Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.Phytother. Res. 21, 17–25 (2007)
Received 16 August 2006
Revised 13 September 2006
Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Farooq Anwar1, Sajid Latif1, Muhammad Ashraf2 and Anwarul Hassan Gilani3*
1Department of Chemistry, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad-38040, Pakistan
2Department of Botany, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad-38040, Pakistan
3Department of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Aga Khan University Medical College, Karachi-74800, Pakistan
Moringa oleifera Lam (Moringaceae) is a highly valued plant, distributed in many countries of the tropics
and subtropics. It has an impressive range of medicinal uses with high nutritional value. Different parts of this
plant contain a profile of important minerals, and are a good source of protein, vitamins, β β β β β-carotene, amino
acids and various phenolics. The Moringa plant provides a rich and rare combination of zeatin, quercetin, β β β β β-
sitosterol, caffeoylquinic acid and kaempferol. In addition to its compelling water purifying powers and high
nutritional value, M. oleifera is very important for its medicinal value. Various parts of this plant such as the
leaves, roots, seed, bark, fruit, flowers and immature pods act as cardiac and circulatory stimulants, possess
antitumor, antipyretic, antiepileptic, antiinflammatory, antiulcer, antispasmodic, diuretic, antihypertensive,
cholesterol lowering, antioxidant, antidiabetic, hepatoprotective, antibacterial and antifungal activities, and
are being employed for the treatment of different ailments in the indigenous system of medicine, particularly
in South Asia. This review focuses on the detailed phytochemical composition, medicinal uses, along with
pharmacological properties of different parts of this multipurpose tree. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons,
Keywords: Moringa oleifera; phytomedicine; food plant; medicinal uses; pharmacological properties; natural coagulant.
Moringa oleifera Lam (syn. M. ptreygosperma Gaertn.)
is one of the best known and most widely distributed
and naturalized species of a monogeneric family Morin-
gaceae (Nadkarni, 1976; Ramachandran et al., 1980).
The tree ranges in height from 5 to 10 m (Morton, 1991).
It is found wild and cultivated throughout the plains,
especially in hedges and in house yards, thrives best
under the tropical insular climate, and is plentiful near
the sandy beds of rivers and streams (The Wealth of
India, 1962; Qaiser, 1973). It can grow well in the
humid tropics or hot dry lands, can survive destitute
soils, and is little affected by drought (Morton, 1991).
It tolerates a wide range of rainfall with minimum
annual rainfall requirements estimated at 250 mm and
maximum at over 3000 mm and a pH of 5.0–9.0 (Palada
and Changl, 2003).
Moringa oleifera, native of the western and sub-
Himalayan tracts, India, Pakistan, Asia Minor, Africa
and Arabia (Somali et al., 1984; Mughal et al., 1999) is
now distributed in the Philippines, Cambodia, Central
America, North and South America and the Caribbean
Islands (Morton, 1991). In some parts of the world
M. oleifera is referred to as the ‘drumstick tree’ or the
‘horse radish tree’, whereas in others it is known as the
kelor tree (Anwar and Bhanger, 2003). While in the
Nile valley, the name of the tree is ‘Shagara al Rauwaq’,
which means ‘tree for purifying’ (Von Maydell, 1986).
In Pakistan, M. oleifera is locally known as ‘Sohanjna’
and is grown and cultivated all over the country (Qaiser,
1973; Anwar et al., 2005).
Moringa oleifera is an important food commodity
which has had enormous attention as the ‘natural
nutrition of the tropics’. The leaves, fruit, flowers and
immature pods of this tree are used as a highly nutri-
tive vegetable in many countries, particularly in India,
Pakistan, Philippines, Hawaii and many parts of Africa
(D’souza and Kulkarni, 1993; Anwar and Bhanger, 2003;
Anwar et al., 2005). Moringa leaves have been reported
to be a rich source of β-carotene, protein, vitamin C,
calcium and potassium and act as a good source of
natural antioxidants; and thus enhance the shelf-life of
fat containing foods due to the presence of various types
of antioxidant compounds such as ascorbic acid, flavo-
noids, phenolics and carotenoids (Dillard and German,
2000; Siddhuraju and Becker, 2003). In the Philippines,
it is known as ‘mother’s best friend’ because of its uti-
lization to increase woman’s milk production and is
sometimes prescribed for anemia (Estrella et al., 2000;
Siddhuraju and Becker, 2003).
