Moringa is a small genus comprising 13 species of trees and shrubs distributed in Africa and Asia. Moringa species have a broad variety of uses in medicine, food, cosmetics and oil production. Various parts possess many medicinal uses, pharmacological activities and provide sources of numerous medicinal compounds. Moringa oleifera is the best known and most widely distributed species in the genus and is the most popular and promising due to its multifarious beneficial uses. Over the past two decades, many reports have appeared in mainstream scientific journals documenting the nutritional and medicinal properties of this species. Organizations have also promoted and advocated M. oleifera as a “miracle tree” and as a result it has gained growing international interest. However, the Moringa genus includes 12 other species that have not yet been fully explored and recognized even though they have shown great potential and diversity as medicinal plants. Although, M. oleifera holds much promise in contributing to medicine and in alleviating malnutrition around the world; a genus of more potentially valuable and beneficial species remain almost unexamined and deserve further research into their uses. There is a large wealth of indigenous knowledge about the medicinal properties of the family, but further scientific investigation is warranted to confirm the indications of traditional practices. This review will present a compilation of available literature on the traditional medicinal uses, pharmacology and phytochemistry of all 13 species of the family and will highlight the importance of protecting these threatened species.
Key words: Moringaceae, Moringa oleifera, traditional medicine, pharmacology, phytochemistry.
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