Moringa oleifera is a fast-growing, drought-resistant plant that belongs to the Moringaceae family.  It is native to the Indian subcontinent.  As a result of its properties, moringa cultivation has spread to many countries around the globe.  The common names include moringa, drumstick tree, horseradish tree and ben oil tree or benzolive tree.

Research has shown that the different parts of the Moringa tree contain at least a beneficial nutrient or anti-nutrient useful to mankind.  The fresh leaves from moringa are good sources of vitamins A, C and E.

The chief executive officer of Jola Global Industries, Dr. Moses Omojola, said the main flavonoids in the leaves are myrecytin, quercetin and kaempferol in concentrations of 5.8, 0.207 and 7.57 mg/g respectively.  Quercetin is found in concentrations of 100mg/100g as quercetin-3-O-β-d-glucoside (iso-quercetin or isotrifolin).  It is a strong antioxidant with multiple therapeutic properties.

The chartered chemist pointed out it has hypolipidemic, hypotensive, and anti-diabetic properties, stressing that other important compounds found in moringa leaves are phenolic acids which are a sub-group of phenolic compounds derived from hydroxybenzoic acid and hydroxycinnamic acid, adding these compounds have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic and anticancer properties.  The bioactive compounds are important in lipid heamostasis.

The essential oil expert said the oil content of de-hulled seed (kernel) is approximately 42 per cent. The oil is brilliant yellow, and it is used as a lubricant in machineries such as timepieces as it hardly deteriorates and become rancid and sticky.  It is also useful as cooking and frying oil.

“Moringa seeds are also used in the cosmetic industry and for production of biodiesel while the seedcakes, can be used as green manure or as fertiliser. The flowers are used to make tea with hypocholesterolemia properties.  The root bark has medicinal values and it is used for dyspepsia, eye diseases and to treat heart problems.  The tap root of Moringa is used as a spice. The gum from the tree can be used in calico printing.  The gum and roots also have antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties.

“Based on its properties, it is apparent that moringa is a plant with multifaceted potentials with socio-economic benefits that cut across food and nutrition, medicine, agriculture, ornamentals, environment, renewable energy, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, sanitary and hygiene etc.  Their products also serve as secondary raw materials in numerous industries,” he said.

On his part, the director-general of the Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC), Prof. Hussaini Doko Ibrahim, said the numerous socio-economic potentials of moringa make it a versatile plant that can easily address part of the diversification agenda of the government and many aspects of the Millennium Development Sustainable development Goals (SDGs), pointing out that this makes it imperative for RMRDC to ensure its sustainable development and the proliferation of its products not only for food security, enhancement of nutritional wellbeing of the citizenry but also for economic growth and promotion of economic activities in both the rural and urban centres across the nation, adding the plant thrives well in all the ecological zones of the country.

“RMRDC has played a leading role on the symmetric development of the moringa plant, ranging from awareness creation on its socio-economic benefits, domestication,  boosting the cultivation of the plant, and development of SMEs for moringa processing and value-addition.  Among the areas of council’s activities on the development of moringa locally is its collaboration with Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, where R&D project is being conducted on the utilisation of Moringa oleifera seed extract as phyto-chemical for the replacement of imported chemical (Alum), in water treatment for rural communities in Nigeria.

“The R&D result led to the development of a laboratory model of water treatment plant.  Having successfully achieved this, the laboratory model was designed, fabricated and upgraded to 10,000 liters pilot scale plant in line with the requirements for food and nutritional products.  The plant after test run, has been commissioned.  After this, the coucil funded the work on oil and coagulant extraction from Moringa seeds for water treatment and generation of relevant data and analysis as relates to the water treatment plant with encouraging results. Research collaboration with the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, was on agronomic evaluation, biochemical characterisation and aspects of post-harvest quality assessment of twenty accessions of Moringa oleifera seeds,” he said.