Moringa oleifera: The Miracle Tree
Native only to the foothills of the Himalayas. This tree, though little known in the Western world, is nutritional dynamite. There are literally hundreds of uses for this tree. Virtually every part of the tree can be used.
The immature pods are the most valued and widely used of all the tree parts. The pods are extremely nutritious, containing all the essential amino acids along with many vitamins and other nutrients. The immature pod can be eaten raw or prepared like green peas or green beans, while the mature pods are usually fried and possess a peanut-like flavor.
The leaves are eaten as greens, in salads, in vegetable curries, as pickles and for seasoning. They can be pounded up and used for scrubbing utensils and for cleaning walls. Leaves and young branches are relished by livestock.
The Bark can be used for tanning and also yields a coarse fiber.
The flowers, which must be cooked, are eaten either mixed with other foods or fried in batter and have been shown to be rich in potassium and calcium.
In developing tropical countries, Moringa trees have been used to combat malnutrition, especially among infants and nursing mothers. Leaves can be eaten fresh, cooked, or stored as dried powder for many months without refrigeration, and without loss of nutritional value. Analyses of the leaf composition have revealed them to have significant quantities of vitamins A, B and C, calcium, iron and protein.
Scientific research confirms that these humble leaves are a powerhouse of nutritional value. Gram for gram, Moringa leaves contain: SEVEN times the vitamin C in oranges, FOUR times the Calcium in milk, FOUR times the vitamin A in carrots, TWO times the protein in milk and THREE times the Potassium in bananas.
The Moringa tree has great use medicinally both as preventative and treatment. Much of the evidence is anecdotal as there has been little actual scientific research done to support these claims. One area in which there has been significant scientific research is the reported antibiotic activity of this tree.
This tree is truly a “miracle” tree offering hope; nutritionally, medicinally and economically to devastatingly poor 3rd world countries. It has just recently begun being used as a supplement in a juice form and in powdered leaf tablets.
Ramachandran,C., Peter,K.V. and Gopalakrishnan,P.K., 1980, Drumstick (Moringa oleifera): A multipurpose Indian Vegetable. Economic Botany, 34 (3) pp276-283.
Annona muricata: Soursop (“Guanabana“)
The soursop tree is low-branching and bushy but slender because of its upturned limbs, and reaches a height of 25 or 30 ft. Young branchlets are rusty-hairy. The malodorous leaves, normally evergreen, are alternate, smooth, glossy, dark green on the upper surface, lighter beneath; oblong, elliptic or narrowobovate, pointed at both ends. The flowers, which are borne singly, may emerge anywhere on the trunk, branches or twigs. They are short stalked, plump, and triangular-conical; the 3 fleshy, slightly spreading, outer petals yellow-green, the 3 close-set inner petals pale-yellow.
The fruit is more or less oval or heart-shaped, some times irregular, lopsided or curved. The size ranges from 4 to 12 in. long and up to 6 in.in width. The fruit is compound and covered with a reticulated, leathery-appearing but tender, inedible, bitter skin from which protrude few or many stubby, or more elongated and curved, soft, pliable “spines”. The skin is dark-green in the immature fruit, becoming slightly yellowish-green before the mature fruit is soft to the touch. Its inner surface is cream-colored and granular and separates easily from the mass of snow-white, fibrous, juicy segments surrounding the central, soft-pithy core. In aroma, the pulp is somewhat pineapple-like, but its musky, subacid to acid flavor is unique.
Soursop does best in warm conditions. Best growth is achieved in deep, rich, well-drained, semi-drysoil, but the soursop tree can be and is commonly grown in acid and sandy soil, and in the porous, oolitic limestone of South Florida and the Bahama Islands. The soursop tends to flower and fruit more or less continuously, but in every growing area there is a principal season of ripening.
Seeds: When pulverized, the seeds are effective pesticides against head lice, southern army worms and pea aphids and petroleum ether and chloroform extracts are toxic to black carpet beetle larvae. The seed oil kills head lice.
Leaves: The leaf decoction is lethal to head lice and bedbugs.
Bark: The bark of the tree has been used in tanning.
Wood: The wood is pale, aromatic, soft, light in weight and not durable. It has been used for ox yokes because it does not cause hair loss on the neck.
Medicinal Uses: The juice of the ripe fruit is said to be diuretic and a remedy for haematuria and urethritis. Taken when fasting, it is believed to relieve liver ailments and leprosy. Pulverized immature fruits, which are very astringent, are decocted as a dysentery remedy. To draw out chiggers and speed healing, the flesh of an acid soursop is applied as a poultice unchanged for 3 days.
In Materia Medica of British Guiana, we are told to break soursop leaves in water, “squeeze a couple of limes therein, get a drunken man and rub his head well with the leaves and water and give him a little of the water to drink and he gets as sober as a judge in no time.” This sobering or tranquilizing formula may not have been widely tested, but soursop leaves are regarded throughout the West Indies as having sedative or soporific properties. In the Netherlands Antilles, the leaves are put into one’s pillowslip or strewn on the bed to promote a good night’s sleep. An infusion of the leaves is commonly taken internally for the same purpose. It is taken as an analgesic and antispasmodic in Esmeraldas Province, Ecuador. In Africa, it is given to children with fever and they are also bathed lightly with it. A decoction of the young shoots or leaves is regarded in the West Indies as a remedy for gall bladder trouble, as well as coughs, catarrh, diarrhea, dysentery and indigestion; is said to “cool the blood,” and to be able to stop vomiting and aid delivery in childbirth. The decoction is also employed in wet compresses on inflammations and swollen feet. The chewed leaves, mixed with saliva, are applied to incisions after surgery, causing proudflesh to disappear without leaving a scar. Mashed leaves are used as a poultice to alleviate eczema and other skin afflictions and rheumatism, and the sap of young leaves is put on skin eruptions.
Source: Morton, J. 1987. Soursop. p. 75–80. In: Fruits of warm climates. Julia F. Morton, Miami, FL.
*Note: Ricardo’s Nursery only carries the above plants for ornamental purposes. The medicinal uses have only been stated as additional information per third parties.