Malunggay (Moringa Olefeira)

By now, everybody must have heard of the benefits of Malunggay (Moringa Olefeira) and how it is called the Miracle Tree. Yes, the lowly malunggay tree which grows in many backyards of Filipino homes, and which can be found growing on street sides. No one even takes a second look at the malunggay tree except when told to take a bunch of leaves for tinola. Malunggay leaves are mostly used in Filipino soups and broths especially tinola. The malunggay leaves are said to increase lactation in nursing mothers.

The nutritional value of Malunggay leaves

Scientific research confirms that malunggay leaves are a powerhouse of nutritional value. For every pound, malunggay leaves contain:

7 times the Vitamin C in oranges

4 times the Vitamin A in carrots

4 times the Calcium in milk

2 times the Protein in milk

3 times the Potassium in bananas

3 times more Iron than spinach

Moringa or Malunggay contains more than 90 nutrients, 46 types of antioxidants and 36 anti-inflammatory compounds. It has 18 amino acids, including the 8 essentials – those amino acids which are needed for survival but the body can not manufacture so they must be supplied through diet. Malunggay also has plenty of omega-3 oils.

Malunggay's Health Benefits

  • Malunggay leaves help strengthen the immune system.
  • Malunggay relieves headaches and migraines.
  • Malunggay helps promote good night's sleep and relaxation.
  • Malunggay can help regulate blood sugar, and helps control blood pressure.
  • Malunggay lowers bad cholesterol and improves cardiovascular health.
  • Malunggay tea helps strengthen the muscles in the eyes, helps reduce inflammation of the joints and tendons, helps treat asthma and fever, and can prevent intestinal worms.
  • Malunggay has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that helps fight acne and other forms of skin imperfections.
  • Malunggay aids the kidneys and the liver in filtering harmful substances in the body which can become toxic and life-threatening.
  • Malunggay can help control the growth of cancer cells through its anti-cancer properties.
  • Malunggay speeds up metabolism and enhances digestion.
  • Malunggay helps increase semen count.

Processing the Malunggay Leaves

The Malunggay leaves can be processed into tea to preserve the harvested malunggay leaves, and for easy and convenient consumption.

After harvesting the malunggay leaves, wash the leaves with running water under a faucet to remove dust and other foreign particles. Shake the water off the leaves and gently pat them dry with paper towels.

Strip them off the stems. Discard any yellow and damaged leaves. Spread the leaves out in single layer if possible, on a clean sheet of paper. Bond papers, Manila paper, or other similar materials can be used as the drying mat of the leaves. Malunggay leaves must be dried in an area away from direct sunlight to prevent the loss of Vitamins and minerals.

Malunggay leaves can be dried in different ways. Others hang leaf bunches similar to tobacco drying. For this method, the leaves are left on the stems. The important thing in drying is the air circulation around the leaves. Drying may take from 3-4 days.

After drying, it is recommended to roast the leaves to reduce further the moisture and sanitize the dried leaves. Constantly turn over the air dried leaves for 2-3 minutes in a pan over low fire. This helps improve the flavor of the malunggay tea. Do not overcook the leaves.

After pan roasting, the malunggay leaves are now crisp and can easily be crushed to break the leaflets into tiny powder particles. They can be placed in a transparent plastic bag and crushed by hand or crushed using a mortar and pestle.

Pan roasting is part of the leaf processing developed by the Bureau of Plant Industry through its Malunggay Technical Team.

Other methods of making malunggay tea do not involve pan roasting. The malunggay leaves are dried until they become crisp and can easily be crushed to tiny bits or to powder, or just stored as dried leaves.

The manner of storage can affect the quality and flavor of the Malunggay tea. Pack the leaves or powder in air-tight containers like glass jars, and store in a cool, dry, and dark place. Never expose them directly to sun and air.

Dried Malunggay Leaves
Dried Malunggay Leaves

Malunggay Tea

The dried and crushed malunggay leaves can be placed in tea bags. Empty tea bags can be found in Chinese drug stores or from food processing stores. Place half a teaspoon of crushed dried malunggay leaves in a tea bag and seal it. If a mechanical sealer is not available, a small stapler can be used.

Malunggay tea can also by prepared by adding hot water into a few teaspoons of crushed malunggay leaves. Cover and let it steep for a few minutes. Use a strainer and pour the tea into a cup. You may add honey, or lemon to enhance the flavor.

The dried malunggay leaves or powder can now be seen in many food items as an added ingredient to increase its nutritive value, such as noodles, pan de sal, polvoron, cookies, biscuits, and more.

There have been no reported toxicity from consuming too much malunggay leaves. Malunggay leaves are one of the main ingredients in the feeding programs to provide nutrition to malnourished children all over the world.

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