And for those in developing countries, it may be a soap alternative all by itself.
Because moringa (Moringa oleifera) is a known water purifier, a team of researchers is exploring the plant’s antibacterial benefits for another human use. They think moringa may be a soap alternative.
Native to South Asia and parts of Africa, the moringa tree is used for most of its parts, including the seeds, flowers, fruit peels, and unripe pods. But the leaves, in particular, appear to have antibacterial activity against human pathogens. Anecdotal evidence suggests that moringa may be a useful hand-washing product, but in vivo science is not available to support this notion.
In what is likely the first human trial on moringa as a hand-washing product, researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine assigned 15 volunteers to wash their hands with liquid soap or moringa leaf powder in crossover style. By artificially applying E. coli to each hand, the researchers were able to detect whether moringa or soap would be effective in ridding the hands of at least this pathogen.
In both dried and wet forms, 2-3 g of moringa powder was not as effective as liquid soap, but 4 g managed to work as effectively as soap. The wet, water-based preparation worked better than the dry version, which may be explained by “the water’s effect in extracting more of the active component of the plant at the moment of hand cleansing.”
The authors presume that moringa’s effect is due to the plant’s natural content of tannins, phenols, alkaloids, and saponins, which are known for their detergent and surfactant properties.
Thanks to this study, moringa may just be an attractive ingredient for plant-based soap products. More importantly, though, it might serve as a soap alternative in developing countries where consumers can’t afford soap (but can grow moringa trees). The researchers behind this study are especially curious as to whether fresh leaves would be a more effective hand cleanser than manufactured leaf powder.