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Moringa oleifera Lam (synonym: Moringa pterygosperma Gaertner) belongs to a onogeneric family of shrubs and tree, Moringaceae and is considered to have its origin in Agra and Oudh, in the northwest region of India, south of the Himalayan Mountains. Although the name “Shigon” for M. oleifera is mentioned in the “Shushruta Sanhita” which was written in the beginning of the first century A.D., there is evidence that the cultivation of this tree in India dates back many thousands of years. The Indians knew that the seeds contain edible oil and they used them for medicinal purposes. It is probable that the common people also knew of its value as a fodder or vegetable. This tree can be found growing naturally at elevations of up to 1,000 m above sea level. It can grow well on hillsides but is more frequently found growing on pastureland or in river basins. It is a fast growing tree and has been found to grow to 6 – 7 m in one year in areas receiving less than 400 mm mean annual rainfall (Odee, 1998).

In the Dravidian language, there are many local names for this tree but all are derived from the generic root “Morunga”. In English it is commonly known as Horseradish tree, Drumstick tree, Never Die tree, West Indian Ben tree, and Radish tree (Ramachandran et al., 1980).