Moringa oleifera, or the horseradish tree, is a pan-tropical species that is known by such regional names as benzolive, drumstick tree, kelor, marango, mlonge, mulangay, nébéday, saijhan, and sajna.
Over the past two decades, many reports have appeared in mainstream scientific journals describing its nutritional and medicinal properties. Its utility as a non-food product has also been extensively described, but will not be discussed herein, (e.g. lumber, charcoal, fencing, water clarification, lubricating oil). As with many reports of the nutritional or medicinal value of a natural product, there are an alarming number of purveyors of “healthful” food who are now promoting M. oleifera as a panacea.
While much of this recent enthusiasm indeed appears to be justified, it is critical to separate rigorous scientific evidence from anecdote.
Those who charge a premium for products containing Moringa spp. must be held to a high standard. Those who promote the cultivation and use of Moringa spp. in regions where hope is in short supply must be provided with the best available evidence, so as not to raise false hopes and to encourage the most fruitful use of scarce research capital.
It is the purpose of this series of brief reviews to: (a) critically evaluate the published scientific evidence on M. oleifera, (b) highlight claims from the traditional and tribal medicinal lore and from non-peer reviewed sources that would benefit from further, rigorous scientific evaluation, and (c) suggest directions for future clinical research that could be carried out by local investigators in developing regions.