Moringa oleifera

Moringa oleifera

Moringa oleifera

Common Names

  • 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.

  • Antibacterial
    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.
  • Antifungal
    MO extracts have been shown to stop the growth of fungi in lab experiments. More studies are needed.
  • Anti-inflammatory
    The seed extract of MO and compounds isolated from its fruits have the ability to prevent inflammation. Further research is needed.
  • Diabetes
    MO can reduce blood glucose levels and may be a useful antidiabetic agent, but human studies have not been conducted.
  • Anti-ulcer
    Lab studies indicate that MO extracts can protect against stomach ulcers. More studies are needed.
  • Anticancer
    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.

Moringa oleifera has been studied in the laboratory and in animals, but only a few small studies have been conducted in humans and are insufficient to draw any conclusions.

  • Although Moringa oleifera leaves are a part of the diet in some regions of the world, lab studies have indicated that parts of the plant, especially the bark and the pulp, may be harmful in large doses.
  • If you are taking prescription medications (Moringa oleifera may interfere with or increase the potency of other drugs).
  • If you are pregnant (MO bark may cause contractions in the uterus, and has been used to induce abortion in some cases).
  • 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.
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For Healthcare Professionals

Moringa oleifera

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.

Moringa leaves are eaten in many parts of the tropics where the trees are found.

  • Antibacterial
  • Antifungal
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Diabetes
  • Ulcers
  • Anticancer
  • 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
  • Pterygospermin
  • 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
    (2) (37)

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).

In vitro animal studies indicate that Moringa oleifera is genotoxic at supra-supplementation levels of 3,000 mg/kg body weight (39).

  • 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).

Cytochrome P450 substrates, including CYP3A4: Moringa oleifera inhibits CYP-450 / CYP3A4. It can increase the bioavailability of Rifampin (34), and may interact with other drugs metabolized by CYP3A4 (35).

May reduce blood glucose levels (12)(7).

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.

  1. Lurling M, Beekman W. Anti-cyanobacterial activity of Moringa oleifera seeds. J Appl Phycol. Aug 2010;22(4):503-510.

  2. Guevara AP, Vargas C, Sakurai H, et al. An antitumor promoter from Moringa oleifera Lam. Mutat Res. Apr 6 1999;440(2):181-188.

  3. Kalkunte S, Swamy N, Dizon DS, Brard L. Benzyl isothiocyanate (BITC) induces apoptosis in ovarian cancer cells in vitro.J Exp Ther Oncol. 2006;5(4):287-300.

  4. Fakurazi S, Hairuszah I, Nanthini U. Moringa oleifera Lam prevents acetaminophen induced liver injury through restoration of glutathione level. Food Chem Toxicol. Aug 2008;46(8):2611-2615.

  5. Jaiswal D, Kumar Rai P, Kumar A, Mehta S, Watal G. Effect of Moringa oleifera Lam. leaves aqueous extract therapy on hyperglycemic rats. J Ethnopharmacol. Jun 25 2009;123(3):392-396.

  6. Cheenpracha S, Park EJ, Yoshida WY, et al. Potential anti-inflammatory phenolic glycosides from the medicinal plant Moringa oleifera fruits. Bioorg Med Chem. Sep 1 2010;18(17):6598-6602.

  7. Sashidhara KV, Rosaiah JN, Tyagi E, et al. Rare dipeptide and urea derivatives from roots of Moringa oleifera as potential anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive agents. Eur J Med Chem. Jan 2009;44(1):432-436.

  8. Rahman MM, Akhter S, Jamal MA, et al. Control of coliform bacteria detected from diarrhea associated patients by extracts of Moringa oleifera. Nepal Med Coll J. Mar 2010;12(1):12-19.

  9. Ayanbimpe GM, Ojo TK, Afolabi E, Opara F, Orsaah S, Ojerinde OS. Evaluation of extracts of Jatropha curcas and Moringa oleifera in culture media for selective inhibition of saprophytic fungal contaminants. J Clin Lab Anal. 2009;23(3):161-164.

  10. Lipipun V, Kurokawa M, Suttisri R, et al. Efficacy of Thai medicinal plant extracts against herpes simplex virus type 1 infection in vitro and in vivo. Antiviral Res. Nov 2003;60(3):175-180.

  11. Mazumder UK, Gupta M, Chakrabarti S, Pal D. Evaluation of hematological and hepatorenal functions of methanolic extract of Moringa oleifera Lam. root treated mice. Indian J Exp Biol. Jun 1999;37(6):612-614.

  12. Karadi RV, Gadge NB, Alagawadi KR, Savadi RV. Effect of Moringa oleifera Lam. root-wood on ethylene glycol induced urolithiasis in rats. J Ethnopharmacol. Apr 21 2006;105(1-2):306-311.

  13. Duangjai A, Ingkaninan K, Limpeanchob N. Potential mechanisms of hypocholesterolaemic effect of Thai spices/dietary extracts. Nat Prod Res. Jul 8 2010:1-12.

  14. Prakash AO, Pathak S, Shukla S, Mathur R. Uterine histoarchitecture during pre and post-implantation periods of rats treated with aqueous extract of Moringa oleifera Lam. Acta Eur Fertil. Mar-Apr 1987;18(2):129-135.

  15. Shukla S, Mathur R, Prakash AO. Antifertility profile of the aqueous extract of Moringa oleifera roots. J Ethnopharmacol. Jan 1988;22(1):51-62.

  16. Rathi BS, Bodhankar SL, Baheti AM. Evaluation of aqueous leaves extract of Moringa oleifera Linn for wound healing in albino rats. Indian J Exp Biol. Nov 2006;44(11):898-901.

  17. Faizi S, Siddiqui BS, Saleem R, Siddiqui S, Aftab K, Gilani AH. Isolation and structure elucidation of new nitrile and mustard oil glycosides from Moringa oleifera and their effect on blood pressure. J Nat Prod. Sep 1994;57(9):1256-1261.

  18. Villasenor IM, Lim-Sylianco CY, Dayrit F. Mutagens from roasted seeds of Moringa oleifera. Mutat Res. Oct 1989;224(2):209-212.

  19. Villasenor IM, Finch P, Lim-Sylianco CY, Dayrit F. Structure of a mutagen from roasted seeds of Moringa oleifera. Carcinogenesis. Jun 1989;10(6):1085-1087.

  20. Monera TG, Wolfe AR, Maponga CC, Benet LZ, Guglielmo J. Moringa oleifera leaf extracts inhibit 6beta-hydroxylation of testosterone by CYP3A4. J Infect Dev Ctries. 2008;2(5):379-383.

  21. Ghiridhari VVA, Malhati D, Geetha K. Anti-diabetic properties of drumstick (Moringa oleifera) leaf tablets. Int J Health Nutr. 2011;2:1-5.

  22. Adejumo OE, Kolapo AL, Folarin AO. Moringa oleifera Lam. (Moringaceae) grown in Nigeria: In vitro antisickling activity on deoxygenated erythrocyte cells. J Pharm Bioallied Sci. Apr 2012;4(2):118-122.

  23. 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.

  24. Asare GA, Gyan B, Bugyei K, et al. Toxicity potentials of the nutraceutical Moringa oleifera at supra-supplementation levels. J Ethnopharmacol. Jan 6 2012;139(1):265-272.

  25. Oyagbemi AA, Omobowale TO, Azeez IO, et al. Toxicological evaluations of methanolic extract of Moringa oleifera leaves in liver and kidney of male Wistar rats. J Basic Clin Physiol Pharmacol. 2013 Mar 18:1-6.

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