A number of medicinal properties have been ascribed
to various parts of this highly esteemed tree (Table 1).
Almost all the parts of this plant: root, bark, gum, leaf,
fruit (pods), flowers, seed and seed oil have been used
for various ailments in the indigenous medicine of South
Asia, including the treatment of inflammation and
infectious diseases along with cardiovascular, gastro-
intestinal, hematological and hepatorenal disorders
Accepted 16 September 2006
* Correspondence to: Professor Anwarul Hassan Gilani, Department
of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Aga Khan University Medical
College, Karachi-74800, Pakistan.
Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Phytother. Res. 21, 17–25 (2007)
(The Wealth of India, 1962; Singh and Kumar, 1999;
Morimitsu et al., 2000; Siddhuraju and Becker, 2003).
The seeds of Moringa are considered to be anti-
pyretic, acrid, bitter (Oliveira et al., 1999) and reported to
show antimicrobial activity (The Wealth of India, 1962).
The seed can be consumed fresh as peas; or pounded,
roasted, or pressed into sweet, non-desiccating oil, com-
mercially known as ‘Ben oil’ of high quality. The unique
property is the ability of its dry, crushed seed and seed
press cake, which contain polypeptides, to serve as natu-
ral coagulants for water treatment (Ndabigengesere and
So far no comprehensive review has been compiled
from the literature encompassing the efficacy of this
plant in all dimensions. Its versatile utility as a medi-
cine, functional food, nutraceutical and water purify-
ing potential motivated us to bridge the information
gap in this area, and to write a comprehensive review
on the medicinal, phytochemical and pharmacological
attributes of this plant of high economic value.
Moringa oleifera is rich in compounds containing the
simple sugar, rhamnose and a fairly unique group of
compounds called glucosinolates and isothiocyanates
(Fahey et al., 2001; Bennett et al., 2003). The stem bark
has been reported to contain two alkaloids, namely
moringine and moringinine (Kerharo, 1969). Vanillin,
β-sitosterol , β-sitostenone, 4-hydroxymellin and
octacosanoic acid have been isolated from the stem of
M. oleifera (Faizi et al., 1994a).
Purified, whole-gum exudate from M. oleifera has
been found to contain L-arabinose, -galactose, -glucuronic
acid, and L-rhamnose, -mannose and -xylose, while a
homogeneous, degraded-gum polysaccharide consisting
of L-galactose, -glucuronic acid and L-mannose has been
obtained on mild hydrolysis of the whole gum with acid
(Bhattacharya et al., 1982).
Flowers contain nine amino acids, sucrose, D-glucose,
traces of alkaloids, wax, quercetin and kaempferat; the
ash is rich in potassium and calcium (Ruckmani et al.,
1998). They have also been reported to contain some
flavonoid pigments such as alkaloids, kaempherol,
rhamnetin, isoquercitrin and kaempferitrin (Faizi et al.,
1994a; Siddhuraju and Becker, 2003).
