Can Moringa change the face of AIDS?

Posted by Agatha / on 06/03/2009 / 0 Comments

  (Paulo Coelho)

  "The hardest thing to see is what is in front of your eyes." Goethe

Tree of the Millenium

Another World AIDS Day come and gone December 1st. Another opportunity to shine some light on a disease whose origins are as murky as the various strategies for controlling it and ending its legacy of multi-generational suffering. According to an ALTERNET article, twenty-five years after HIV/AIDS was first identified, 33 million people are living with the virus. Most are in sub-Saharan Africa but the virus is spreading fast in Asia and Eastern Europe.

 

  • Most HIV+ people don't know they're infected
  • Women make up nearly 60 percent of new infections in sub-Saharan Africa

•Anti-retroviral drugs reach only 31 percent of those who need them

 

While some countries have been successful at containing the virus - including Brazil, Uganda and Cuba - others are experiencing soaring infection levels. Swaziland has the highest level of infection - a quarter of people aged 15 to 49.

The good news is that some of the worst-affected countries - Burkina Faso, Kenya, Haiti and Zimbabwe - have recently reduced their infection rates.

But as infection levels continue to rise, international controversies rage over issues such as drug-pricing and the promotion of condom use.

On a local level, AIDS workers have to grapple with social stigma as well as shortages of medical staff and drugs. [Courtesy of Reuters AlertNet 12.2.08]

One tiny light that keeps sputtering in the wilderness of AIDS treatment and improving health is from a still relatively unknown or under-utilized tree, a tree that could offset medical staff and drug shortages.  Although native to some of the poorest countries on the planet, where most AIDS or HIV infected populations occur, little is known in the "corporate philanthropy" circles about this completely underwhelming tree that grows on the poorest soils, requiring little to no nutrient inputs and sparse water yet provides a litany of life supporting products unlike any other plant I've encountered. This "miracle" tree as it has been called by many in the field, is the Moringa tree, specifically Moringa oleifera.  Why miracle tree? Because all parts of the tree are edible and useful and those uses can counteract so much suffering.

Moringa flower

I was first introduced to the Moringa tree by an amazing couple we'll talk more about in a post or two, Hank Bruce and Tomi Folk of Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Hank and Tomi are the founders and primary facilitators for Hunger Grow Away and wrote what many consider a definitive work on lesser known and higher quality nutritional foods for family gardens and small farms called Global Gardening. Among the memorable and highly energized conversations we've had over the years, one topic we always come back to is this tree. There are 13 species of Moringa in the world but for Hank and Tomi and for many thousands of us around the world, the Moringa oleifera contains the answer to many issues that tenaciously squeeze the life out of those living in many countries right above and below the Equator and all around the world.

What follows are just a few of its qualities. And while the US medical-scientific community is not yet on board with some of these uses, I suggest readers scroll all the way to the bottom for a look at all the scientific papers that are coming forth from all around the world verifying these and many other attributes of this scraggly, unassuming, yet powerfully significant tree.

Are you ready?

  • Experts agree Moringa leaf powder could virtually wipe out malnutrition. The countries with the highest rates of malnutrition are almost all the same countries where Moringa grows best-exactly where it is needed the most.
  • Moringa leaves, gram for gram, contain 7 times the amount of Vitamin C in oranges, 4 times the Vitamin A in carrots, 4 times the calcium in milk, 3 times the potassium in bananas, 2 times the protein in yoghurt, and an entire multivitamin complex of Vitamin A through Zinc, all the essential ammino acids plus arginine and histidine, two essential amino acids for infants.
  • Other attributes of the moringa tree include (take a deep breath): cooking oil, high protein animal fodder, disease prevention, ointment, fertilizer, insecticide, herbicide, lubricant, dye, plant growth enhancers, food condiment, honey production and honey clarifier, cosmetic grade oil, wind barrier and erosion control, biogas production.
  • The list of illnesses thus far that have been proven to benefit from Moringa include: anemia, anxiety, asthma, blackheads, blood impurities, blood pressure, bronchitis, cholera, colitis, conjunctivitis, diabetes, diarrhea, dysentery, eye and ear infections, fever, gonorrhea, intestinal worms, jaundice, malaria, inflammation of joints, respiratory disorders, scurvy, skin infections, stomach ulcers, tuberculosis, tumors. And this is the short list.
  • Moringa seeds contain a cationic polyelectrolyte that has proved efficient in water treatment as a substitute for aluminum sulphate and other flocculents.
  • And, moringa seeds are being used in the prevention and treatment of AIDS with good results. A study from the 1990's indicated that there was a connection between forms of malnutrition and the likelihood of contracting AIDS. More recently, information is surfacing about the use of the seeds in directly improving the health of AIDS and HIV infected persons.

So why isn't the Gates Foundation or the Center for Disease Control talking about this or doing more studies to refine how Moringa could be used? I don't know exactly.  I'm forwarding this blog post to several organizations reputed to deal expressly with finding a cure for AIDS or treating AIDS.  Maybe using something as simple and plain ugly as a native tree seed to help end one of the planets most vile pan-demics (outside of hunger) is just not, well, very flashy.  Maybe it's because it wouldn't cost much to underwrite the growing of these amazing tree shrubs for clinics, schools, orphanages or as plantations of commercial enterprises.  Maybe it's because these other folks didn't know about it first. But now you will.

By far the most inspiring introduction to Moringa is through the Trees for Life website, a forum for all types of scientific trials, papers, studies that have been done or need to be done. It's public access and it's free.

On the Moringa News network you can join a free forum of many years duration that covers everything about Moringa that you can possibly want to know with contacts to some of the most notable names in humanitarian research and appropriate technology and development. Like my friends, Hank and Tomi, most of the folks on the network are doers and sharers.  Some are entrepeneurs and those in developing areas are encouraged to look at the economic benefits of growing Moringa. Many are humanitarian workers seeking practical solutions to problems they face. A few are marketing products already developed with Moringa leaf powder or oil. (I use both and I highly recommend the powder as a nutritional supplement.)

Yet when I look at the leaves of Moringa oleifera in photos or in front of me I see something else. I see answers, solutions to so many issues. And the cost is practically nothing. No, the Moringa isn't very flashy or romantic or complicated. For many who have suffered for years from malnutrition, they did not know that this tree which was growing in their backyards or along a path was even edible.  That information had been lost to them until someone from the outside informed them of its many benefits and taught them how to use it.  Sadly, it was right under their noses all along and they did not realize how it could have helped them.

Maybe that's what keeps big money research companies from looking into Moringa more closely: it's too common.  It won't cost alot to grow.  It doesn't take much care.  It doesn't require high inputs of organic nutrients or water, in fact, it prefers to live on scarcity. Nearly all parts of the tree can be utilized and it grows very fast.  And the abundance of its benefits is truly miraculous.

My hope for next year on World AIDS Day? That those with all the millions of dollars will put that money into finding simpler solutions from something that is right in plain sight if they'll look up from the electron microscopes, out the boardroom windows or away from computer-generated models long enough to see that just over there in the distance may be at least part of the solution they've dreamed of all along.

[This begins a long but not exhaustive list of articles and research on Moringa. It is to assist you in seeing the many benefits, encourage you to do more research as well as generate conversations between you and any non-profits, humanitarian organizations, foundations, research institutions or clergy with whom you are connected. The Earth has provided us with an amazing plant to assist us in ending so many aspects of suffering--if we are willing.]

Moringa Book produced by Trees For Life International

 

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