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A Second look at the Low Malunggay

Contributed by Dr. Lydia M. Marero, Chief, RUMD (fnri-dost)


Malunggay known scientifically as Moringa oleifera Lamk, is one of the world’s most useful plants. It is cultivated in all countries of the tropics. It is easy to plant, and is available year-round. It is used as: food, effective flocculants, antibiotics, oils, and coagulants for turbid waters. It is called “mother’s best friend”, and “miracle vegetable” by many who have known its beneficial effects. In fact, it is used as the logo of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology.

One hundred grams (1 cup cooked) of malunggay leaves contain 3.1 g. protein, 0.6 g. fiber, 96 mg calcium, 29 mg phosphorus, 1.7 mg iron, 2,820 mg ß-carotene, 0.07 mg thiamin, 0.14 mg riboflavin, 1.1 mg niacin, and 53 mg ascorbic acid or vitamin C. The antioxidant activity of malunggay is about 71%, with µ-tocopherol (vitamin E) equivalent of 45.The leaves are outstanding as sources of vitamin A, B-vitamins and minerals such as calcium and iron. The calcium content is very high for a plant. Iron content is likewise very good. It is even an excellent source of protein being higher than the amino acid pattern of FAO reference protein, and a very low source of fat and carbohydrates. The leaves are incomparable as a source of the sulfur-containing amino acids methionine and cystine, which are often in short supply.Due to its high vitamins A, C, and E, which are very potent antioxidants, malunggay is a very good quencher of unstable free-radicals that can react with and damage other molecules.

Antioxidants reduces the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. They also prevent the onset of various chronic diseases like arthritis, cancer, and heart and kidney diseases. Malunggay contains the phytochemical niaziminin, which has anti-tumor potential, (Faizi et al., 1992) and correlated with inhibitory ability against superoxide generation.

The first naturally-occurring thiocarbamates, novel hypotensive agents niazinin A, niazinin B, niazimicin and niaziminin A and B were isolated from malunggay. Malunggay is called “miracle vegetable” because it is not only a food, it is also a medicine. It may therefore, be a functional food, as popularly known these days. Malunggay helps in good eyesight, helps in digestion, facilitates bowel movement, and a cure for stomach aches. It is used to cleanse wounds and ulcers. It helps in cases like scurvy, asthma, earache and headaches. Due to its high calcium content, it is consumed by lactating mothers to produce more milk for their babies, hence, called “mother’s best friend”. Malunggay is usually cooked with chicken as tinola, or with fish and other vegetables, mongo soup dishes and blanched as salads.