Moringa Research Explores New Territory

by Jenni Hodges, Public Relations Writer

Biology major Austin Bush will complete a research project in May that evaluates the antioxidant capacity of the Moringa tree. Some scientists believe this plant may help alleviate malnutrition in African and Asian nations, but assistant professor of biology Mark Gathany said this aspect of the plant’s nutritional value has not yet been investigated.

Bush, a junior from Des Moines, Iowa, grew the plant from seed and collaborated with assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences Denise Simpson to determine the composition of its stem, leaves and roots. Simpson specializes in research of natural drug sources and provided Bush with advanced lab equipment for his analysis.

The Moringa plant, also known as the “Miracle Tree,” is highly valued for its nutrition and medicinal uses, especially in countries with widespread drought. Nearly all parts of the fast-growing plant are edible and rich in nutrients.

According to a BBC report, Moringa trees have lately been more widely used for fence posts than sustenance. Based on new information, however, World Vision and other aid agencies are bringing the tree to new regions and exploring ways to cultivate Moringa as a full-time crop.

Bush said he became interested in alternative medicine after a medical missions trip to Paraguay last summer. During his five-week trip, Bush encountered another plant that the indigenous people used for its supposed medicinal value.

As he prepares for medical school, Bush said he wants to explore the role of nutrition in healthy living. He also believes Americans can gain medical knowledge and discover valuable alternatives from traditional remedies from around the world.

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