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Malungay Recipes for Malnourished Families

Page history last edited by ecop 10 years, 12 months ago


Malunggay and Its Wonders

By: David Lim





Description and Rationale


Malunggay- The Miracle Tree



There is a lot of poverty, lack of money, and malnourishment in the Philippines due to poor environments. After thinking a long time about what the most important thing that should be fixed was, I concluded that the malnourishment of children and adults is one of the most serious problems. It really hurts me to see malnourished children, adults, and the elderly lying around in the streets. I chose the malunggay plant to combat malnourishment because malunggay is one of the most nutrient-filled plants worldwide.

The malunggay tree is a native tree of the Philippines. Now, through the spread of seeds, the malunggay and its nutritious leaves can be found almost anywhere in the Philippines. It has also been introduced to other countries, either accidentally or deliberately.

What can the malunggay tree give to the people? Is it considered a pest-like tree to people who don’t know its benefits? Does it harm the environment in any way? Is the malunggay tree well-known? Is there some organism living on the tree that makes it difficult for the people to get to the leaves?

Might there be an delicious and easy cook way to eat malunggay? Every day, I see people take leaves from our malunggay tree, but do they have a delicious, and cheap way of eating it? Or are they eating it because it is a free source of food. Do malunggay leaves taste good when eaten raw? From personal experiments, I found out that malunggay leaves eaten raw has a slight bitter taste that may not match a hungry child’s appetite. If delicious ways to eat this plant are found, what would be the best ways to communicate these findings to the malnourished people of the Philippines? After some research, I found that malunggay tea is very easy to make, and need only boiling water and dried malunggay leaves. Another famous recipe that a lot of Filipinos cook and know how to cook is tinola. This broth includes malunggay, cayotes, and meat (or pumpkins). I think if the people are informed about the change that can occur in their lives when they start eating food with malunggay in it easily, more and more malunggay leaves will be eaten, and hence, the malnourishment rate decreases. Also, I will experiment and teach the Filipinos ways to take in malunggay, whether it is by food, or by drink.

The purpose of this project will be to research the biology and ecology of the malunggay plant found almost everywhere around the Philippines. I will search the literature as well as conduct firsthand observations and interviews with the malnourished people of the Philippines (with the assistance of a Tagalong-speaking interpreter). These initial findings will help guide the experimental phase, where key variables in different ways of eating malunggay for health will be further explored.

It is hoped that new uses of the previously unknown recipes of the malunggay plant will help improve the malnourishment rate of the Philippines through a more informed understanding of an abundant biological resource.









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Common Names and Synonyms

The malunggay tree is also called Moringa Oleifera. To diseased patients, the malunggay plant is also known as the miracle tree, due to the massive amounts of nutrients it can give to a sick person. The malunggay tree has multiplied nutrients of other healthy, beneficial food, even better than some. Other synonyms include benzolive (Haiti),  Arjanayiiri(Ivory coast), and kelor(Indonesian). 




Plantae (plants)


Tracheophyta (vascular plants)


Magnoliopsida (Dicotyledons)


Asterales(Dycotyledonous flowering plants)


Moringaceae(horse-radish family)


Moringa (a genus of trees of S.India and N.Africa, Its seeds are known to produce Ben oil.)


Moringa oleifera (drumstick tree or Ben oil Tree)


There are many different types of Moringa oleifera and characteristics differs between the countries it is in.



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Morphology and Physical Description


   Moringa oleifera is a tall, slender tree that can grow up to 10 meters in height. Its bark is corky, gummy, and has a whitish-brown stem with a diameter ranging from 6-9 inches. It is simple at the base and grows straight into the air. The malunggay tree has many branches branching off of the stem. The branches start to branch off about halfway up the tree. The trunk is not hairy like some other trees, because it is most found in lowlands, where the temperatures are warm unlike the cold temperatures of highlands.

           Its leaves are 1x2 centimeters and are small compared to the tree itself. They grow in clumps and bundles on branches, and is an example of compound leaves (smooth-edged leaves, and divided into leaflets). The leaves are almost hairless on the top, while hairless on the bottom.

