MANILA, Philippines - The lowly malunggay may not be top of mind when it comes to vegetables, but this leafy green veggie boasts of many health and medicinal benefits.
“Malunggay’s young leaves are edible and are commonly cooked and eaten like spinach or used to make soups and salads. They are an exceptionally good source of provitamin A, vitamins B and C, minerals (in particular iron), and the sulphur-containing amino acids methionine and cystine," said Senator Loren Legarda.
|Malunggay leaves have many uses and health benefits. Credit: crisonthesidelines.wordpress.com
Filipinos use malunggay (Moringa oleifera) in making halaan or clam soup or a vegetable dish called ginataang malunggay.
But adventurous cooks and chefs have started adding malunggay to pasta dishes, as well as to muffins, bread and polvoron.
According to Legarda, even malunggay seeds can be used for seasoning. “The dry seeds can be ground to a powder and used for seasoning sauces," she said.
And the roots and flowers have uses too. "The roots from young plants can also be dried and ground for use as a hot seasoning base with a flavor similar to that of horseradish. The flowers can be eaten after being lightly blanched or raw as a tasty addition to salads," added Legarda.
The senator revealed that malunggay can also be used as a vegetable cooking oil.
Malunggay as medicine
Studies have shown that malunggay can be used to treat a number of illnesses.
“Malunggay leaves are good for headache, bleeding from a shallow cut, bacterial and fungal skin complaints, anti-inflammatory gastric ulcers, diarrhea, and malnutrition,” said Legarda.
This is one reason why the government has used malunggay in its feeding and nutrition programs.
Internal organs are said to benefit from the vegetable. “Malunggay pods are dewormers, good for treating liver and spleen problems, pain of the joints, and malnutrition. Likewise, malunggay seeds treat arthritis, rheumatism, gout, cramp, STD, boils and urinary problems, and is a relaxant for epilepsy,” the senator added.
According to philippineherbalmedicine.org, the plant is anti-diabetic and anti-tumor: "There have been claims that malunggay can be used to lower blood pressure ... as well as its being an anti-tumor plant."
For these reasons, Legarda filed a bill at the Senate pushing for the production, processing, marketing, and distribution of malunggay to maximize the benefits of the underutilized tropical crop.
Under the proposed Senate Bill No. 1349, the Department of Agriculture (DA), in consultation with the Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), farmer’s groups, local government units, and the private sector, will be tasked to formulate a five-year Framework for Development focusing on developing malunggay for food, medicinal, health, and commercial needs.
|A moringa tree. Credit: fotosearch.com
Legarda explained, “Malunggay is one of the most useful tropical trees. The relative ease with which it propagates through both sexual and asexual means and its low demand for soil nutrients and water after being planted makes its production and management easy. “
She added that malunggay has agricultural and industrial benefits as well: its oil can be used as lubricant for fine machinery such as timepieces and can be used for stabilizing scents of perfumes.
Even the process of purifying drinking water can stand to gain something with malunggay. “The protein from the extracted malunggay oil is a natural polypeptide for sedimenting mineral particles and organics in the purification of drinking water, for cleaning vegetable oil, or for sedimenting fibers in the juice and beer industries," Legarda said.
The senator cited studies conducted by Biomasa, a technical university in Nicaragua, which showed that malunggay seeds can be used for the final treatment of waste water.
And for the agriculture industry, the plant may be used as a form of foliar spray to help accelerate the growth of young plants and make them more resistant to pests and diseases.
“We need to activate more malunggay nurseries and repositories all over the country," said Legarda. Her bill calls on the DA, in coordination with the DENR and municipalities, to identify areas suitable for the planting and propagation of malunggay.
Legarda also said efforts to link growers with markets through contract to buy arrangements should be pursued.
“Malunggay can be the solution to many of our country’s problems. Malunggay feeds, oils, fertilizes, heals, purifies and can generate income. Let’s take malunggay seriously, “ Legarda concluded.