Antihypertensive compounds thiocarbamate and
isothiocyanate glycosides have been isolated from the
acetate phase of the ethanol extract of Moringa pods
(Faizi et al., 1998). The cytokinins have been shown
to be present in the fruit (Nagar et al., 1982). A new
O-ethyl-4-(α-L-rhamnosyloxy)benzyl carbamate 
Table 1. Some common medicinal uses of different parts of Moringa oleifera
Antilithic, rubefacient, vesicant, carminative, antifertility,
anti-inflammatory, stimulant in paralytic afflictions; act as a
cardiac/circulatory tonic, used as a laxative, abortifacient,
treating rheumatism, inflammations, articular pains, lower
back or kidney pain and constipation,
Purgative, applied as poultice to sores, rubbed on the
temples for headaches, used for piles, fevers, sore throat,
bronchitis, eye and ear infections, scurvy and catarrh; leaf
juice is believed to control glucose levels, applied to reduce
Rubefacient, vesicant and used to cure eye diseases and for
the treatment of delirious patients, prevent enlargement of
the spleen and formation of tuberculous glands of the neck,
to destroy tumors and to heal ulcers. The juice from the root
bark is put into ears to relieve earaches and also placed in a
tooth cavity as a pain killer, and has anti-tubercular activity
Used for dental caries, and is astringent and rubefacient;
Gum, mixed with sesame oil, is used to relieve headaches,
fevers, intestinal complaints, dysentery, asthma and
sometimes used as an abortifacient, and to treat syphilis and
High medicinal value as a stimulant, aphrodisiac,
abortifacient, cholagogue; used to cure inflammations,
muscle diseases, hysteria, tumors, and enlargement of the
spleen; lower the serum cholesterol, phospholipid,
triglyceride, VLDL, LDL cholesterol to phospholipid ratio
and atherogenic index; decrease lipid profile of liver, heart
and aorta in hypercholesterolaemic rabbits and increased
the excretion of faecal cholesterol
Seed extract exerts its protective effect by decreasing liver
lipid peroxides, antihypertensive compounds thiocarbamate
and isothiocyanate glycosids have been isolated from the
acetate phase of the ethanolic extract of Moringa pods
The Wealth of India,
et al., 1996;
Ruckmani et al., 1998
Morton, 1991; Fuglie,
2001; Makonnen et al.,
1997; The Wealth of
India, 1962; Dahot, 1988
Bhatnagar et al., 1961;
Siddhuraju and Becker,
Nair and Subramanian,
1962; Bhattacharya et
al., 1982; Dahot, 1998;
Siddhuraju and Becker,
2003; Mehta et al., 2003
Faizi et al., 1998; Lalas
and Tsaknis, 2002
Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.Phytother. Res. 21, 17–25 (2007)
together with seven known bioactive compounds, 4(α-
L-rhamnosyloxy)-benzyl isothiocyanate , niazimicin
, β-sitosterol-3-O-β-D-glucopyranoside , niazirin
, β-sitosterol  and glycerol-1-(9-octadecanoate)
 have been isolated from the ethanol extract of
the Moringa seed (Guevara et al., 1999). Figure 1
shows the structures of selected phytochemicals from
Lately, interest has been generated in isolating
hormones/growth promoters from the leaves of M.
oleifera. Nodulation of black-gram (Vigna munga L.)
Fiqure 1. Structures of selected phytochemicals from Moringa: niazinin A , 4-(4′-O-acetyl-α-L-rhamnopyranosyloxy)benzyl isoth-
iocyanate , 4-(-L-rhamnopyranosyloxy)benzyl isothiocyanate , niazimicin , 4-(α-L-rhamnopyranosyloxy)benzyl glucosinolate
, benzyl isothiocyanate , aglycon of deoxy-niazimicine (N-benzyl, S-ethylthioformate) , pterygospermin , niaziminin [9 + 10],
O-ethyl-4-(α-L-rhamnosyloxy)benzyl carbamate , niazirin , glycerol-1-(9-octadecanoate) , β-sitosterol , 3-O-(6′-O-oleoyl-
β-D-glucopyranosyl)-β-sitosterol , β-sitosterol-3-O-β-D-glucopyranoside .
Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Phytother. Res. 21, 17–25 (2007)
has been shown to increase vigorously with the appli-
cation of an aqueous-ethanol extract (Bose, 1980) of
M. oleifera leaves, although the nature of the active
ingredient is still unknown. Moringa leaves act as a
good source of natural antioxidant due to the presence
of various types of antioxidant compounds such as ascor-
bic acid, flavonoids, phenolics and carotenoids (Anwar
et al., 2005; Makkar and Becker, 1996). The high con-
centrations of ascorbic acid, oestrogenic substances and
β-sitosterol , iron, calcium, phosphorus, copper, vi-
tamins A, B and C, α-tocopherol, riboflavin, nicotinic
acid, folic acid, pyridoxine, β-carotene, protein, and in
particular essential amino acids such as methionine,
cystine, tryptophan and lysine present in Moringa leaves
and pods make it a virtually ideal dietary supplement
(Makkar and Becker, 1996).
The composition of the sterols of Moringa seed oil
mainly consists of campesterol, stigmasterol, β-sitosterol,
∆5-avenasterol and clerosterol accompanied by minute
amounts of 24-methylenecholesterol, ∆7-campestanol,
stigmastanol and 28-isoavenasterol (Tsaknis et al., 1999;
Anwar and Bhanger, 2003; Anwar et al., 2005; Table 2).
The sterol composition of the major fractions of Moringa
seed oil differs greatly from those of most of the con-
ventional edible oils (Rossell, 1991). The fatty acid com-
position of M. oleifera seed oil reveals that it falls in
the category of high-oleic oils (C18:1, 67.90%–76.00%).
Among the other component fatty acids C16:0 (6.04%–
7.80%), C18:0 (4.14%–7.60%), C20:0 (2.76%–4.00%),
and C22:0 (5.00%–6.73%) are important (Tsaknis et al.,
1999; Anwar and Bhanger, 2003; Anwar et al., 2005).
Moringa oleifera is also a good source of different
tocopherols (α-, γ- and δ-); the concentration of those
is reported to be 98.82–134.42, 27.90–93.70, and 48.00–
71.16 mg/kg, respectively (Anwar and Bhanger, 2003;
Tsaknis et al., 1999).
MEDICINAL USES AND PHARMACOLOGICAL
Moringa oleifera also has numerous medicinal uses,
which have long been recognized in the Ayurvedic and
Unani systems of medicine (Mughal et al., 1999). The
medicinal attributes (Table 1) and pharmacological
activities ascribed to various parts of Moringa are
Antihypertensive, diuretic and cholesterol lowering
The widespread combination of diuretic along with lipid
and blood pressure lowering constituents make this plant
highly useful in cardiovascular disorders. Moringa leaf
juice is known to have a stabilizing effect on blood pres-
sure (The Wealth of India, 1962; Dahot, 1988). Nitrile,
mustard oil glycosides and thiocarbamate glycosides
have been isolated from Moringa leaves, which were
found to be responsible for the blood pressure lower-
ing effect (Faizi et al., 1994a; 1994b; 1995). Most of
these compounds, bearing thiocarbamate, carbamate or
nitrile groups, are fully acetylated glycosides, which are
very rare in nature (Faizi et al., 1995). Bioassay guided
fractionation of the active ethanol extract of Moringa
leaves led to the isolation of four pure compounds,
niazinin A , niazinin  B, niazimicin  and niazinin
A + B which showed a blood pressure lowering effect
in rats mediated possibly through a calcium antagonist
effect (Gilani et al., 1994a).
Another study on the ethanol and aqueous extracts
of whole pods and its parts, i.e. coat, pulp and seed
revealed that the blood pressure lowering effect of seed
was more pronounced with comparable results in both
ethanol and water extracts indicating that the activity
is widely distributed (Faizi et al., 1998). Activity-directed
fractionation of the ethanol extract of pods of M.
oleifera has led to the isolation of thiocarbamate and
isothiocyanate glycosides which are known to be the
hypotensive principles (Faizi et al., 1995). Methyl p-
hydroxybenzoate and β-sitosterol (14), investigated in
the pods of M. oleifera have also shown promising
hypotensive activity (Faizi et al., 1998).