           The flowers of this miracle tree buds as a pure white flower, but as it grows and matures, the stigma (the center of a flower) turns yellow. This plant flowers year around, and the flowers grow in panicles (irregularly branched clusters of flowers).





Smell and taste are the most mysterious of the five senses. An aroma creates a presence of well-being, physical, and psychological effect on humans, while a good taste can give someone relief and relaxation. The Moringa oleiferasmells similar to the plant horseradish, belonging in the same kingdom, phylum, etc. down to the order. The malunggay’s roots also taste similar to the horseradish plant. In one tablespoon of leaf powder contains 14% of the protein, 40% of the calcium, 23% of the iron and most of the vitamin A needs of a child aged one to three. In one tablespoon there are that many nutrients that the malunggay tree can give. Also, the NCP (Nutrition Center of the Philippines) found that the malunggay tree contains “horse iodine”, an extraordinary iron compound not found in leafy vegetables. This iron makes red blood cells and prevents anemia.  





Getting Food

Moringa oleifera are producers, which means that the Moringa oleifera are on the bottom of the food chain. Humans, herbivores, and insects feed on different part of this tree. The Moringa oleifera tree itself gets its food by getting water through its roots.. Moringa oleifera is an autotroph, which means it makes its own food; by photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the process of converting into organic compounds, especially glucose(sugar) by using the energy from sunlight. By doing this, this tree gives off something that humans, and animals need, oxygen.





Moringa oleifera trees are cultivated widely throughout Asia and other continents. These plants can be grown anywhere, and that is why it can be found anywhere. They are found on level grounds with its biophysical limits of 0-2000 meters above sea level. Moringa oleifera grow best under a full sun, but can also be grown in less-sunny habitats. Although these plants can be grown gregariously, or separately, it is not hard to take care of this plant. Often, people plant this tree near a water source where the roots can get to water, but is not grown in water. Moringa oleifera can be grown in your backyard, beside a playground, on the side of the road, even next to a garbage dump! Too much watering is harmful to the malunggay plant, so watering should be handled with care. 


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 Moringa oleifera trees are evergreen trees that flower throughout the year. They produce seeds abundantly and reproduce spontaneously. This tree can reproduce by stem planting, where a part of the stem is cut off and replanted in a different area, and a new tree will grow. This is the quickest and easiest way to re-grow the Moringa oleifera because the stem doesn’t have to form when stem planted. New roots grow and soon, leaves start sprouting. Also, pollination by insects is another way that this tree reproduces, because the strong pungent aromatic smell of this tree’s flower attracts pollinators such as butterflies and bees. Pollination by wind also occurs, as the stigma of Moringa oleifera’s flower can be easily be blown by the wind, therefore letting loose pollen that may land on its other branches. The life-span of Moringa oleifera is known to be around 20 years.



Environmental Factors

 Moringa oleifera trees grow almost anywhere and is not actually considered a pest-like tree to poorer people. Some people think this tree as a “pioneer plant”, first species to colonize a new territory. This is because the Moringa oleifera can grow in any habitat, and can reproduce by stem planting. This tree suffers from Noorda blitealis(Budworm) Indarbela quadrinotat(Hairy caterpillar), Diplodia(Root rot) and Cochliobolus hawaiiensis(fruit rot). Moringa oleifera is also a host to Leveillula taurica, a powdery mildew that causes serious damage to papayas, especially in south india. Some examples of symbiotic relationships it has are with the bees. Bees receive sweet pollen from the flowers, while also picking up pollen and fertilizing surrounding flowers to make more eggs.



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Origin and Distribution

The cultivation of Moringa oleifera has been found from India to Indo-China, Egypt, and  in the Philippines for the purpose of food and nutrition. In the Philippines, Moringa oleifera is mainly used in Tinola (a main dish that is cooked with chicken, malunggay leaves, and green papayas) and can be found in provincial areas. There are many historical records of Moringa oleifera being used for medicinal and food purposes. In 2000B.C. , there is a description of Moringa oleifera as a medicinal herb, and it was known to prevent 300 diseases. Also on the island of Jamaica in 1817, a petition was sent out to the government to allow the entry of m Moringa oleifera into Jamaica because it was known to be useful for salads, and culinary salads. Also, the oil taken from the seeds is similar to the Florence oil, giving a clear light without smoke. Since it was getting popular in many countries, and because of the easy stem planting method, the Moringa oleifera was brought to India’s surrounding countries like Egypt, Mediterranean, and finally to America.



