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Common names 

Moringa, drumstick tree, ben oil tree, benzolive tree, benzoil tree, horse-radish tree, horseradish tree, West Indian ben [English]; ben oléifère, ben ailée, moringa ailée, pois quénique [French]; moringa, marango, resedá, árbol de rábano, árbol de los espárragos [Spanish]; acácia-branca, muringueiro, quiabo-da-quina, maranga, paraíso, paraíso blanco [Portuguese]; Meerrettichbaum [German]; zogale [Hausa]; kelor [Indonesian]; mlonge [Swahili]; malunggay [Tagalog]; chùm ngây [Vietnamese]; ሽፈራው [Amharic]; بان زيتوني [Arabic]; সজনে [Bengali]; ဒန့်သလွန် [Burmese]; 辣木 [Chinese]; מורינגה מכונפת [Hebrew]; सहजन [Hindi]; ワサビノキ [Japanese]; ನುಗ್ಗೆಕಾಯಿ [Kannada]; മുരിങ്ങ [Malayalam]; शेवगा  [Marathi]; ਸੁਹਾਂਜਣਾ [Punjabi]; முருங்கை [Tamil]; มะรุม [Thai]


Moringa (Moringa oleifera Lam.) is a multipurpose tropical tree. It is mainly used for food and has numerous industrial, medicinal and agricultural uses, including animal feeding. Nutritious, fast-growing and drought-tolerant, this traditional plant was rediscovered in the 1990s and its cultivation has since become increasingly popular in Asia and Africa, where it is among the most economically valuable crops. It has been dubbed the "miracle tree" or "tree of life" by the media (FAO, 2014Radovich, 2009Orwa et al., 2009Bosch, 2004).


Moringa is a small to medium evergreen or deciduous tree that can grow to a height of 10-12 m. It has a spreading open crown, typically umbrella-shaped. The roots are deep. The bole is crooked, generally one-stemmed but sometimes forked from the base. The bark is corky and grey. The branches are fragile and drooping, with a feathery foliage. Young twigs and shoots are covered in short dense hairs, purplish or greenish white in colour. Moringa leaves are alternate, 7-60 cm long, tripinnately compound with each pinnate bearing 4-6 pairs of leaflets that are dark green, elliptical to obovate, and 1-2 cm in length. The inflorescences are 10-20 cm long, spreading panicles bearing many fragrant flowers. Moringa flowers are pentamerous, zygomorphic, 7-14 mm long and white to cream in colour. The fruit is a typically 3-valved capsule, 10 to 60 cm in length, often referred to as a “pod” and looking like a drumstick (hence the name "drumstick tree"). The fruit is green when young and turns brown at maturity. The mature fruit splits open along each angle to expose the seeds. The capsule contains 15-20 rounded oily seeds, 1-1.5 cm in diameter surrounded by 3 papery wings, up to 2.5 cm long. Moringa seeds contain a large amount of oil (FAO, 2014Radovich, 2009Orwa et al., 2009Bosch, 2004Foidl et al., 2001).


Moringa originated from the southern hills of the Himalayas and was introduced in many tropical and subtropical areas, largely by migrant Asian populations (Radovich, 2009Bosch, 2004). Moringa seed oil was valued in perfume manufacture in Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, and the Roman Empire (Orwa et al., 2009Bosch, 2004). Moringa is now naturalized in most African countries, in the Caribbean Islands and in Central America. Moringa is an important crop in India, Ethiopia, the Philippines and Sudan (FAO, 2014).

Moringa grows from sea level up to an altitude of 600 m, but it can be found up to 1000 m in the Himalayas, up to 1350 m in East Africa, and as high as 2000 m in Zimbabwe (Radovich, 2009Bosch, 2004). Moringa does well where average temperatures are high, ranging from 25 to 30°C. Low temperatures and frost can kill the plant back to ground level but regrowth occurs quickly once the temperatures increase. Moringa grows better where annual rainfall is about 1000-2000 mm. However, it is tolerant of drought and survives where rainfall is as low as 400 mm, though foliage production under such conditions is reduced. Moringa has a low tolerance of waterlogging. It thrives in full sunlight. Moringa does well on a wide range of soils, with pH ranging from 4.5 to 9, provided they are well-drained (Radovich, 2009Bosch, 2004). Moringa has some salt tolerance (up to 3 dS/m during germination and 8 dS/m once well established) (Nouman et al., 2014Oliveira et al., 2009).

India is the main exporter of moringa: canned leaves, fresh fruits (1.2 million t in India), oil and leaf powder (Radovich, 2009). In Africa, leaves are the main product for local trade (Bosch, 2004).