Moringa roots, leaves, flowers, gum and the aqueous
infusion of seeds have been found to possess diuretic
activity (Morton, 1991; Caceres et al., 1992) and such
diuretic components are likely to play a complementary
Table 2. Sterol composition (grams per 100 g of fatty acids) of the M. oleifera oils
Tsaknis et al.,
Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.Phytother. Res. 21, 17–25 (2007)
The crude extract of Moringa leaves has a significant
cholesterol lowering action in the serum of high fat
diet fed rats which might be attributed to the presence
of a bioactive phytoconstituent, i.e. β-sitosterol (Ghasi
et al., 2000). Moringa fruit has been found to lower
the serum cholesterol, phospholipids, triglycerides, low
density lipoprotein (LDL), very low density lipoprotein
(VLDL) cholesterol to phospholipid ratio, atherogenic
index lipid and reduced the lipid profile of liver,
heart and aorta in hypercholesteremic rabbits and
increased the excretion of fecal cholesterol (Mehta
et al., 2003).
Antispasmodic, antiulcer and hepatoprotective
M. oleifera roots have been reported to possess anti-
spasmodic activity (Caceres et al., 1992). Moringa leaves
have been extensively studied pharmacologically and it
has been found that the ethanol extract and its con-
stituents exhibit antispasmodic effects possibly through
calcium channel blockade (Gilani et al., 1992; 1994a;
Dangi et al., 2002). The antispasmodic activity of the
ethanol extract of M. oleifera leaves has been attrib-
uted to the presence of 4-[α-(L-rhamnosyloxy) benzyl]-
o-methyl thiocarbamate  (trans), which forms the
basis for its traditional use in diarrhea (Gilani et al.,
1992). Moreover, spasmolytic activity exhibited by dif-
ferent constituents provides pharmacological basis for
the traditional uses of this plant in gastrointestinal
motility disorder (Gilani et al., 1994a).
The methanol fraction of M. oleifera leaf extract
showed antiulcerogenic and hepatoprotective effects in
rats (Pal et al., 1995a). Aqueous leaf extracts also showed
antiulcer effect (Pal et al., 1995a) indicating that the
antiulcer component is widely distributed in this plant.
Moringa roots have also been reported to possess
hepatoprotective activity (Ruckmani et al., 1998). The
aqueous and alcohol extracts from Moringa flowers were
also found to have a significant hepatoprotective effect
(Ruckmani et al., 1998), which may be due to the pres-
ence of quercetin, a well known flavonoid with hepato-
protective activity (Gilani et al., 1997).
Antibacterial and antifungal activities
Moringa roots have antibacterial activity (Rao et al.,
1996) and are reported to be rich in antimicrobial agents.
These are reported to contain an active antibiotic prin-
ciple, pterygospermin , which has powerful antibac-
terial and fungicidal effects (Ruckmani et al., 1998). A
similar compound is found to be responsible for the anti-
bacterial and fungicidal effects of its flowers (Das et al.,
1957). The root extract also possesses antimicrobial
activity attributed to the presence of 4-α-L-rhamnosyloxy
benzyl isothiocyanate  (Eilert et al., 1981). The aglyc-
one of deoxy-niazimicine (N-benzyl, S-ethyl thiofor-
mate)  isolated from the chloroform fraction of
an ethanol extract of the root bark was found to be
responsible for the antibacterial and antifungal activi-
ties (Nikkon et al., 2003). The bark extract has been
shown to possess antifungal activity (Bhatnagar et al.,
bacterial effect against Staphylococcus aureus (Mehta
et al., 2003). The fresh leaf juice was found to inhibit
the growth of microorganisms (Pseudomonas aeruginosa
and Staphylococcus aureus), pathogenic to man (Caceres
et al., 1991).
