|In Tamilnadu, one can rarely find a street without a drumstick tree. Moringa oleifera (family Moringaceae) – as the tree is botanically known – is called “Murungai” in the Tamil language from which the genus name is derived. The name “drumstick tree” comes from the plant’s long thin seed pods which resemble drumsticks.
Moringa is considered the most nutritious plant on this planet. Its leaves are rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin C, and minerals. Moreover, it is cost effective to grow and it prevents malnutrition.
Moringa is cultivated mostly in the southern part of India. People cultivate the plants in their houses and some even grow them in their fields as fences.
Moringa is well known all over the world for its oil, seeds, and leaves, which have many therapeutic uses.
Moringa is native to the southern foothills of the Himalayan Mountains. India is the largest producer in the world, with an annual production of 1.1 to 1.3 million tons of tender fruit. Among the Indian states, Andhra Pradesh leads in both area and production, followed by Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
The drumstick tree is now grown in many other tropical parts of the world such as Egypt, the Philippines, Kenya, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Haiti, Nicaragua, Ethiopia, and many other countries. It can even grow in very dry areas because of its deep roots that have the ability to store moisture for prolonged periods of time. However, it cannot withstand being waterlogged by too much rain.
The drumstick tree was highly valued by the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians because of its medicinal benefits. They extracted edible oil from the seeds and it was used as a skin lotion. They were also exporting the oil from West Indies to Egyptians for making perfumes and the machinery lubricants. It is reported that the Indians have been using these leaves in their food for more than 5000 years and they are also using the Moringa pods (rich in Vitamin C) in their diet. The leaves were used as a medicinal herb around 2000 B.C. and it was believed that Moringa can cure up to 300 diseases.
Moringa oleifera is the most widely cultivated variety among the 13 known species of Moringa. The other varieties include:
Moringa arborea – used in health drinks
Other varieties include Moringa ovalifolia, Moringa peregrina, Moringa pygmaea, Moringa rivae, and Moringa ruspoliana.
People in many countries have been using Moringa oleifera for centuries, as it has a number of excellent medicinal values and natural energy boosters.
The leaves of the drumstick tree are believed to have a strong effect on blood pressure and they can control glucose levels. Parts of the plant are widely used for treating diseases such as anemia, anxiety, gastric trouble, diarrhea, inflammation of the colon, skin infections, scurvy, intestinal parasites, blackheads, blood impurities, bronchitis, chest congestion, cholera, conjunctivitis, cough, diarrhea, eye and ear infections, fever, glandular swelling, headaches, hysteria, joint pain, pimples, psoriasis, respiratory disorders, scurvy, sore throat, sprains, tuberculosis, and many other conditions.
It is said that this miracle plant contains 36 anti-inflammatories, 18 amino acids, and 9 essential amino acids that help in developing a strong and healthy body. Apart from acting as a curative agent for the above-mentioned diseases, moringa also nourishes the immune system, promotes blood circulation and digestion, and supports normal hormone levels and blood sugar levels.
In addition, moringa acts as a skin softener and provides many proteins and vitamins that are required for a healthy life. According to the scientific records, gram for gram moringa leaves contain twice the protein of yogurt, 7 times the vitamin C of oranges, 4 times the calcium of milk, 4 times the vitamin A found in carrots, and 3 times the iron found in almonds.
Tamilians use the following simple recipe to make the murungai leaves edible.
Steam 2 cups of freshly picked moringa leaves a few minutes in one cup of water. Season with onion, oil and salt.
The fame of moringa is increasing these days, as is evidenced by the increase in exports of drumstick tree products from India. Moringa oil is gaining a wider reputation because of its health-promoting phytonutrients. The benefits of the oil are known throughout the world and the demand for the moringa oil is increasing as a treatment for skin allergies, irritations, and wounds.
Another reason for the popularity of the drumstick tree is its great versatility as a food source. In South Indian cuisine, the fruit is used in various recipes, including the very popular Sambhar.
Websites also offer sales of moringa products (mainly made of moringa fruits, seeds, and leaves), especially in the USA, where there is a high demand.
Growing drumstick tree plants is a very easy process. Follow the simple procedure below to encourage the growth of the plant from seed:
Soak the seeds in water for 12 to 24 hours. Then wrap them in a wet cloth. Keep the cloth damp so that the seeds do not dry out. Keep the seeds moist about a week until they germinate and sprout. Once the seeds sprout, bury them in a moist area. The plant can grow up to 4 meters in the first year of its growth and it can bear fruits in the same year.