Truffle, a European delicacy, is often a part of haute cuisine. While truffles are a splurge for most people, mushrooms are ubiquitous in cuisines around the world. What is common between truffles and mushrooms? Both are fungi. Yes, they are the same species as the fungi that appears as black/ green patches on stale bread, soups, and even on the human body (e.g. Tinea, ringworm). Unfortunately, unlike mushroom and truffles, most fungi are harmful to health and difficult to treat.

But the good news: a plant called Moringa oleifera. Apart from providing innumerable health benefits, protein, vitamins, antioxidants, and other macro and micro nutrients- giving it a place as one of the most nutritious superfoods on the planet- Moringa also exhibits anti-fungal properties.

In general, these fungi live in the dead, top layer of skin cells in moist areas of the body, such as between the toes, the groin, and under the breasts. Usually fungal infections cause minor irritation; however, other types of fungal infections could be more serious. Recently, it has been reported that China has been using the Moringa as an herbal medicine to treat athlete’s foot and tinea. (P. –H. Chang et al, 2007)

Some other studies in support of Moringa’s anti fungal properties:

In a study published in the Ciência Rural journal[1], the researchers aimed to evaluate the anti-fungal activity of Moringa oleifera extracts against fungi isolated from farmed prawns and to test the toxicity of the extracts in the larvae of Macrobrachium amazonicum ( a South American prawn). To determine this, the researchers tested two distinct extracts of pods, seeds, leaves, stems and flowers of Moringa oleifera against multiple strains of different yeast species. The results showed that the distinct Moringa oleifera extracts presented difference in anti-fungal activity against each of the yeast species and the extracts of each part of the plant showed varying amounts of toxicity in the larvae.

Other researchers [2][3][4], also experimented with moringa extracts against different species of fungi to determine the anti-fungal activity. Some of the common yeast are :

  • Yeast used for brewing and baking – Saccharomyces cerevisiae;
  • Microscope-Leeuwenhoek-Yeast
  • Yeast commonly found in the normal gut flora and can cause infections in the oral and genital regions – Candida albicans;             
1024px-Candida_albicans_PHIL_3192_lores

Candida albicans                                              

  • Yeast causing Athlete’s foot and infections in other parts of the body; namely, hands, feet, face, groin and nails – Trichophyton rubrum and Trichophyton mentagrophytes.
Trichophyton_rubrum_var._rodhaini_PHIL_4248_lores

Trichophyton rubrum

Again, from S.R.N.M.N College of Applied Sciences, India [5], investigated the efficiency of the anti-fungal activity of steam distillate of moringa (Steam distillation is a separation process for isolating essential oils for e.g., by passing steam through the plant containing the desired oils) and the raw form of the plant. It was found that the inhibition of fungi was more with distillate as compared to the raw form.

Again, T.R. Prashith Kekuda et al., 2007, from S.R.N.M.N College of Applied Sciences, India [5], investigated the efficiency of the anti-fungal activity of steam distillate of moringa (Steam distillation is a separation process for isolating essential oils for e.g., by passing steam through the plant containing the desired oils) and the raw form of the plant. It was found that the inhibition of fungi was more with distillate as compared to the raw form.

How Moringa works to destroy fungal cells:

Plants use several strategies to overcome fungal attacks, including production of antimicrobial proteins and peptides. In general, these defense-related proteins interfere with the fungal life cycle by either impairing growth or killing the pathogen. Chitin Binding Proteins (CBPs) represent a group of proteins found in plants and some of them have the ability to inhibit fungal growth, as they bind to and disrupt the proper function of chitin, a key component of the fungal cell wall (Adelina B. Batista, et al, 2014).

Mo-CBP3 is a chitin-binding protein isolated from Moringa oleifera Lam. seeds. It has potent antifungal activity at low concentrations and has great potential for the development of new antifungal drugs or transgenic crops with enhanced resistance to phytopathogens (Adelina B. Batista, et al, 2014).

A study conducted by P.-H. Chuang et al. (2007) determined that, both crude leaf extract and subfractions had little effect on dermatitis; whereas, both essential oil and seed extracts have anti-fungal properties on specific fungi species. The study also discovered that fungal cells, when being treated with 70% ethanol crude extract of Moringa oleifera seed for 24 hours, rupture the cytoplasmic membrane and seriously damage the intercellular components. However the intracellular components did not leak out, indicating that extracted compounds interacted with lipid bilayers in membranes lead to separation of two membranes (outer and inner membranes). Subsequently, water dips into the cells, which cause cells to swell more and leads to fungal cell death.

Thus, to summarize, Moringa exhibits fungicidal activity and many countries such as China and India has already been using them for different dermatological infections. So, why not other parts of the world enjoy its benefits too! It is never too late to start using moringa. By incorporating moringa vegetable powder in your diet, you can not only relish your meals more, but also enjoy the added health benefits it provides. Since moringa is a plant, it is well suited for people with special dietary needs such as vegetarians, vegans, paleo, and gluten-free. The best part is- simply add to regular smoothies, curries, homemade sauces, and spreads, eat it, and start feeling great.

References Citations:
1. Marcos Fábio Gadelha Rocha, et al, Moringa oleifera inhibits growth of Candida spp. and Hortaea werneckii isolated from Macrobrachium amazonicum prawn farming with a wide margin of safety, Ciência Rural, Santa Maria, v.44, n.12, p.2197-2203, dez, 2014, http://www.scielo.br/pdf/cr/v44n12/0103-8478-cr-44-12-02197.
2. Pina Patel, et al, Phytochemical Analysis and Antifungal activity of Moringa Oleifera, International Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences ISSN- 0975-1491 Vol 6, Issue 5, 2014. http://www.ijppsjournal.com/Vol6Issue5/9066
3. M.O. Nwosu and J.I. Okafor, Preliminary studies of the antifungal activities of some medicinal plants against Basidiobolus and some other pathogenic fungi, Mycoses, Volume 38, Issue 5-6, pages 191–195, May 1995. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1439-0507.1995.tb00048.x/abstract;jsessioni
4. H.M.Chen, et al, Antifungal activity of crude extracts and essential oil of Moringa oleifera Lam, Bioresource Technology, Volume 98, Issue 1, January 2007, Pages 232–236. ttp://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/
5. T.R. Prashith Kekuda et al., Antibacterial and Antifungal efficacy of steam distillate of Moringa oleifera Lam, Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research, Volume 2, Issue 1, Pages 34-37, 2010, http://www.jpsr.pharmainfo.in/Documents/Volumes/Vol2Issue1/jpsr02011005