Antitumor and anticancer activities
Makonnen et al. (1997) found Moringa leaves to be
a potential source for antitumor activity. O-Ethyl-
4-(α-L-rhamnosyloxy)benzyl carbamate  together
with 4(α-L-rhamnosyloxy)-benzyl isothiocyanate ,
niazimicin  and 3-O-(6′-O-oleoyl-β-D-glucopyranosyl)-
β-sitosterol  have been tested for their potential
antitumor promoting activity using an in vitro assay
which showed significant inhibitory effects on Epstein–
Barr virus-early antigen. Niazimicin has been proposed
to be a potent chemopreventive agent in chemical car-
cinogenesis (Guevara et al., 1999). The seed extracts
have also been found to be effective on hepatic car-
cinogen metabolizing enzymes, antioxidant parameters
and skin papillomagenesis in mice (Bharali et al., 2003).
A seed ointment had a similar effect to neomycin against
Staphylococcus aureus pyodermia in mice (Caceres and
It has been found that niaziminin [9 + + + + + 10], a thio-
carbamate from the leaves of M. oleifera, exhibits inhi-
bition of tumor-promoter-induced Epstein–Barr virus
activation. On the other hand, among the isothiocyanates,
naturally occurring 4-[(4′-O-acetyl-α-i-rhamnosyloxy)
benzyl] , significantly inhibited tumor-promoter-
induced Epstein–Barr virus activation, suggesting that
the isothiocyano group is a critical structural factor for
activity (Murakami et al., 1998).
Other diverse activities
Moringa oleifera has also been reported to exhibit other
diverse activities. Aqueous leaf extracts regulate thy-
roid hormone and can be used to treat hyperthyroidism
and exhibit an antioxidant effect (Pal et al., 1995a; 1995b;
Tahiliani and Kar, 2000). A methanol extract of M.
oleifera leaves conferred significant radiation protec-
tion to the bone marrow chromosomes in mice (Rao
et al., 2001). Moringa leaves are effective for the regu-
lation of thyroid hormone status (Tahiliani and Kar,
A recent report showed that M. oleifera leaf may be
applicable as a prophylactic or therapeutic anti-HSV
(Herpes simplex virus type 1) medicine and may be
effective against the acyclovir-resistant variant (Lipipun
et al., 2003). Table 1 depicts some common medicinal
uses of different parts of this plant. The flowers and
leaves also are considered to be of high medicinal value
with anthelmintic activity (Bhattacharya et al., 1982).
An infusion of leaf juice was shown to reduce glucose
levels in rabbits (Makonnen et al., 1997).
Moringa oleifera is coming to the forefront as a re-
sult of scientific evidence that Moringa is an important
source of naturally occurring phytochemicals and this
provides a basis for future viable developments. Differ-
ent parts of M. oleifera are also incorporated in various
marketed health formulations, such as Rumalaya and
Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Phytother. Res. 21, 17–25 (2007)
India), Orthoherb (Walter Bushnell Ltd, Mumbai, In-
dia), Kupid Fort (Pharma Products Pvt. Ltd, Thayavur,
India) and Livospin (Herbals APS Pvt. Ltd, Patna,
India), which are reputed as remedies available for
a variety of human health disorders (Mehta et al.,
Moringa seeds have specific protein fractions for
skin and hair care. Two new active components for
the cosmetic industry have been extracted from oil cake.
Purisoft® consists of peptides of the Moringa seed. It
protects the human skin from environmental influences
and combats premature skin aging. With dual activity,
antipollution and conditioning/strengthening of hair, the
M. oleifera seed extract is a globally acceptable innova-
tive solution for hair care (Stussi et al., 2002).
WATER PURIFYING ATTRIBUTES OF
M. OLEIFERA SEED
Moringa seeds as coagulant
Moringa seeds are one of the best natural coagulants
discovered so far (Ndabigengesere and Narasiah, 1998).
Crushed seeds are a viable replacement of synthetic
coagulants (Kalogo et al., 2000). In Sudan, seed crude
extract is used instead of alum by rural women to treat
the highly turbid Nile water because of a traditional
fear of alum causing gastrointestinal disturbances and
Alzheimer’s disease (Crapper et al., 1973; Miller et al.,
1984; Martyn et al., 1989; Muyibi, 1994).
