plant fertilizer.

Why do proponents rave so about Moringa?  Because it contains ninety nutrients, including thirty-six anti-inflamatories and forty-six antioxidants. Monica Marcu, PhD, a pharmacologist is so impressed with moringa she has written a book, “Miracle Tree,”  in which she explains the trees virtues and benefits.  Marcu explains that moringa contains eighteen of the 20 amino acids needed by humans, and these include the nine essential amino acids in a ratio good for absorbtion  and for being bioavailable to the body.  It is rare to find a nutritional source of such quality.

WHO, the World Health Organization, has been promoting moringa for forty years in its efforts to promote health in third world countries. Every part of this amazing plant is edible – leaves, flowers, fruits and stems and roots.

Moringa’s nutritional value compared with other foods is impressive.  Thanks to  the IMAGINE Rural Development Initiative for this infographic on moringa’s properties.


Infographic from IMAGINE Rural Development Zambia Project

Moringa has an amazing laundry list of conditions it is said to have been used to successfully treat. These include malnutrition and anemia, mental issues associated with aging as well as depression, diabetes, jaundice, hepatitis, liver problems, hypertension, bronchitis, asthma, persistent cough, cancer, arthritis, kidney disease, skin maladies, sleep problems, eye problems, the side effects of menopause, epilepsy, heart problems, anemia, epilepsy and digestive problems. It contains a natural antibiotic and is also used in some countries to treat diarrhea and the common cold.

What great stuff!  But it gets even better.

The moringa grows rapidly, and even grows in sub-optimal conditions. It has a long taproot, with few lateral roots, is not bothered by poor, arid soil and can grow a foot per month. Because it also produces minimal shade it can easily be inter-cropped with other food plants. Or it can be used as live fencing around a food garden, its ornamental qualities providing a bonus, although some don’t find it especially attractive.

The list of uses for the plant other than as a food stuff is equally impressive.  It can be used to filter water, clarify honey, make dye, tan hides, make paper … the list goes on.  This would be in addition to the known medicinal properties – it’s detoxification and natural antibiotic qualities are well-known to its proponents.  It is also used to relieve diabetes, in heart conditions, and hypertension.  It’s used to strengthen the immune system and fight cancer, liver problems, kidney problems, eye problems.  It enhances mental acuity, relieves depression, and enhances sexual desire and performance.

What doesn’t it do?  Frankly, I’m not sure. I don’t believe it cooks or cleans or provides taxi service, but those might be its only limitations .  😉

Where can you get some in Panama?  Currently I am aware of several sources, but only one is in “commercial” production as yet.  You can contact

Finca la Maya Community Programs
(507 240-8281)

Want more information? You can start with this excellent video produced by the Discovery Channel.