Moringa – nature’s miracle plant

fenjal interviews the natural health practitioner and moringa expert Melanie Wenzel

The traditional Swiss brand fenjal has stood for sensual pampering and skincare expertise since 1962. For the launch of fenjal’s new Moringa Shower Cream and Moringa Lotion, the skincare specialist has sought the help of a very special expert. The natural health practitioner and moringa expert Melanie Wenzel is not only well versed in the manifold effects of moringa (Moringa oleifera, also known as the "miracle tree") on the body but is also the author of the guide Moringa – Healthy and Beautiful with the Nutrient Miracle and is therefore familiar with all the situations in which moringa is used. In an exclusive interview, Melanie Wenzel reveals the positive effects moringa has on our health and why the tree also plays a key role with regard to sustainability.

Sustainability / aid projects

1. The moringa tree is indigenous to many African countries. What significance does the moringa tree have for those countries and the people who live there? Is it used locally?
Although the moringa tree is native to Africa, in many places it has been forgotten. It is relatively well known in Ethiopia and Ghana, where it is often used to promote health – particularly in pregnant and breastfeeding women and in children.

However, moringa provides a great opportunity, especially for the poorest, famine-stricken countries, because the tree thrives even under adverse conditions. Its seeds can make contaminated water potable again and thus prevent many diseases caused by contaminated water. To gain some personal insights, I travelled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the autumn of last year, where I witnessed a project entitled:

The moringa bar for children: development aid can be sustainable and efficient.

Children from newborns to five years old, some of whom suffered from life-threatening malnutrition, were fed with "the world’s healthiest plant", as the moringa tree is often described. The results were sensational! Normally, the only chance these children have to survive is an expensive nutrient product that is manufactured in industrialized countries and then flown in. But securing a continuous supply is virtually impossible. With moringa, we have a local product whose benefits are obvious, but it needs to be rediscovered. Children gain weight significantly more rapidly than with any other food. Their health is more robust, and the tree grows in this region almost without any help. It therefore makes sense to tell parents and relatives about this tree. They should be provided with seeds and taught how to grow it themselves.

The trip left a profound impression on me, as moringa has always been the perfect medicinal herb for prosperous countries like ours. In view of the plant's effects on diabetes, obesity, allergies, arteriosclerotic diseases and hypertension and its attractive qualities for vegans, vegetarians, athletes and pets, my attention was focussed on the ability of this superfood to meet Western needs. That has now changed.

I’m still very grateful that we're able to benefit from this extraordinary plant, but I'm convinced that moringa will one day be "Africa's gold", providing local people with a healthier and richer life.

2. Moringa has set a new trend in beauty and nutrition, but what about the sustainability of the trees? By promoting the use of moringa, are we also encouraging the destruction of the trees?
No, fortunately the trees do not have to be felled for harvesting. The moringa tree is one of the fastest growing species around. It can grow up to 8 metres in just one year, in good conditions. The leaves can be harvested up to four times a year.

3. Moringa is gaining increasing attention in the Western world for its cosmetic and dietary uses. What impact does this demand have on the tree's habitat, the regions in which it is cultivated and the local people?
Demand for moringa is growing worldwide, and many major investors want to take advantage of the business opportunities it offers. The risk, of course, is that moringa will be increasingly farmed, but local workers will be poorly paid and the product will be sold abroad, completely bypassing the needy population. This must not be allowed to happen. Moringa offers an opportunity for Africa to produce something that will allow the population to help themselves while also having a commodity that they can sell around the world.

4. Can I plant a moringa tree myself? What do I have to bear in mind?
Of course you can also plant moringa trees here, but let me tell you bluntly: the tree loves sunlight and heat – weather we rarely enjoy here in Central Europe. That being said, it is worth trying to grow a seedling yourself, but I’d advise you to start in early summer, avoid waterlogged soil and choose a sheltered location in which the tree will receive plenty of light and warmth.

Nutrition

1. Moringa as a new superfood: what nutrients make the tree so valuable and how do they support my body?
Nowadays, we place greater demands than ever on our bodies. At the same time, the body often lacks important nutrients to stay young, fit and healthy. As a natural dietary supplement, moringa, with its unique composition of amino acids, vitamins, minerals, secondary plant substances, omega-3 fatty acids and chlorophyll, corrects such deficits and supplies all the essential ingredients we need.

2. Is moringa useful as a natural dietary supplement? In what form can it be ingested, and what dose is recommended?
Moringa is an entirely natural dietary supplement and provides the body with all the essential ingredients it needs. Moringa can be taken in the form of leaf powder, capsules or pellets. As far as the dose is concerned, I always recommend that you get accustomed to the product slowly. Start with one capsule or pellet or half a teaspoon of powder daily. Because of the plant's high chlorophyll content and detoxifying effects, you may develop a somewhat looser stool at first, but that usually disappears after a few days. You can then increase the dose to two to five capsules or pellets or one to two teaspoons of powder.

3. Sport, slimming and stress: how does moringa perform as a natural performance booster and regenerator in this context?
Because moringa contains especially valuable protein and all eight essential amino acids, it's an ideal building block for muscles. At the same time, the nutritional miracle provides a good supply of iron and vitamin C. This combination promotes stamina and performance and is what makes moringa so popular among athletes in particular. The high content of plant proteins and bitter compounds that act as true fat burners greatly aid weight loss and make moringa the ideal diet companion. People suffering from stress and who therefore have an increased need for nutrients benefit from the high density of nutrients, especially polyphenols that strengthen the heart and protect against hypertension, myocardial infarction and stroke.

4. Is moringa suitable for people of all age groups? Also for children and the plus-fifty generation?
Absolutely! Moringa comes into its own as a true "miracle weapon" for the over-fifties. It helps to maintain well-being, cleanse the digestive system and capture free radicals, which are believed to favour the development of arteriosclerosis, myocardial infarction and stroke. However, growing children who have an increased need for nutrients also derive great benefit from the many essential ingredients contained in this plant.

5. How can women in particular benefit from moringa as a specific dietary supplement?
First of all, women with heavy menstrual bleeding – regardless of their age – can benefit. With its high iron content and abundance of vitamin C and amino acids, moringa promotes blood production and can therefore rapidly compensate for blood loss. In addition to providing the numerous essential ingredients I mentioned earlier, moringa is especially suitable for menopausal women. You may be familiar with soya as a source of phytohormones. Phytohormones are plant substances that have a similar regulating effect on the female hormone balance as hormones produced by the body itself. In other words, soya contains oestrogen-like substances that gently alleviate most menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, sweating and sleep disturbances. Because moringa contains twice as much plant protein as soya, it is an excellent source of phytohormones.

6. Moringa as an all-rounder: what's your personal experience with it? Do you have any case studies that illustrate how moringa has helped in beauty care and the results it can achieve?
I've frequently seen in my practice how well moringa oil is tolerated by people with allergies. The anti-inflammatory substances often calm the skin quickly. Patients suffering from pigment disorders and redness of the skin have also reported success. Zeatin, an anti-ageing substance that is also found in moringa oil, slows cellular ageing, thus reducing the depth of wrinkles. I've observed this effect not only in the practice but also on myself.

7. Moringa is rapidly advancing as an active substance and plant. What do you think the future of the miracle tree is in beauty care and nutrition?
It's no wonder that moringa is called the healthiest plant on the planet. We're just starting to research moringa and are sure to discover many more beneficial properties. The fact that the scientific community and cosmetics industry are focussing so strongly on this plant shows that we can still expect a great deal more from it.

Moringa