Reports about the health benefits of drumstick started appearing in mainstream scientific journals about two decades ago. Many of the nutritional and medicinal properties of drumstick (moringa oleifera) have long been known in India. Also known as the horseradish, kelor, marango, munakkada, murungkai, mlonge, mulangay, nébéday, saijhan, and sanjana, the drumstick tree is native to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan.
The quickly growing, perrennial drumstick tree is a common sight in the backyards of homes in South India. Drumstick is now widely cultivated as an important crop in India, Ethiopia, the Philippines and the Sudan, West, East and South Africa, tropical Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, Florida in the US, and the Pacific Islands.
All parts of this tree are useful and have long been used for nutritional, medicinal, and industrial purposes. The drumstick pods or fruits are used as a vegetable in curries and soups and very popular in Indian food. Crushed drumstick leaves are used as a domestic cleaning agent; powdered seeds are used for clarifying honey and sugarcane juice, and for purifying water. Moringa seeds produce oil, also known as Ben oil, which is a sweet non-sticky oil that doesn’t become rancid. This oil is used in salads, for lubricating machines, and in perfumes and hair-care products.
The seeds are also eaten green, roasted, powdered and steeped for tea or used in curries. This tree has in recent times been advocated by organizations such as Trees for Life as an outstanding indigenous source of highly digestible protein, calcium, iron, Vitamin C, and carotenoids suitable for use in regions of the world where malnourishment is a major concern.
Drumstick and Health
Almost all parts of the drumstick tree have medicinal value. The small, round leaves are especially beneficial in treating many ailments because of their high iron content and many medicinal properties.
Drumstick or moringa leaves can be eaten fresh, cooked, or stored as dried powder for many months without refrigeration, and reportedly without loss of nutritional value. Where starvation is imminent, consuming the drumstick-leaf powder can be life-saving.
According to the Trees for Life organization, “ounce-for-ounce, Moringa leaves contain more Vitamin A than carrots, more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach, more Vitamin C than oranges, and more potassium than bananas,” and that the protein quality of Moringa leaves rivals that of milk and eggs.
Because of the high calcium, iron, and vitamins, drumstick leaves can be used as a wonderful tonic for infant and growing kids and teens to promote strong and healthy bones and for purifying the bloodstream. To prepare the tonic, drumstick leaves should be ground with water, filtered, and mixed with milk.
Drumstick-leaf juice is also very beneficial for pregnant women as it can help them overcome sluggishness of the uterus, ease delivery, and reduce post-delivery complications. In India, drumstick leaves are boiled in water and salt, the water is drained, and the leaves are served with ghee (clarified butter) to lactating mothers to increase breast milk.
Drumstick leaves are very useful in treating wheezing, asthma, bronchitis, and tuberculosis. A soup prepared by boiling a handful of leaves in 3/4 cup water for 5 minutes and cooled is served to those with respiratory problems. A little salt, pepper, and lime juice can be added to this soup.
Drumstick has antibacterial properties and as such is very useful in preventing infections such as those of the throat, chest, and skin. Drumstick soup can be prepared from the leaves, flowers, and pods and used for this purpose as an antibiotic. Dried and powdered bark of the drumstick root can also be used for fungal skin infections.
Drumstick leaves, flowers, and seeds are useful in treating sexual debility and weakness.
A teaspoonful of fresh drumstick-leaf juice mixed with honey and a glass of tender coconut water taken 2-3 times a day is a wonderful remedy for digestive disorders like diarrhea, dysentary, colitis, jaundice, and cholera. Drumstick-leaf juice is also effective in treating urinary diorders such as excessive urination.
Drumstick-seed oil is useful in treating conjunctivitis.
Fresh drumstick-leaf juice mixed with lime juice can also be applied to treat pimples, acne, and blackheads.
Moringa oleifera: A Review of the Medical Evidence for Its Nutritional, Therapeutic, and Prophylactic Properties. Part 1. Jed W. Fahey, Sc.D.
Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Department of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences
Foods That Heal: The Natural Way to Good Health, H.K. Bakhru