Moringa oleifera – The Drumstick Tree
Moringa is a genus of fast growing trees of which there are quite a few species. These include Moringa drouhardii which is native to Madagascar, and Moringa stenopetala which is native to Kenya and Ethiopia.
However, the most famous species of this genus is undoubtedly Moringa oleifera, a native of the Indian subcontinent. Moringa oleifera is a fast growing deciduous tree that is even tolerant of poor quality soils and drought conditions. It’s seeds are edible, and the young leaves are commonly harvested and can be consumed in a variety of ways. Moringa even has use in treating contaminated water sources, as it can be used to remove trihalomethane (THM) precursors and iron from drinking water.  It is also easy to propagate from seed or cuttings.
Moringa oleifera is the shining jewel of the genus, and it is common to see people forgetting the other plants in the genus. You will frequently see people use simply ‘Moringa’ when referring to Moringa oleifera.
For this species to become the namesake of the entire genus, this suggests it’s a special plant. Indeed, this amazing tree is growing in it’s reputation across the world as a superfood. In this article, we will take a look at why this is the case, and use scientific data to analyse the nutritional value of Moringa leaves. Although many parts of the tree are edible, we will be focusing on the leaves in this article.
What Nutrients Do Moringa Leaves Have?
The edible leaves of Moringa oleifera provide protein, carbohydrates, and fibre. Like a natural multivitamin, the leaves of Moringa oleifera are packed full of micronutrients, including vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin E, Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Iron, Copper, and Potassium. 
A study was published in 2021 that analysed Moringa oleifera leaves in various forms to get precise numbers on the nutritional value it contains. Using the data from this study, here are a few graphs that outline the numbers. 
Moringa Oleifera Nutritional Value
Carbohydrates, fats, fibre, and protein form the basic core of our nutritional requirements.
Moringa oleifera Carbohydrate, Fat, Fibre, and Protein Values Per 100g
All Values In grams (g) per 100g of leaf matter
|Nutrient||Fresh Leaves||Dry Leaves||Dry Leaf Powder|
Moringa oleifera leaves are notably high in protein for a plant food source. Fresh Moringa leaves offer 6.7g of protein per 100g. For comparison, fresh spinach leaves give roughly 2.86g of protein per 100g, and the various forms of kale range from between 1.9g to 4.28g per 100g.
Dried Moringa leaves offer an even easier way to get some plant proteins, with dried Moringa leaves being up to 29.4% protein! This is because the water in fresh leaves adds to the overall weight of the leaf matter. When the leaves are processed and dried, they lose the mass of that water, leading to a higher protein content per gram.
Moringa oleifera Nutrient Content
One of the main reasons Moringa has such a positive reputation is because of it’s high nutrient and vitamin content. What is the nutrient content of Moringa? Let’s have a look at some analysis of leaf matter.
Moringa oleifera Nutrient Content Per 100g
All Values In Milligrams (mg) per 100g of leaf matter
|Nutrient||Fresh Leaves||Dry Leaves||Powdered Leaves|
|Calcium||440 mg||2185 mg||2003 mg|
|Copper||0.07 mg||0.49 mg||0.57 mg|
|Iron||0.85 mg||25.6 mg||28.2 mg|
|Phosphorus||70 mg||252 mg||204 mg|
|Potassium||259 mg||1236 mg||1324 mg|
|Magnesium||42 mg||448 mg||368 mg|
|Vitamin B1||0.06 mg||2.02 mg||2.64 mg|
|Vitamin B2||0.05 mg||21.3 mg||20.5 mg|
|Vitamin B3||0.8 mg||7.6 mg||8.2 mg|
|Vitamin C||220 mg||15.8 mg||17.3 mg|
|Vitamin E||448 mg||10.8 mg||113 mg|
As we can see here, Moringa is a very nutrient dense food source. When compared gram-per-gram, leaves from Moringa oleifera provide ‘more than 7 times the vitamin C found in oranges, 10 times the vitamin A found in carrots, 17 times the calcium found in milk, 9 times the protein found in yogurt, 15 times the potassium found in bananas and 25 times the iron found in spinach.’ 
