The versatile malunggay

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014


HORSE radish is seldom known by many people to be the English name of the lowly malunggay. Scientifically known as moringa oleifera, malunggay is one of the world’s most useful plants.

Horse radish is cultivated in all countries of the tropics. It is easy to plant, and is available year-round. Tested and proven in my backyard, I planted it several years ago and now it has grown into a big tree which I occasionally cut from the top.

It is more than enough for our table and for the chicken. Yes! I give them to our chicken as their forage from time to time, alternately with the madre de agua. Thus, I encourage every family to have at least one tree of this miracle vegetable. Actually, all the parts of malunggay have their own uses and I learned that from experience.

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As one of the most versatile crops, it is basically used as: food, effective flocculants, antibiotics, oils, and coagulants for turbid waters. It is called a ”mother’s best friend” and a “miracle vegetable” by many who have known its beneficial effects.

In fact, it is used as the logo of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST).

What do we get from the lowly malunggay? The leaves are outstanding as sources of vitamins A, C, E and B-vitamins, and minerals such as calcium, phosphorous, and iron. The calcium content is very high for a plant. In fact, it is higher than the seafoods which are mostly the sources of our calcium especially the shells. Its iron content is also very good. It is even an excellent source of protein being higher than the amino acid pattern of FAO reference protein, and a very low source of fat and carbohydrates.

The leaves are incomparable as a source of the sulfur-containing amino acids methionine and cystine which are often in short supply.

Due to its high vitamins A, C, and E, which are very potential antioxidants, malunggay is a very good quencher of unstable free-radicals that can react with and damage other molecules. Antioxidants reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. They also prevent the onset of various chronic disease like arthritis, cancer, and heart and kidney diseases.

Malunggay, dubbed as “miracle vegetable,” is not only food, but also a medicine. I knew one experience in the past, about a patient, wherein the hospital declared the case of leukemia to be hopeless but was healed when nursed at home.

The family fed her with malunggay juice—blended or extracted for a period of time. It was an amazing story about the vegetable, which I often tell to those with similar case.

It may therefore be a functional food, as popularly known these days. Malunggay develops good eyesight, helps in digestion, facilitates bowel movement, and a cure for stomach ache. It is used to cleanse wounds and ulcers. It helps in cases like scurvy, asthma, earache and headache.

Due to its calcium content, it is consumed by lactating mothers to produce more milk for their babies, hence, called a “mother’s best friend.”

I remember my grandmother who was a “hilot’ recommending it always to the mothers she assisted in delivering her baby. It is usually cooked with chicken tinola.

To give you an idea how much nutrients each cup of cooked malunggay leaves contain, FNRI-DOST said it contains: 3.1 grams protein, 0.6 gram fiber, 96 milligram calcium, 29 milligram phosphorus, 1.7 milligram iron, 2,820 B-carotene, 0.07 milligram thiamin,0.14 milligram riboflavin, 1.1 milligram niacin, and 53 milligram ascorbic acid or vitamin C. The antioxidant activity of malunggay is about 71 percent, with vitamin E equivalent of 45.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on August 19, 2014.

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