Moringa is a plant native to the Indian subcontinent. It is grown as a vegetable and an ingredient in traditional medicines. It is referred to as a ‘drumstick tree’ due to the shape of its seed pods.
Moringa has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetes, heart-protective, and digestive benefits. Some studies claim it is also anti-cancer and protects the liver, bones, joints, and brain. However, the most controversial is its action on thyroid functioning.
In this article, we will look at what science says about moringa’s thyroid-protective benefits.
Disclaimer: Irrespective of what Hippocrates said, food is not medicine; the two serve different purposes. Do not consume any food item in lieu of your medications. Use the information in this article to learn about the benefits, read more from the reference links, and have a healthy discussion with your doctor. Only after her consent can you incorporate that food into your diet; don’t do it on your own.
Your thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate the body’s metabolic rate (energy generation), growth, and development. It helps in heart action, bone health, digestion, brain development, and muscle activity.
There are three main hormones involved in thyroid function. Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) stimulates the thyroid gland to produce two hormones, T3 and T4. The latter needs to be converted into T3, which is the actual (active) hormone used by the body.
The final goal is normal T3 levels.
When your thyroid is underactive, it is called hypothyroid. Exhibit 1 below shows some symptoms of hypothyroidism. The opposite of this is called overactive or hyperthyroid.
Nutrients in Moringa
Moringa leaves are the most nutritious followed by seed pods (drumsticks), both of which have many antioxidant and anti-inflammatory plant compounds.
Moringa and Thyroid Function
The effects of moringa consumption on the thyroid hormone T3 are all over the place.
- In one study, compounds in moringa were found to disrupt thyroid hormone production after prolonged consumption. This effectively caused hypothyroid symptoms.
- Another study showed that moringa reduced the conversion of thyroid hormone T4 into T3. This is thought to cause hypothyroid symptoms in normal people (implying worsening) and reduced symptoms in hyperthyroid patients (implying improvement).
In conflict with the above findings:
- A study showed that in high doses, moringa improved the thyroid hormone profile in hypothyroidism.
- Similarly, in people who have a damaged thyroid gland, moringa improved thyroid hormone levels. Such injury can be caused by surgery, radiation (cancer treatment), or autoimmunity (in which your immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys your thyroid gland).
If I were you, I would not try to conclude anything from these results. Some of these studies were done on animals, and some others were too small to be chest-thumping conclusive. They tell me that it is not clear whether moringa helps or harms in thyroid problems.
In my view, when in doubt, one should stay out: People with thyroid issues should avoid consuming moringa until there is more clarity.
By the way, if you read on some health website that Moringa is great for the thyroid because it is packed with selenium, ignore that point. Moringa can give you just about 1.5% of your daily selenium need—a hundred grams of it will give you 0.7 micrograms and you need 40 micrograms a day!
How Much Moringa to Consume?
If you have normal thyroid function:
- You can consume up to two and a half cups (sixty grams) of fresh moringa leaves daily.
- Instead, you can consume two teaspoons (twelve grams) of dried leaf powder, since the leaves have eighty per cent water.
- The third option is to consume a hundred grams of fresh seed pods (drumsticks) a day.
- As always, it is good to rotate your vegetable consumption and have different healthy vegetables on different days.
Most of the information in this article is taken from my upcoming book to be published by Macmillan Publishers in Nov 2023. The book discusses a thousand such preventive health tidbits. It covers twenty superfoods, their nutrients, health benefits, recommended amounts and excess levels. It also explains how to select and store and who should avoid them. Some of the superfoods are tomatoes, coconut, capsicum (Shimla mirch), drumsticks, amla (Indian gooseberry), jamun (Java plum), turmeric, cinnamon, flax seeds, asafoetida (hing), and sabja (sweet basil seeds).
To Read More
- MedicalNewsToday: Why is moringa good for you?
- Healthline: 6 Science-Based Health Benefits of Moringa oleifera
- On this Website: How to understand the evidence from clinical trials of nutrients
- On this Website: Recommended dietary intakes of various nutrients
- On this Website: Nutrients that work together
First Published on: 22nd July 2023
Image Credit: Alongkorn Tengsamut from Pixabay