Moringa oleifera, native to India, grows in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world. It is commonly known as ‘drumstick tree’ or ‘horseradish tree’. Moringa can withstand both severe drought and mild frost conditions and hence widely cultivated across the world. With its high nutritive values, every part of the tree is suitable for either nutritional or commercial purposes. The leaves are rich in minerals, vitamins and other essential phytochemicals. Extracts from the leaves are used to treat malnutrition, augment breast milk in lactating mothers. It is used as potential antioxidant, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic and antimicrobial agent. M. oleifera seed, a natural coagulant is extensively used in water treatment. The scientific effort of this research provides insights on the use of moringa as a cure for diabetes and cancer and fortification of moringa in commercial products. This review explores the use of moringa across disciplines for its medicinal value and deals with cultivation, nutrition, commercial and prominent pharmacological properties of this “Miracle Tree”.

Introduction : Moringa oleifera belonging to the family of Moringaceae is an effective remedy for malnutrition. Moringa is rich in nutrition owing to the presence of a variety of essential phytochemicals present in its leaves, pods and seeds. In fact, moringa is said to provide 7 times more vitamin C than oranges, 10 times more vitamin A than carrots, 17 times more calcium than milk, 9 times more protein than yoghurt, 15 times more potassium than bananas and 25 times more iron than spinach [1]. The fact that moringa is easily cultivable makes it a sustainable remedy for malnutrition. Countries like Senegal and Benin treat children with moringa [2]. Children deprived of breast milk tend to show symptoms of malnutrition. Lactogogues are generally prescribed to lactating mothers to augment milk production. The lactogogue, made of phytosterols, acts as a precursor for hormones required for reproductive growth. Moringa is rich in phytosterols like stigmasterol, sitosterol and kampesterol which are precursors for hormones. These compounds increase the estrogen production, which in turn stimulates the proliferation of the mammary gland ducts to produce milk. It is used to treat malnutrition in children younger than 3 years [3]. About 6 spoonfuls of leaf powder can meet a woman’s daily iron and calcium requirements, during pregnancy. This study provides an overview on the cultivation, nutritional values, medicinal properties for commercial use and pharmacological properties of moringa. There are no elaborate reports on treatment of diabetes and cancer using moringa. This study aims to bridge the gap.

Conclusion and future prospects: The research on M. oleifera is yet to gain importance in India. It is essential that the nutrients of this wonder tree are exploited for a variety of purposes. M. oleifera has great anti-diabetic and anti-cancer properties. However, double blind researches are less prevalent to further substantiate these properties of moringa. More studies are needed to corroborate the primary mechanisms of moringa as antidiabetic and anticancer agents. Several puzzling questions are unanswered. Research on the antioxidant nature of aqueous extracts on cancer cells needs further inquiry. Studies have proven that moringa causes ROS in cancer cells that leads to apoptosis or necrosis. However, the aqueous extracts also have antioxidants present in them. The exact mechanism of this irony is yet to be explored. The effect of environmental factors affecting the nutrient levels of leaves and other parts of M. oleifera grown across the globe require further analysis.

Further research to isolate endophytic fungi and identify the enzymes or proteins from M. oleifera that are accountable for the anticancer and antidiabetic activity may lead to development of novel therapeutic compounds. Yet another focal area is to evaluate the commercial use of M. oleifera as a bio-coagulant. It might be a viable alternative for water purification. The demand for snacks in the market is huge. Hence Moringa fortification in snacks to eradicate malnutrition has a twin advantage. The tree as a native to India can become a great source of income for the nation if this potential for highly nutritional food is exploited by the industries and researchers by undertaking further research to corroborate earlier studies.

Lakshmipriya , Gopalakrishnan, KruthiDoriyaaDevara, SanthoshKumar (Food Science and Human Wellness 5 (2016) 49–56)