Moringa Tree: Side Effects & Uses for Cancer Treatment

Fact Checked

Moringa tree extracts contain high levels of antioxidants that may be beneficial in the treatment of cancer. Studies show moringa tree extracts reduce cancer cell growth. Some mesothelioma survivors claim the herbal supplement has helped them.

Moringa smoothie

What Is Moringa?

Moringa is a plant native to India, but it is cultivated worldwide in tropical and subtropical regions. It is known for its nutritional and medicinal properties. Researchers show it could be used as a treatment for cancer, asthma, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other diseases.

A 2017 study published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention found the extract from moringa leaves acts as an as anti-cancer agent that reduces cancer cell growth and promotes cell death in several cancers.

There are 13 species of moringa that range in size — from leafy shrubs to tall trees.

The most commonly harvested species, M. oleifera, is a small, fast-growing tree used for centuries to combat many different ailments, including symptoms associated with a mesothelioma diagnosis.

However, there are no studies about its effect on mesothelioma.

Moringa Fast Facts
  • Also known as Moringa oleifera, horseradish tree, drumstick tree, ben oil tree and benzolive tree
  • While the leaves are perfectly safe, consuming large quantities of the bark or pulp may be harmful.
  • Do not consume moringa if you are pregnant, taking the diabetes drug sitagliptin or taking drugs that are substrates of the cytochrome P450 family of enzymes.

Nutritional Benefits of Moringa Tree

The 2018 National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference shows 1 cup of chopped moringa tree leaves contains:

  • Protein: 2 grams
  • Iron: 11 percent of RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance)
  • Vitamin A: 9 percent of RDA
  • Vitamin C: 12 percent of RDA

The high levels of antioxidants (vitamins C and A) help protect against cell damage caused by chemicals in the body, known as free radicals, which can play a role in the development of cancer.

Vitamin C helps the body maintain a healthy immune system, while vitamin A is essential for normal growth, vision and bone development. It can also help maintain mucous membranes that protect against infections in the respiratory and digestive tracts.

Moringa leaves also contain essential amino acids that can boost the immune system. This is extremely important while undergoing treatments such as chemotherapy. Drugs used during chemo can wreak havoc on the immune system, and the body needs a way to combat this side effect in order to fight back.

The National Institute of Nutrition’s 1989 book “Nutritive Value of Indian Foods,” shows a handful of moringa leaves contains:

  • Seven times the amount of vitamin C in an orange
  • Three times the amount of iron in spinach
  • Four times the amount of vitamin A in a carrot
  • Four times the amount of calcium in one glass of milk
  • Three times the potassium in one banana
  • Two times the protein found in regular, plain yogurt

There are many ways to incorporate moringa into your daily diet. Its leaves can be eaten fresh, cooked or crushed, and they can be stored as dried powder for several months without loss of nutritional value.

It tastes great in fruit smoothies. You can try combining passionfruit, moringa and honey for a tasty, nutritious snack. You can use the dried powder in a curry recipe and serve it over rice. It is also commonly used as a replacement for spinach in almost any recipe.

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Moringa Tree Anti-Cancer Benefits

Not only is moringa highly nutritious, it also has beneficial medicinal uses.

In India, its leaves, fruit, flowers, seeds and roots are medicinal, especially as anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor medicines.

Moringa Leaves

As moringa has long been recognized by folk medicine practitioners, scientists are beginning to research its anti-cancer properties.

The Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention in 2003 published a study in which researchers examined skin tumor prevention following ingestion of moringa seedpod extracts in mice. Results showed a dramatic reduction in skin papillomas and suggested that moringa has possible cancer-preventing properties.

Another study conducted in 2006 reported that a molecule found in M. oleifera induced cell death in ovarian cancer cells grown in a lab. Based on these findings, researchers want to research if the plant has potential to treat this type cancer.

Research also shows the moringa tree may reduce the following common cancer symptoms:

  • Chest congestion
  • Cough
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Joint pain
  • Headaches
  • Respiratory complications
  • Skin irritations
  • Sore throat
  • Weight loss

Because of the side effects of some cancer treatments, patients experience a loss of appetite, which can lead to malnutrition and severe weight loss. Malnutrition occurs when your body does not get enough nutrients.

This can negatively affect their quality of life, treatment response and survival. Moringa provides an easy way to meet your daily nutrient requirements without having to eat a big meal.

Keep in mind that treatment options affect people differently. As with any alternative treatment, it is best to talk with your doctor before adding moringa to your treatment regimen or diet. If you experience any side effects after using these alternative methods, you should seek medical attention immediately.

Moringa Tree Side Effects

Potential side effects of moringa include:

  • Alkaloids in the plant may lower blood pressure and slow heart rate
  • Moringa bark can cause uterine contractions
  • A chemical isolated from roasted moringa seeds causes cell mutations
  • Moringa tree extract may interfere with fertility
  • Moringa leaves increased risk of liver and kidney damage in rats

Growing Recognition of the Moringa Tree

The researchers who published their findings in the 2017 study said there was “growing evidence supporting the promising role of moringa extracts as anti-cancer candidates.”

The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations recognized moringa as the September 2014 Traditional Crop of the Month.

While the nutritional and medicinal value of moringa is becoming more well known, further scientific research and clinical studies are needed to provide further acknowledgement of this plant as a cancer preventive method.

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Writer

Joining the team in February 2008 as a writer and editor, Michelle Whitmer has translated medical jargon into patient-friendly information at Asbestos.com for more than eight years. Michelle is a registered yoga teacher, a member of the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine, and was quoted by The New York Times on the risks of asbestos exposure.

Walter Pacheco, Managing Editor at Asbestos.com
Edited by

8 Cited Article Sources

  1. USDA. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. (2018)
  2. Abd-Rabou, A. et al. (2017). Moringa oleifera Root Induces Cancer Apoptosis more Effectively than Leave Nanocomposites and Its Free Counterpart.
    Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5697473/
  3. Bharali, R., Tabassum J., and Azad M. Chemomodulatory effect of Moringa oleifera, Lam, on hepatic carcinogen metabolising enzymes, antioxidant parameters and skin papillomagenesis in mice. Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, 4(2):131-9. :
    Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12875626
  4. Deaton, A. and Dreze, J. (2009). Food and Nutrition in India: Facts and Interpretations. :
    Retrieved from: http://www.princeton.edu/~deaton/downloads/Food_and_Nutrition_in_India_Facts_and_Interpretations.pdf
  5. Gopalan, C.; Rama Sastri, B. V.; and Balasubramanian, S. C. (1971). Nutritive value of Indian foods. Hyderabad, India: National Institute of Nutrition.
  6. Kalkunte, S.; Swamy, N.; Dizon D.S.; and Brard, L. (2006). Benzyl isothiocyanate (BITC) induces apoptosis in ovarian cancer cells in vitro. Journal of Experimental Therapeutics and Oncology, 5(4):287-300. :
    Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17024969
  7. Stadlmayr, B. et al. (2012). West African Food Composition Table. :
    Retrieved from: http://www.fao.org/docrep/015/i2698b/i2698b00.pdf
  8. MSKCC. (2018, October 31). Moringa oleifera. Retrieved from: https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/moringa-oleifera
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Last Modified August 26, 2019

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