Moringa seeds are very effective for high turbidity
water and show similar coagulation effects to alum
(Muyibi and Evison, 1995b). The coagulation effective-
ness of M. oleifera varies depending on the initial tur-
bidity and it has been reported that M. oleifera could
reduce turbidity by between 92% and 99% (Muyibi
and Evison, 1995b). Moringa seeds also have softening
properties in addition to being a pH correctant (alka-
linity reduction), as well as exhibiting a natural buffer-
ing capacity, which could handle moderately high to
high alkaline surface and ground waters. The Moringa
seeds can also be used as an antiseptic in the treatment
of drinking water (Obioma and Adikwu, 1997).
Ongoing research is attempting to characterize and
purify the coagulant components of Moringa seeds
(Ndabigengesere et al., 1995; Gassenschmidt et al., 1995).
It is believed that the seed is an organic natural poly-
mer (Jahn, 1984). The active ingredients are dimeric
proteins with a molecular weight of about 1300 Da and
an iso-electric point between 10 and 11 (Ndabigengesere
et al., 1995). The protein powder is stable and totally
soluble in water.
Moringa coagulant protein can be extracted by water
or salt solution (commonly NaCl). The amount and
effectiveness of the coagulant protein from salt and
water extraction methods vary significantly. In crude
form, the salt extract shows a better coagulation per-
formance than the corresponding water extract (Okuda
et al., 1999). This may be explained by the presence of
a higher amount of soluble protein due to the salting-in
phenomenon. However, purification of the M. oleifera
coagulant protein from the crude salt extract may not
be technically and economically feasible.
lant protein has been explained in different ways. It
has been described as adsorption and charge neutraliza-
tion (Ndabigengesere et al., 1995; Gassenschmidt et al.,
1995) and interparticle bridging (Muyibi and Evison,
1995a). Flocculation by inter-particle bridging is mainly
characteristic of high molecular weight polyelectrolytes.
Due to the small size of the M. oleifera coagulant pro-
tein (6.5–13 kDa), a bridging effect may not be con-
sidered as the likely coagulation mechanism. The high
positive charge (pI above 10) and small size may sug-
gest that the main destabilization mechanism could be
adsorption and charge neutralization.
Microbial elimination with Moringa seeds
Moringa seeds also possess antimicrobial properties
(Olsen, 1987; Madsen et al., 1987). Broin et al. (2002)
reported that a recombinant protein in the seed is able
to flocculate Gram-positive and Gram-negative bac-
terial cells. In this case, microorganisms can be removed
by settling in the same manner as the removal of col-
loids in properly coagulated and flocculated water
(Casey, 1997). On the other hand, the seeds may also
act directly upon microorganisms and result in growth
inhibition. Antimicrobial peptides are thought to act
by disrupting the cell membrane or by inhibiting essen-
tial enzymes (Silvestro et al., 2000; Suarez et al., 2003).
Sutherland et al. (1990) reported that Moringa seeds
could inhibit the replication of bacteriophages. The an-
timicrobial effects of the seeds are attributed to the
compound 4(α-L-rhamnosyloxy) benzyl isothiocynate
(Eilert et al., 1981).
Moringa seeds as biosorbent
Moringa seeds could be used as a less expensive bio-
sorbent for the removal of cadmium (Cd) from aque-
ous media (Sharma et al., 2006). The aqueous solution
of Moringa seed is a heterogeneous complex mixture
having various functional groups, mainly low molecular
weight organic acids (amino acids). These amino acids
have been found to constitute a physiologically active
group of binding agents, working even at a low concen-
tration, which because of the ability to interact with
metal ions is likely to increase the sorption of metal
ions (Brostlap and Schuurmans, 1988). The proteineous
amino acids have a variety of structurally related pH
dependent properties, generating a negatively charged
atmosphere and play an important role in the binding
of metals (Sharma et al., 2006).
