With green powders, juices, and smoothies still as trendy as ever, you’ve probably already gotten your fill of the wonders of kale, spinach, spirulina, chlorella, wheat grass, and more. Well, sorry not sorry, but you’re going to have to make room for yet another green superhero: moringa.
Native to parts of the Middle East and Asia, moringa leaves have long been eaten like any other leafy-green. Meanwhile, the leaves, fruit, flowers, and seeds have traditionally been used to promote heart, digestive, and immune health, according to a review published in Phytotherapy Research. (Moringa salad, anyone?)
Moringa’s leaves contain protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, B vitamins, calcium, copper, iron, and potassium. So it’s no wonder this impressive plant is popping up in superfood powders, nutritional supplements, recipes, and even face creams.
One of moringa’s biggest claims to fame? It’s jam-packed with antioxidants. A number of compounds in the plant help eliminate excess free radicals (damaging particles from exposure to pollution, stress, and more) and fight oxidative stress, protecting cells throughout the body. “Many of the phytochemicals found in plants have antioxidant properties and can benefit immune and cardiovascular health,” says Brian Tanzer, M.S., manager of scientific affairs for The Vitamin Shoppe.
One study published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology found that markers of oxidative stress decreased in postmenopausal women supplementing with seven grams of moringa leaf powder a day for three months. (Women’s estrogen—which has antioxidant properties—declines during menopause, leaving them with a reduced ability to fend off free radicals.) Take that, biological clock.
The study also found that moringa supplementation improved the women’s fasting blood sugar levels. Other research suggests that certain compounds in moringa help trigger the body’s release of insulin (the hormone that helps your body use sugar), according to a review published in Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention.
The antioxidants in moringa also get to work when applied topically, potentially helping you hang on to that youthful glow. And a study published in Advances in Dermatology and Allergology found that a face cream containing moringa leaf extract improved skin texture and signs of aging when used twice daily for three months.
Try This Supergreen On For Size
If you want to add this green to your daily grub, you’re most likely to find it in powder, capsule, or juice form. (We wouldn’t be surprised if it shows up in salad greens mixes at some point, though.) With a flavor similar to matcha, moringa is perhaps most popular in powdered form, as an add-in for smoothies or green drinks.
“Almost all of the supplements out there are coming from the leaves of the Moringa oleifera species,” says Tanzer. And since people are looking for moringa supplements to reap its overall nutritional benefits—not for one specific, isolated compound—supplement servings are usually measured in grams instead of milligrams. (The more moringa, the more nutrients.)
Since moringa is a plant food source, it’s generally safe for pretty much anyone to consume in moderation, with one exception: “Since moringa also contains vitamin K, like most greens do, anyone on blood thinners should be careful and limit their consumption,” says Tanzer. (Vitamin K helps blood clot, which counteracts blood-thinning meds.)