Moringa oleifera - from plant to (simple) medicine

M.G. Marcu
Moringa oleifera is acknowledged for a multitude of uses in nutrition, medicine, cosmetics and water purification. In many parts of the world, the full potential of this plant could be capitalized on, with resulting huge economic benefit to the communities who depend on indigenous plants. Moringa's medicinal benefits, diverse and exciting, have not been rigorously proven in human clinical trials for their efficacy and toxicity, but rather have been demonstrated in vitro and in various animal models. Some human studies are ongoing now. Further studies to characterize various compounds are needed, but there is already a plethora of therapeutic properties that can support the development of pharmacological products. The question is: which ones, and what are the simplest and fastest ways? Over 120 plant-derived (isolated or in complex mixtures) substances are sold as drugs worldwide, but countries regulate herbal medicines differently. Valeriana officinalis and Echinacea sp., among others, are used successfully as standardized plant extracts. Another extensively used plant extract - that of Viscum album, has satisfactory clinical evidence to support anticancer effects. Similarly, moringa could be used as an extract, or in other simple formulations, standardized in specific amounts of various active substances, for many medicinal applications: antibacterial, anticancer and others, to be discussed here. Furthermore, bioactivity-guided fractionation of moringa crude extracts could provide a wide array of potent actions. Sometimes the isolated chemical is not as effective therapeutically as the plant extract of origin, or it can induce resistance in an infectious agent while the whole extract will not. For these and other reasons, moringa crude extract can offer a rich arsenal of valuable chemicals with antibacterial properties. In conclusion, with increasing development cost of new drugs, alternative approaches like the study of herbal extracts hitting multiple targets could be considered. Moringa oleifera should be one of the best candidates for such development. The main challenge remains finding the necessary funding for expensive large-scale human studies on not patentable plant crude extracts. This review will focus on the pharmacognosy of moringa, more specifically the phytotherapy possibilities using moringa crude extracts.
Marcu, M.G. (2017). Moringa oleifera - from plant to (simple) medicine. Acta Hortic. 1158, 225-234
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2017.1158.26
moringa, natural products, plant-derived drug, plant extract, drug development

Acta Horticulturae