Importance to People

Moringa oleifera are widely used for food, medicine, and many other purposes. This plant is commonly used medically in forms of teas and capsules.

           The recognition of the value of largely beneficial plants helps promote the conservation of forest diversity aside from serving as helpful plants to people. The cultivation of this miracle tree dramatically changed the health of the people who were malnutrition, and the economic status of poor farming families. Without the expensive paymet of medication and hospital bills, they were able to support their family and they were able to send more of their children to school.

           Moringa oleifera plants are popularly known as a medicine that helps cure and prevent cancer; in the Philippines, a lot of women have breast cancer, and in hospitals, they can use Moringa oleifera to help cure or prevent the cancer from spreading. None of the Moringa oleifera are gone to waste; all parts are used for different areas as a cure. The bark from the stem can be used to make paper, the root, leaves, and the pods are used for food, and the “ben oil” extracted from the roots is favored for its ability to absorbing and retaining odors, and is favored by watchmakers for its long lasting lubricant. The dried, powdered seeds can be used as a cheap water purifier, and almost all the parts of this “miracle tree” have some kind of medicinal value.

           This tree also provides food for people who can’t usually afford food. For example, Moringa oleifera grown in Africa or in the desert feeds native people, and also gives them a lot of nutrients. 



Survivability and Endangered Status

Moringa oleifera trees are found regularly in many territories. Even though it can be a home to many kinds of worms and termites, its ability to reproduce by stem planting keeps the Moringa oleifera safe from being endangered. Because Moringa oleifera trees are being carefully examined  by doctors, scientists, and active herbal farmers, its survivability rates have been increased. Therefore Moringa oleifera is most likely to be protected, and remain important in the Philippines also, where the Moringa oleifera or malunggay flourishes. 

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Potential Solutions

Are there ways for the people with limited money to eat food that benefits the body and provides it with nutrients? Are there a lot of cheap nutrients-filled meals that are easily accessible? Malunggay, also known as Moringa oleifera, is easily accessible everywhere in the Philippines. In a urban-poor town in the Philippines, called tangos, Malunngay can be easily bought in any market. There is a special Philippines traditional food called tinolang manok. It’s a broth with chicken, green papaya slices, and many malunggay leaves. Even though it is traditional, not everyone can afford to buy chicken or any type of meat to finish the meal. Below are three other cost efficient possibilities to eat malunggay with an analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of each.


Possibility 1

Solution 1 Malunggay Tea


Many herbal medicines are taken by tea, so I decided malunggay tea would be easy to make, even for people who wouldn’t be able to get their hands on actual tea bags. All that is required is malunggay leaves, water, and a boiler.




1)    Almost no money is required to make malunggay tea, and when boiled, all the nutrients are still present, and still help the body.

2)    When making tea, the leaves that have been used can easily be used once or twice more, therefore making more than one cup of tea. This allows the tea-maker to share the excess tea with others.



1)    For some people, tea does not match their taste. If this happens, people would not drink it more than once.

2)    Once people make the tea leaves, they would have to keep them in an air-tight container to prevent all the vitamins inside. There are possibilities that people in Tangos would not be able to obtain such a container, and also, making sure that it stays airtight may be a troublesome for them.

3)    Would cost more money, and time than to drink soda, or just water.



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Possibility 2

Solution 2 Malunggay Juice


           Malunggay Juice is another possibility for the intake of malunggay. The main ingredients would be malunggay leaves, sugar, and ice, if desired. Since days in the Philippines are hot, more of the people would like juice more than tea, mainly because it would be cold, rather than hot.



