Marvellous Moringa

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Habit of the moringa plant

Moringa [Ben/Behen], is known as the miracle tree – and with good reason.  It grows to a height of only 7 - 12 m and has a lifespan of a mere 20 years.  Though not as impressive in stature or longevity as the beloved baobab, it can more than hold its own in the impressive stakes.

Moringa has a short, but intense life, growing like the clappers.  It can grow up to 4 m in in a season – taking a mere 10 months from seed to tree!  As the maxim goes ‘Dynamite comes in small packets’ - and the mighty moringa sure validates this claim, and then some.

Greenhouse health now stocks a range of Moringa leaf products (from Akan) and Moringa oil (from Dr Sandi Nye):

  • Powdered leaves to add to soups, stews, juices and smoothies.
  • Tea for making herbal infusions.
  • Capsules for taking internally as a supplement.
  • High quality oil for massage and manufacture.

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Moringa grows in over 80 countries, is known by over 200 different common names, and is referenced in over 300 folk medicine remedies.  Also known as the Drumstick Tree, and Famine Tree, Moringa’s virtues have even been passionately extolled by Dr Oz on TV, and lauded in print in the National Geographic [Nov 2012] magazine.

Moringa is one of the most ancient oils known to humans and its healing properties, which have been documented by ancient cultures [Greeks, Romans, Egyptians], have stood the test of time - and still come out with flying colours to this day.

All parts of this revered tree, native to Africa and India, are used for their pharmacological and nutritional properties, hence the ‘Miracle tree’ appellation. Moringa’s leaves and seeds are full of health-giving nutrients and skin-loving fatty acids.  It is used in cooking, cosmetics, medicine and lubrication – and even has potential as a biofuel.

Along with the other unique African oils, Moringa has become the latest darling of the natural and commercial cosmetic industries, due to its remarkable skin-smoothing, radiance-boosting, decongesting, detoxifying, moisturising, conditioning and anti-ageing properties.

Moringa and stability

Moringa amphora

Moringa amphora

Besides its many other virtues, Moringa oil possesses exceptional oxidative stability, which may explain why the Egyptians placed vases of this oil in their tombs to assist them in the afterlife  – so chance is a good thing that Cleopatra knew all about this facet of Moringa’s impressive profile!

Here is a picture of the Moringa Amphora from the Tomb of Maiherpri * [his name can be translated as Lion of the Battlefield].  Some of the dockets attached to the jars indicated that they had contained b3k-oil, a very expensive commodity made from Moringa nuts.

* Maiherpri was an Ancient Egyptian noble of Nubian origin buried in the Valley of the Kings, in tomb KV36.  He probably lived during the rule of Thutmose IV, [the 8th Pharoah of the 18th dynasty of Egypt, who ruled in approximately the 14th century BC.

For the aromatic perfumers out there ..…..…

Did you know that Moringa oil was used for perfumery long before the advent of alcohol  distillation  and  other modern day diluent chemicals?

Distillation dates back to more or less the 4th century BC.

During these times aromatics were extracted by steeping plant material or splinters of fragrant wood in oil to extract the essential oils.  The macerated material would eventually be placed in cloth and wrung out until the last vestiges of aroma had been retrieved.  Alternatively the material was boiled with oil and water and the aromatic essential oil skimmed off.  Besides Moringa, other oils like balanos [from the seeds of the Balanites aegyptiaca tree], castor, linseed, olive, sesame, safflower and sometimes almond were used.

Traditional perfumers however held [and hold] Moringa oil in esteem for its exceptional fixative powers i.e. it can absorb and retain even the most elusive scents, locking the aromatic molecules into the oil.  Another one of the reasons for my enduring love affair with this divine oil.

There are reports of Moringa being used in cosmetic preparations as far back as 1400 BC, wherein an allegedly successful remedy to treat wrinkles consisted of: gum of frankincense wax; fresh Moringa oil and Cyprus grass [Cyperus alternifolius] – a grass-like marsh plant of the Cyperaceae [or sour grasses] family that is also used to make papyrus.  The mixture was ground finely, mixed with fermented plant juice, and applied daily.  Let me know if you try it and it works!

These days Moringa seed oil is in much demand for natural and luxury cosmetics because of its stability profile and resistance to rancidity, which is due to high levels of powerful antioxidants.

For the colour therapist readers

Tara skin care products

TARA products use extracts of Moringa

Tara is the name of a compassionate and dynamic goddess whose body radiates green light.  Tara cosmetics claims that their product is effective due to a peptide from moringa seed [purisoft], in which the skin cells are cleaned and protected against pollution.

But back to some scientific monograph information – Moringa is also commonly called ‘Ben Oil’ due to its high concentration of behenic acid aka docosanoic acid - a crystalline fatty acid CH3(CH2)20COOH occurring in the form of esters, especially in the fats and oils from seeds of Moringa, as well as peanut and some waxes.

Moringa is rich in oleic, linoleic and palmitoleic acids [unsaturated fatty acids].  It’s similar in composition to olive oil, relative to oleic acid content, but less dense in viscosity/texture.  The oil is light and spreads easily, making it ideal for aromatherapeutic and cosmetic use, and great as a massage oil because of its superior slip-qualities.

The mature seeds yield 35-40% cold-pressed, edible oil, which when refined is clear and odourless, whereas a less refined oil is yellow and slightly nutty in flavour and aroma.

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