- Horseradish tree
- Drumstick tree
- Benzolive tree
- Ben oil tree
- La mu
For Patients & Caregivers
Bottom line: There is not enough evidence to support the use of Moringa oleifera to treat cancer.
Moringa oleifera (MO) is an edible plant cultivated worldwide. The leaves and seed pods are consumed as food. Extracts from its leaves, bark, seed pods, and pulp are also used in a variety of folk medicine treatments, either given by mouth or as a topical agent applied to the skin. Products derived from the herb are used to treat a variety of conditions, including asthma, diabetes, ulcers, infections and cancer. MO has not been studied in humans as a cancer treatment.
The leaf and seed extracts of Moringa oleifera were shown to stop the growth of bacteria that cause diarrhea in lab studies. Human data are lacking.
MO extracts have been shown to stop the growth of fungi in lab experiments. More studies are needed.
The seed extract of MO and compounds isolated from its fruits have the ability to prevent inflammation. Further research is needed.
MO can reduce blood glucose levels and may be a useful antidiabetic agent, but human studies have not been conducted.
Lab studies indicate that MO extracts can protect against stomach ulcers. More studies are needed.
Lab and animal studies show that MO extracts have anticancer effects. Human data are lacking.
- Elevated lipid concentrations
A small study showed a mild positive impact on the lipid profile of patients with hyperlipidemia.
- Alkaloids in Moringa oleifera can lower blood pressure and slow heart rate.
- The bark of the MO can cause uterine contractions.
- Phenylacetonitrile isolated from roasted MO seeds can cause cell mutations.
- MO extracts may have antifertility properties.
- MO leaves increased the risk of liver and kidney damage in rats.
For Healthcare Professionals
Moringa oleifera (MO) is an edible plant that is native to Asia and Africa but is cultivated around the world. The leaves and the seed pods are nutritious and widely consumed as food; the bark and the root are thought to have medicinal properties and are used in folk remedies. Products derived from the herb are used to treat a variety of conditions, including asthma, diabetes, ulcers, infections and cancer. Extracts from the plant are used in primitive water filtration systems to remove harmful pollutants and algae (1).
In vitro and animal studies indicate that the leaf, seed, and root extracts of MO have anticancer (3)(4), hepatoprotective (10), hypoglycemic (12), anti-inflammatory (13)(14), antibacterial (18)(19), antifungal (20), antiviral (21), and antisickling (37) effects. They may also protect against Alzheimer’s disease (29) , stomach ulcers (24), help lower cholesterol levels (25), and promote wound healing (30). In addition, MO extract has demonstrated antifertility effects (28). Only a few studies of inadequate design and/or small number have been conducted in humans (36). In one of these studies, MO did exhibit a positive but small effect on lipid profiles (38) .
MO inhibits CYP450 enzymes and may interact with prescription drugs.
- Carotenoids: alpha-carotene, pro-vitamin A
- Glucosinolates: 4-(alpha-L-rhamnopyranosyloxy) benzyl glucosinolate
- Glycosides: niazinin, niazinin A, niazinin B, niazimicin, niaziminin A and B
- Isothiocyanates: 4-(4’-O-acetyl-alpha-L-rhamnopyranosyloxy)benzyl isothiocyanate, 4-(alpha-L-rhamnopyranosyloxy)benzyl isothiocyanate, benzyl isothiocyanate
- Saponins, free anthraquinones, and alkaloids
- Flavonols: kaempferol , 3’-OMe quercetin
- Flavone: acacetin; glycoflavone: 4-OMe vitexin
- Phenolic acids: melilotic acid, p-coumaric acid, vanillic acid
Moringa oleifera exhibits anticancer effects via apoptosis in ovarian cancer cells (3)(4) and by inhibiting NF-kappaB (5). In an animal model, MO extract helped prevent chemical-induced tumor formation by increasing glutathione activity (6). The antioxidant (7)(8), hypolipidemic and antiatherosclerotic activities are thought to help prevent cardiovascular diseases (9). MO also showed hepatoprotective effects (10) and protected the liver from acetaminophen toxicity by maintaining glutathione level (11). MO can reduce blood glucose levels (12) which suggests hypoglycemic effects. The fiber content of the leaves can mediate quercetin-3-glucoside to improve glucose tolerance (7). The phenolic glycosides from the fruit show anti-inflammatory effects by inhibiting nitric oxide (13). Compounds isolated from roots also have anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive effects and may benefit those with arthritis (14). The ethanolic seed extract demonstrated immunosuppressive/anti-inflammatory effects by inhibiting leukocyte and splenocyte (15) and by inhibiting histamine release from mast cells (16). It also reduced airway inflammation suggesting it may have benefit as asthma treatment (17). The phenolic components of MO may be responsible for its antisickling activities (37).
In an animal study, MO root extract demonstrated protective effects on the liver and kidney in a dose dependent manner (22). It can reduce urinary oxalate and may help prevent urolithiasis(23). MO extract is also thought to have protective effects against stomach ulcers by modulating 5-HT3 receptors (24) and cholesterol lowering ability by inhibiting HMG-CoA reductase (25).
A water extract of MO showed hormone modulation properties and stimulated uterine and cervical epithelium metaplasia (26)(27), and exhibited antifertility effects (28) in animal models. A leaf extract of MO exhibits protective effects against Alzheimer’s disease by modulating monoamines in the brain (29). It also may help promote wound healing by increasing collagen deposits (30).
- Alkaloids in Moringa oleifera have hypotensive and bradycardiac effects (31).
- The bark of the MO can cause uterine contractions (27).
- Phenylacetonitrile isolated from roasted MO seeds has mutagenic activity (32)(33).
- MO extracts have antifertility properties (28).
- A study done in rats suggests that chronic administration of MO leaves can increase the risk of hepatic and renal damage (40).
Nambiar VS, Guin P, Parnami S, et al. Impact of antioxidants from drum stick leaves on the lipid profile of hyperlipidemics. J Herb Med Toxicol. 2010;4:165-172.
In a randomized study, 35 hyperlipidemic subjects received four 575-mg tablets of Moringa oleifera leaves twice daily for 50 days. Plasma lipids compared before and after treatment indicated that treatment significantly decreased TC, non-HDL-C and TC/HDL-C values, providing a mild positive impact on the lipid profile of the hyperlipidemic subjects.