Ghana: Moringa, the Miracle Tree

Moringa is a tree well-known in many parts of Ghana and the rest of West Africa. Alongside its many other uses, soup or stew is often prepared with its leaves. It has suddenly caught the public eye, especially since producers have described it as the most nutritious plant on earth.

This lucrative tree grows in many parts of the northern regions of Ghana. It also grows in the wild and has been used over the centuries without much ado about its “greatness.” Interest in the plant, however, has grown significantly as a result of the media hype surrounding its medicinal qualities. Many Ghanaians cannot afford the luxury of going to hospital unless they are very ill, so the demand for cheap and local herbs is high, and thousands of poor people revert to local medication not prescribed by doctors but recommended by friends or the media.

This is why moringa has suddenly caught the public eye. The label on some sachets shows that moringa could help prevent up to 300 diseases. There could hardly be more welcome news than this. Moringa is therefore very valuable to poor people whose access to nutritious food is unfortunately limited. A Ghanaian weekly described moringa as a “miraculous tree” which has been helping millions of people around the world.

In Ghana, local people have different names for the tree depending on the language they speak: in English, it has common names such as drumstick, horseradish, and Sahijan, a foreign name. Experts have gone beyond describing it as only a nutritious supplement and now insist on its powerful role in preventing disease and enhancing body resistance. It is said to be packed with vitamins, minerals, and proteins – food constituents that poor people don’t always have access to.

Moringa leaves contain seven times the amount of vitamin C found in oranges, and four times the calcium and twice the protein found in milk. The banana, which is known to have so many nutritional benefits, has only a third of the potassium found in moringa, which also has four times the vitamin A of carrots. With these properties and many more, especially minerals that often remain unknown to people who use the leaves to treat ordinary bodily ailments, moringa is set to be a leading nutritional and medicinal attraction for many people.

Various parts of the plant such as the leaves, roots, seeds, fruits, flowers, and the young pods are said to act as heart stimulants and to improve blood circulation. The plant is a powerful protection against the development of tumours. It is anti-epileptic, anti-hypertensive, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal agent, and it lowers cholesterol levels. Because of these qualities, the plant is used to prepare many medicines in Africa and Asia.

Vying for a place among the medicinal plants receiving most attention, moringa is being described as the ‘most nutrient rich plant on earth’. Nutrition is paramount to attaining good health, especially in our part of the world, where we pay little attention to a balanced diet. There is a surge in the use of moringa in its raw or simple state, to relieve pain and to heal and combat many infections. In treating wounds, moringa is an anti-inflammatory agent and reduces chronic swelling. Powder made from fresh moringa leaves boosts energy immensely when used regularly. Over the years, its use has never been associated with any negative side effects, and its powder, made from fresh leaves, provides energy for physical exertions, especially for those who undertake tiring manual labour in the fields or walk long distances to their farms.

They say that in Senegal, an infusion of leaves is used to control glucose levels in diabetics. Besides these uses, rural folk in Oman use moringa oil to treat stomach disorders and in cosmetics. Malawians use dried moringa oleifera leaves to treat diarrhoea, while in Haiti, villagers make tea from its flowers as a remedy for the common cold.

The juice from its leaves has a stabilising effect on blood pressure and is used to treat anxiety. The leaves are also used to treat fevers, bronchitis, eye and ear infections, catarrh, and are also used as a laxative. Eating the leaves increases a woman’s milk production, and they are sometimes prescribed for anaemia. When mixed with honey, followed by a drink of coconut milk three times a day, the leaves act as remedy for diarrhoea, dysentery, and colitis.

Modern research has also revealed some properties of the wonder tree that protect the body against several cancers. Other uses include water purification and the production of paper. Given the numerous qualities of these leaves, they can prevent malnutrition and kwashiorkor, as well as micronutrient deficiencies.

Esum Osoro Tumi, a traditional healer from Awaso in Ghana, said: “Moringa oleifera is one of God’s wonderful ways of combining so many medicinal and nutritional qualities in a plant that is so abundant or easily found in many parts of the world. It is important to get acquainted with the tree for personal use whenever possible. For me it is one of the most important elements in my activity. Personally, I think that we must look into the possibility of a scientific improvement of Moringa oleifera through research”.

Recently, pharmaceutical departments and research institutes in Kumasi, Ghana, have been working on herbal medicine, especially in connection with the all-important moringa tree.

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