HAVANA TIMES, Dec 19 — Since childhood I’ve been at the mercy of concoctions prepared from medicinal plants.
My grandmother and her remedies cured almost any malaise that afflicted me – whether using the herb vicaria for outbreaks of conjunctivitis (though this was eventually censured by doctors) or drinking anamu infusions for intestinal parasites, or soaking in llanten to heal cuts.
The use of so-called “green medicine” has always been important to my family, therefore every new property or application that was discovered and announced — either by the official media or word on the street — was immediately felt at home.
Some scientific studies found that there were significant amounts of antioxidants in Mango bark. There then came to light vimang, the medicine that was then in fashion, at least until the Noni fruit took center stage when it was claimed that it had 101 curative properties.
These days a new plant is in vogue: Moringa, the miracle of the moment.
What these three plants have in common is that they have been taken by the people as all-powerful drugs capable of countering everything from baldness to malignant tumors. In fact, despite those other attributes, their greatest values are as nutritional supplements.
The Moringa Oleifera, one of the most widespread plant species in Cuba, now has everybody going crazy. According to articles published on the internet, a Moringa leaf is more than 25 percent protein, which is as much as in eggs and twice the amount of milk.
It has four times the amount of vitamin A of carrots, four times the amount of calcium in milk, seven times the vitamin C of oranges, three times more potassium than bananas, and significant amounts of iron, phosphorus and other minerals.
At the same time as being used as animal feed, Moringa is used in many parts of the world to prevent malnutrition and to combat several diseases, such as childhood blindness associated with vitamin deficiencies and other essential dietary insufficiencies.
Additional benefits include its ornamental character, its high rate of growth, its easy cultivation, and the ability to withstand severe pruning.
Originally from northern India, it has been used in the Ayurvedic or the Hindu system of medicine for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans especially appreciated the healthy and cosmetic qualities of the oil that could be easily squeezed from its seeds.
During the past two decades it has been “discovered” in the Western world, and numerous studies have been conducted that are increasingly confirming the properties traditionally ascribed to the plant.
Miraculously, it’s said to have a pleasant taste and thus can be eaten fresh or prepared in different ways; plus, its green fruit, seeds and roots are also edible.
Since it was introduced into the national diet, it has begun to proliferate in recipes such as Moringa tea, Moringa corn stew, yellow rice with Moringa, scrambled Moringa; sautéed onion, pepper and buttered Moringa; and Moringa salad.
As people have started growing this tree in several provinces, it won’t be surprising if it appears in agro-markets in the future at high prices or if it takes the place of soy in our shopping carts – either as an oil, ground up or as yogurt.