These figures are very impressive, and show that Moringa have far more to offer than simply being merely for foraging or as a survival food. Indeed, it could be seen as a superfood for these aspects alone. Moringa, however, has even more to offer. Let’s now take a look at another of feature of it’s leaves – it’s essential and non-essential amino acid content.
Moringa oleifera Amino Acid Content
Moringa leaves also contain a high amount of amino acids for a plant food source. In fact, Moringa is unusually high in amino acids for a plant food source. When analysed and compared with eggs and rice, we can see how abundant Moringa is as a source of both essential and non-essential amino acids.
The scientists involved in the study do remind us that amino acid content of these leaves will vary due to a number of factors such as the plant’s location and harvesting techniques.
“In leaf source protein, the amino acid profiles are similar in the case of its availability. But the quality varies on the basis of species types, sources of raw materials, plant culture system, harvesting, and processing methods and analysis methods, etc. The miracle Moringa leaves contain 9 essential amino acids and 7 nonessential amino acids.” 
Despite this natural variation, by analysing the leaf content in a laboratory setting, we can get a rough idea as to what amino acids the leaves provide us. In the graph below, we can see the results of an analysis of dried Moringa leaf matter, and compare the numbers with common food sources eggs and rice, using data from the 2021 study.
Moringa oleifera Amino Acid Content Per 100g
All Values In grams (g) per 100g of food
|Amino Acid||Dry Moringa Leaves||Eggs||Rice|
Amino acids are vital building materials for the body, and they play a key role in building larger protein structures. Moringa leaves contain a high amount of amino acids for a plant food source. As we can see from the data above, dried Moringa leaves contain more Leucine, Lysine, Alanine, Phenyl-alanine, Arginine, and Glycine per gram than Eggs.
Moringa oleifera is a wonderful food source that can provide a wide and impressive range of nutrients to maintain our good health. Whilst the nutrient content varies slightly depending on which form you have it in, it is nonetheless a very beneficial and valuable food source thanks to it’s versatile and easy nature.
As a fast growing, drought tolerant tree, Moringa can serve as a food source to communities that are living in remote areas. There is also potential for this tree to be used in areas where poor soil or unreliable rainfall make growing food difficult.
If you happen to live in a region where Moringa will grow well, then you have a fantastic option for a tree with edible leaves that are healthy and can be eaten raw as a salad. The leaves can simply be picked off the tree, washed, and then eaten. Moringa grows very quickly, making it a welcome beneficial food source for foragers and locals in areas where it grows.
If you are planning on growing Moringa, be aware that it is most at home in warm regions of the planet. As such, Moringa does not tolerate temperatures below freezing.  If you want to try growing Moringa in colder regions, perhaps a heated greenhouse would be the most suitable option.
For vegetarians and vegans who may be looking for plant based food sources that provide high amounts of protein, Moringa can provide a great option. Combined with it’s high amino acid content as we discussed above, Moringa offers plenty of benefits to those with a meat-free diet.
High in protein, amino acids, vitamins, and other nutrients, Moringa oleifera offers many pracitical benefits as a human food source. The various forms of Moringa give it a lot of versatility – moringa leaf powder can easily stored and provide a huge nutrient boost when needed.
Raw, fresh leaves make a fine addition to the plate as well, but remember: Always wash fresh leaves with clean water before eating.
See Also: Moringa is one of our favourite trees with edible leaves, and we even included it in our article ‘8 Amazing Trees With Edible Leaves‘. If you want to learn about more trees with edible leaves, consider having a read of that article here!
1. Kalibbala, H. M.; Wahlberg, O.; Hawumba, T. J. (1 December 2009). “The impact of Moringa oleifera as a coagulant aid on the removal of trihalomethane (THM) precursors and iron from drinking water”. Water Science and Technology: Water Supply. 9 (6): 707–714. doi:10.2166/ws.2009.671.
2. Islam Z, Islam SMR, Hossen F, Mahtab-Ul-Islam K, Hasan MR, Karim R. Moringa oleifera is a Prominent Source of Nutrients with Potential Health Benefits. Int J Food Sci. 2021 Aug 10;2021:6627265. doi: 10.1155/2021/6627265. PMID: 34423026; PMCID: PMC8373516.