LAHORE: Covid-19 has no cure so far besides one’s own immune system winning over the deadly virus. This has compelled people to look up to superfoods like moringa to build up their defence against the contagion.
Agriculture scientists believe moringa oleifera, commonly called the ‘drumstick’ or ‘horseradish’ tree, can be helpful in boosting immunity owing to its extraordinary nutritional value. University of Agriculture Faisalabad (UAF) Department of Agronomy Professor Shahzad Maqsood Ahmed Basra highlights that it is a naturally growing tree available in tropical and subtropical areas of the subcontinent for centuries.
“The drumstick tree, locally known as Suhanjana or Mungay, has enormous therapeutic potential and proven benefits in treatment of over 300 diseases,” Dr Basra told The Express Tribune.
He pointed out that moringa is a multipurpose plant mainly used as food in the subcontinent; it has medicinal and industrial applications, including use as animal feed and food supplements.
The agronomy professor underlined that every part of the tree, such as leaves, flowers, pods and roots, is edible. In fact, the leaves are an excellent source of minerals and vitamins vital for strong immunity.
Miracle plant:‘Country can earn billions by cultivating moringa’
Prof Basra said moringa has 25 times more iron than spinach, 17 times more calcium than milk, 15 times more potassium than bananas and nine times more protein than yoghurt, adding, “It also has seven times more vitamin C compared to oranges, over 10 times more vitamin A compared to carrots and three times more vitamin E compared to almonds.”
“In several countries, it is considered a super food that has 92 nutrients, 46 antioxidants, 36 anti-inflammatory ingredients and 18 amino acids, which efficiently correct nutrient deficiencies and boost immune systems,” the professor said. Experts believe moringa leaves are strength boosters particularly for nursing mothers, pregnant women and children.
In Pakistan, moringa pods, flowers and young leaves are cooked with or without meat as a local delicacy. The roots are often pickled in several rural areas, whereas mature seeds are roasted and eaten as a snack.
The young thin pods are sweet in flavour, while the aged ones are bitter in taste and are therefore used accordingly to build taste.
Moringa seeds contain almost 30-40% edible ‘ben oil’ that can be used for dressing salads or cooking. Ben oil is highly resistant to rancidity and provides substantial quantities of tocopherol, sterols and oleic acid. Moringa oil also has several industrial applications such as in manufacturing of perfumes, lubricants and paints.
Responding to a question, a researcher at the UAF said though moringa is gaining popularity in Pakistan, hardly any data is available on it.
“At the UAF, we are researching on different kinds of moringa plants to identify high-nutrient and high-yielding varieties with a good trade potential. Though the pace of research has been slow, it is expected that the research project would give results in a year,” he claimed.
Punjab Agriculture Extension Director General Dr Anjum Ali Buttar said moringa is an indigenous plant that has been readily available in the region for centuries but it gained popularity in recent years when people discovered its health benefits.
He said that the underdeveloped field of herbal medicines in the country is the main reason behind the limited number of moringa products hitting the shelves.