1)    More children and adults would like juice because it is a sweeter way to drink malunggay. People in tangos and Filipinos in general love drinking and eating sweet things. This way, they would prefer this drink over water.

2)    This is an easy-to-make and cost efficient way to use malunggay. Not only can this be drunk, but also can be frozen as a special treat for children, and can be used as dessert.




1)    Making this costs more money, and time than going out to a sari-sari store and buying a glass of coke. Children and adults in Tangos prefer soft drinks over any kind of beverages, especially on a hot day, or when eating a meal

2)    To make it more delicious for themselves, and their children, more sugar input may be added than usual. This would cause the advantages of Moringa oleifera juice to disappear, and have no effect on the body.

3)    It would be hard for the people who are making the malunggay juice to get the perfect concentration by boiling. If one were to make the juice, one would have to boil the leaves as making tea, but add sugar and ice. It would be hard to boil it just right, so the juice has the right nutrients, and is beneficial to the body


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Possibility 3

           In many countries, Moringa oleifera oil is not uncommonly used in food making. If people do not like the flavor of the malunggay in their meals, why not use M. oleifera oil to make their food?



1)    People who do not like the taste of malunggay, or do not like vegetables at all (common among many Filipinos), the malunggay oil extract can be used to make the food, without adding its taste to it.

2)    This kind of oil is much healthier than the cheap, unhealthy oil that most urban-poor people buy and use. Since many of their food are fried, like fish and eggs, the healthier the oil they use, the more healthier the eater becomes



1)    The Moringa oleifera oil, also known as Ben oil, is extracted from the seeds of the plant. The seed is enclosed in a covering, and to take out the seed without destroying it often requires a complex machine, which may cost quite a lot.

2)    The oil extracted from the seeds will not have as many nutrients as when eating the leaves itself. If wanting to get healthier and get nutrients, it would be more rewarding by eating the leaves rather than using the oil. 



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2)      "Malunggay."Malunggay for Nutrition and Health. Web. 11 Apr. 2011. http://www.malunggay.com/description.htm



3)      "Malunggay / Ben Oil Tree / Moringa Oleifera: Philippine Herbal Medicine / Philippine Alternative Medicine / StuartXchange."StuartXchange - SX - Godofredo Umali Stuart's Cyber Warehouse. Web. 11 Apr. 2011. http://www.stuartxchange.com/Malunggay.html



4)      Murray, Michael T. "Horseradish."Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 13 Apr. 2011. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horseradish


5)      "Growing Malunggay or Moringa | AgriPinoy.net." Agripinoy.net. Web. 13 Apr. 2011. http://www.agripinoy.net/growing-malunggay-or-moringa.html


6)    "About Malunggay Pods."Welcome To Filipino Vegetarian Recipe!Web. 13 Apr. 2011. http://www.filipinovegetarianrecipe.com/food-and-drink/about-malunggay-pods.php


7)    "Moringa Oleifera."Moringa Oleifera. Web. 16 Apr. 2011. http://www.wiley-vch.de/books/sample/3527321411_kap1.pdf


8)      C. Ramachandran, and C. R P. K. Gopalakrishnan. "Drumstick (Moringa Oleifera)."Springerlink.com. Web. 16 Apr. 2011. http://www.springerlink.com/content/g796q33j713110n0/


9)      "Moringa Oleifera - History."Index. Web. 16 Apr. 2011. http://www.moringafarms.com/history.htm


10)  "MoringaOleifera.Org(Umbber Herbal Products)."Moringa Oleifera - Miracle Tree. Web. 16 Apr. 2011. http://www.moringaoleifera.org/moringa.php


11) "Moringa Oleifera (Benzolive Tree (Usa))."Welcome to ZipcodeZoo. Web. 17 Apr. 2011. http://zipcodezoo.com/Plants/M/Moringa_oleifera/


12)  Websters Online Dictionary. Web. 17 Apr. 2011. http://www.websters-online-dictionary.org/definitions/Moringa?cx=partner-pub-0939450753529744:v0qd01-tdlq&cof=FORID:9&ie=UTF-8&q=Moringa&sa=Search#922






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