So far numerous studies have been conducted on dif-
ferent parts of M. oleifera, but there is a dire need to
isolate and identify new compounds from different parts
of the tree, which have possible antitumor promoters
as well as inhibitory properties. Although preliminary
studies are under way in different laboratories to use
the antispasmodic, antiinflammatory, antihypertensive
and diuretic activities of M. oleifera seed, these studies
Thus their skin
Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.Phytother. Res. 21, 17–25 (2007)
nature of the plant. Moringa roots and leaves have been
used traditionally to treat constipation. Studies to verify
these claims need to be carried out in the light of the
reported antispasmodic activities, which are contrary
to its medicinal use as a gut motility stimulant. Earlier
studies on the presence of a combination of spasmogenic
and spasmolytic constituents in different plants used
for constipation (Gilani et al., 2000; 2005a; Bashir et al.,
2006) might be of some guidance in designing experi-
ments in which the presence of antispasmodic constitu-
ents at higher doses are explained as a possible mode
to offset the side-effects usually associated with high
dose of laxative therapy. Similarly, the known species
differences in the pharmacological actions of medicinal
plants (Ghayur et al., 2005; Ghayur and Gilani, 2006)
may also be taken into account when planning studies
involving contradictory results.
Food plants are considered relatively safe as they are
likely to contain synergistic and/or side effect neutra-
lizing combinations of activities (Gilani and Atta-ur-
Rahman, 2005). Moringa oleifera, known to be rich in
multiple medicinally active chemicals, may be a good
candidate to see if it contains effect enhancing and/or
side-effects neutralizing combinations. Medicinal plants
are relatively rich in their contents of calcium channel
blockers (CCBs) which are known to possess a wide
variety of pharmacological activities such as antihyper-
tensive, hepatoprotective, antiulcer, antiasthmatic, anti-
spasmodic and antidiarroeal (Stephens and Rahwan,
1992; Gilani et al., 1994b; 1999; 2005b; Yaeesh et al.,
2006; Ghayur et al., 2006) and it remains to be seen
whether such activities reported to be present in
Moringa oleifera have a direct link with the presence of
Niazimicin, a potent antitumor promoter in chemical
carcinogenesis is present in the seed; its inhibitory
mechanism on tumor proliferation can be investigated
by isolating more pure samples. The mechanism of ac-
tion of M. oleifera as prophylactic or therapeutic anti-
HSV medicines for the treatment of HSV-1 infection
also needs to be examined.
αβγtocopherol content in samples of various parts of this
edible plant is very limited. β-Carotene and vitamins A
and C present in M. oleifera, serve as an explanation
for their mode of action in the induction of antioxidant
profiles, however, the exact mechanism is yet to be elu-
cidated. β-Carotene of M. oleifera leaves exerts a more
significant protective activity than silymarin against anti-
tubercular induced toxicity. It would be interesting to
see if it also possesses hepatoprotective effect against
other commonly used hepatotoxic agents such as CCl4
and galactosamine, which are considered more suitable
models and close to human viral hepatitis (Gilani and
Janbaz, 1995; Yaeesh et al., 2006).
Although Moringa leaves are considered a best pro-
tein source, it still has to be shown whether or not this
protein source could compete with the more common
protein sources in highly productive growing or milk-
Many studies have also been conducted on the per-
formance of Moringa seeds as an alternative coagulant,
coagulant aid and in conjunction with alum for treating
waste water. Therefore, it is important to identify the
active constituents of Moringa seed for a better under-
standing of the coagulation mechanism. Reports on the
antimicrobial effects of the protein purified from M.
oleifera are very rare.
Since this plant naturally occurs in varying habitats,
it is naïve to expect a great magnitude of variation in
the concentration and composition of chemical ingre-
dients in different parts of the tree. However, the
extent to which the chemical composition varies in
populations adapted to varying habitats is not known.
Thus, detailed studies are required to examine this
In view of its multiple uses, the M. oleifera plant
needs to be widely cultivated in most of the areas where
climatic conditions favor its optimum growth. In this
way, a maximum yield of its different useable parts
could be achieved to derive the maximal amount of
commodities of a multifarious nature for the welfare of
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