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Moringa - Protects skin from pollution

Reviewed by Marta July 16, 2008 6 Comments
When we decided to launch Truth in Aging's Anti-Aging Olympics, the first thing that came to my mind was pollution. Beijing's smoggy skyline regularly exceeds the WHO's air quality guideline level by as much as three times. Beijing isn't even the worst offender; it is the 13th most polluted city, with Cairo topping the list. Although New York may not have made it into the top thirteen, I know that my skin is being assaulted by polluted air every day, and so I decided to look for a product that could offer real protection.


When airborne pollutants come into contact with skin they can cause a number of adverse conditions including blemishes, irritation, and possibly rosacea. Cosmetics manufacturers typically address these effects with skin-soothing ingredients. But I wanted to know if there is something that could actually get to the root of the problem. The result of my research is a really exciting find: moringa seed extract.

The moringa tree is native to northern India. Packed with an abundance of potassium, iron, vitamin A and other nutrients, it is quite remarkable. Its leaves (which, unusually for a tree, are pure protein), pods and flowers have seven times the vitamin C found in oranges, four times the vitamin A of carrots and three times the potassium of bananas. Some people believe that if you planted enough of them, moringas could be the solution for world hunger. In addition to all of this, moringa seeds (pictured above) have been used for centuries to purify water.

Moringa works as a coagulant, gathering pollutants into lumps (floc is the technical term) that can be easily filtered. It is also an antimicrobial agent. Studies since the 1970s have shown that it can rid a well of 90% of impurities. This was beginning to look like something that could stand between me and New York cab fumes. And it gets better. Moringa is jammed with a cytokinin called zeatin.

Cytokinins are plant hormones that help cells divide and protect against oxidation. Zeatin is the most powerful of all cytokinins. According to a 2004 Danish study, zeatin helps promote small cell size, a key component to more youthful skin. It also influences the structural and functional integrity of the cell, and prevents accumulation of macromolecular damage in the cell. The study found that zeatin increases the activity of some antioxidant enzymes, counteracting the free radical-induced oxidative damage incurred during cell aging.

So which plant has more zeatin than any other? Moringa not only contains thousands of times more zeatin than any other known plant, it is also the most nutritious plant discovered to date, with over 90 nutritional compounds including 46 antioxidants and 36 anti-inflammatories.

Unfortunately, moringa hasn't made it onto the radar of many cosmetic companies. Nevertheless, I did find a few promising-looking products. Fresh has an In-flight Kit, which includes a face mask to be applied as soon as possible after take-off. The key ingredient is moringa. Elemis makes something called Cellular Recovery, which comes in little moringa-filled capsules. I even found a moringa-based shampoo from REN.

  • July 1, 2015

    by Carole

    I'm the old, drunken sot who sent off an inquiry to Mr Ravi at Ramona Cosmaceuticals (Google it) in the wee small hours. The sample pack I received was extensive including moringa oil, powder and capsules, apple seed oil, pungai seed oil and neem oil along with other products I'd never heard of. The minimum quantity to purchase is 25kg which will cost you approx. $46.00 per kilo plus taxes etc. To receive a sample you must pay postage and import duty. That's if it would get through U.S. customs! However Mr Ravi is charming and I suspect his enterprise in Tamil Nadu needs all the support it can get in these troubled times. Alternatively get some seed from him and those in the hotter, drier parts of the U.S.A could start a plantation!

    P.S. I took a moringa capsule with some wine and it had all the pleasant effects of amphetamine without any of the downers. With friends like me no wonder Marta needs all the creams she can get.

  • July 1, 2015

    by Synergie

    Some friends in Arizona grow it in their backyard and they send us a whole bunch. Apparently the trees produce quite a crop of drumsticks. I was mentioning it to her today and she told me that both her mom and my dad's mom used had a tree in their gardens when they were growing up. Her mom used to use a poultice made out of the leaves for sprains and other kiddie injuries. The leaves were also used in the lentils (Pappu or Dahl)that make up a staple curry for every meal. It is supposed to be very healthy.

    I bought them in a can and frozen when I was at school. (The drumsticks not the leaves) I think they're pretty much standard in Indian grocery stores nowadays. Though we cook with the sticks cut into small pieces themselves, and then basically chew on the cooked stick to extract the seeds and the other stuff, marrow for lack of another word from the middle.

    She thinks it is hilarious that I just bought the body butter from The Body Shop. :-)

  • July 1, 2015

    by marta

    I love to cook Indian. Where does your mom get her moringa (drumseed) from?

  • July 1, 2015

    by synergie

    Or you can just eat it :-) My mom makes a South Indian curry with it, one of my favorites. It is known as drumsticks and its quite fun to eat :-) (As well as yummy.)

  • July 1, 2015

    by Marta

    An old friend of mine had the same thought after reading my first post on it. Unfortunately, it was about midnight and she'd had a few glasses of wine. The end result being she ended up with industrial sized samples being sent from India by an unfortunate merchant who is under the illusion that she will become his European distributor. She brought in on herself, what can I say.

  • July 1, 2015

    by Stan

    This is an amazing plant. I wonder if we can find moringa extract and add it to our own potions. We should keep this one on our must have list.

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