After resoundingly defeating King Darius III at the battle of Gaugamela, near modern-day Mosul in Irak, Alexander the Great conquered the Achaemenid Empire of Persia which stretched to the Indian sub-continent in the East. Believing that the world ended in India, he then led his impressive Macedonian Army in 326 B.C. into its Easternmost frontier, which corresponds to the present-day Punjab in Pakistan. His army faced the forces of King Porus in the battle of Hydaspes and defeated them; however, there were many casualties in the conquering army, including Bucephalus, Alexander’s dear horse. When the conqueror decided to continue his march, his army, exhausted and homesick, rebelled at Hyphasis and obliged him to give up his dream, turning southward instead.
The Macedonians were surprised by the stamina and fighting capacity of Porus’ soldiers, which they attributed to the healing and wellness faculties of an indigenous plant from a tree: Moringa. It is a native tree of many regions of Africa and Asia, the sole genus in the flowering plant family Moringaceae; the name derives from the Tamil denomination of “drumstick”. The most diffused variant is Moringa oleifera, which grows at the foothills of the Himalayas, in Northeastern India. For centuries this plant has been used to treat anxiety, stress, asthma, anemia, chronic bronchitis, skin infections, cholera, etc.; its anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, anti-hypertensive, anti-tumor, anti-pyretic, anti-epileptic, diuretic, anti- cholesterol, anti-diabetic properties were known by many cultures.
The modern interest in phytotherapy—the study of the healing power of extracts of natural origin—has rekindled the scientific initiatives to determine the real value of the components of this plant, which has been labelled as “the tree of life” in ancient cultures for its great versatility. The Moringa has vitamins, minerals, beta-carotenes, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory components and omega 3; its leaves have a high content of Vitamins C, calcium, Beta-carotene, potassium and essential proteins. The high concentration of flavonoids, ascorbic acid, carotenoids and phenolics extends the period of usage of fat containing foods, a critical factor to conserve food in the under-developed world.
Recent studies linked the presence of low-grade inflammation to Insulin resistance and Obesity through the presence of cytokines, tumor or necrosis alpha factor, interleukin-1-Beta, etc. Moringa oleifera has significant power as a blood glucose-lowering agent because some of its metabolites—N-Benzyl thiocarbamate, N-Benzyl carbamates, benzyl nitrites and benzyl—trigger the release of Insulin in pancreatic cells in experimental rats. An in-vitro study of a Philippine variant showed that several of its metabolites decreased the size of tumors; abnormal growths treated with methanolic extracts of Moringa fruits and leaves were slowed down. Aqueous extracts of pods’ husks have anti-microbial properties against Gram positive, gram negative and yeasts organisms.
The Moringa leaves can be eaten fresh, cooked or stored as dried powder for many months, without losing any of its nutritional value. In the tropical areas, the Moringa tree remains in full leaf at the end of the dry season, a critical period for the continued sustenance of the population because most of the trees become leafless. It can be safely used a dietary supplement for children, the elderly and pregnant women as well. For the above-mentioned reasons, it has been dubbed as the Miracle tree or Mother’s best friend.
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