Promising features of Moringa oleifera oil: recent updates and perspectives
© The Author(s). 2016
Received: 1 November 2016
Accepted: 17 November 2016
Published: 8 December 2016
Lipids are the concentrated source of energy, fat soluble vitamins, essential fatty acids, carriers of flavours and many bio-active compounds with important role in maintaining physiological functions of biological body. Moringa oleifera is native to Himalaya and widely grown in many Asian and African countries with seed oil content range from 35–40%. Moringa oleifera oil (MOO) has light yellow colour with mild nutty flavour and fatty acids composition suggests that MOO is highly suitable for both edible and non-edible applications. MOO is extremely resistant to autoxidation which can be used as an antioxidant for the long term stabilization of commercial edible oils. Thermal stability of MOO is greater than soybean, sunflower, canola and cottonseed oils. High oleic contents of MOO are believed to have the capability of increasing beneficial HDL cholesterol and decreased the serum cholesterol and triglycerides. MOO applications have also been explored in cosmetics, folk medicines and skin care formulations. Overall, this review focuses on commercial production status, food applications, antioxidant characteristics, health benefits, thermal stability, fractionation, cholesterol contents, medicinal, nutraceutical action, toxicological evaluation, biodiesel production, personal care formulations and future perspectives of the MOO for the stake holders to process and utilize MOO as a new source of edible oil for industrial purpose.
Oil content of Moringa oleifera oil and some vegetable oils
Fatty acid profile of Moringa oleifera oil and some vegetable oils
Comparison of chemical characteristics of Moringa oleifera oil with some vegetable oils
1.0 + 10
3.5 + 35
3.2 + 33
1.3 + 13
1.2 + 12
1.0 + 10
Commercial production status
The situation of food insecurity is getting worst day by day, in future, feeding of ever increasing human population perhaps would be the most difficult task. On the other hand, resources of foods are drying. According to an estimate, about 2 billion humans will be added to the population of Asia and Africa . In addition to other nutritional requirements, fats and oils must be consumed in sufficient concentration to fulfil the body’s requirements . Natures has gifted about 500,000 edible oil producing plants, it is worth mentioning that only 12 are being utilized for commercial production and processing. In view of the existing situation of food insecurity in the third world countries, new sources of edible oils must be discovered. Moringa oleifera (Drum Stick) is extensively grown in tropical and subtropical regions of Asia and Africa . Soybean, sunflower, cottonseeds are the leading oilseeds. Oil content of soybean and cottonseed are about 18–20%, with such moderate oil content. If soybean oil can become the leading source of edible oil, then how a plant (Moringa oleifera) with 40% good quality oil content cannot become the commercial source of edible oil. Moringa oleifera produces 3000 kg seed from 1 ha that can produce 1200 kg edible oil, as compared to soybean which produce 350–400 kg oil from 1 ha . Due to lack of awareness, it is not commercially grown as an oilseed. India has adopted a wise strategy and started the commercial production of MOO, currently, 1.3 M. Ton of edible oil is annually extracted from the seeds of Moringa oleifera, with 380 KM2 area of production . The cost of production of oil from Moringa oleifera is low as compared to other sources of edible oils, the unreferenced source revealed that cost of 1 kg seed is 0.15$. In addition to low cost and higher oil content, oil has better functional properties over soybean, sunflower, canola, corn oils, they need partial hydrogenation for improved functional properties, whereas, MOO does not require partial hydrogenation. It can also be converted into olein and stearin fractions, which only have better functional properties but can also serve as superior alternates of partially hydrogenated fats. Further it contains about 5–6% behenic acid, which act as crystallizing agent . In subcontinent, crystallized vanaspati is preferred over pasty stuff andapplication of MOO in vanaspati can improve its graininess and crystallization behaviour. Oil production potential of Moringa oleifera was assessed in arid climate of Chaco South Africa, on average basis; it produced 481.25 Kg edible oil from one acre, desert conditions did not have significant effect on the seed production and oil content . Commercial oilseeds require good quality soil with plenty of water, adequate fertilization and other expensive agronomic practices, whereas, Moringa tree can be grown in poor quality sandy, salt affected soils and it can resist long spells of drought with no effect on oil yield. The results of another investigation conducted in Argentina disclosed that Moringa oleifera trees produced 595 kg oil/acre in drought conditions .
Food applications and antioxidant characteristics
Sterols of Moringa oleifera oil and some vegetable oils mg/100 g
Tocopherol contents of Moringa oleifera oil and some vegetable oils
Moringa oleifera oil
Virgin Olive Oil
Watermelon Seed Oil
Mango Kernel Oil
Total phenolic contents of Moringa oleifera oil, vegetable oils and extracts
The demand and production of monounsaturated oils is mounting across the globe and large number of health benefits and superior oxidative stability of monounsaturated oils has increased their application in large number of foods . Oleic acid (cis-9-octadecanoic acid) possesses a cholesterol lowering properties . Olive oil, canola oil, peanut and rapeseed oil are regarded as the rich source of oleic acid, which varies from 50 to 80% . Dietary guidelines suggest that oleic acid should be the part of regular diet to minimize the risk of cardiovascular diseases . Concentration of oleic acid has been increased in some oilseeds through genetic modifications, e.g. high oleic acid sunflower oil and canola oil . Monounsaturated oils do not require partial hydrogenation for better shelf stability. Consumption of partially hydrogenated fats has been correlated with the development of cardiovascular diseases . High oleic acid fraction of MOO has been developed by enzymatic transesterification and fraction . With greater than 80% oleic acid, high oleic acid fraction may be appropriately regarded as power house of oleic acid . Oleic acid also act as a precursor of omega-9 fatty acids, human body has the capability to convert C18:1 to omega-9 fatty acids.
Cholesterol is a steroid, waxy metabolite, belongs to the unsaponifiable matter of lipids. It is insoluble in the aqueous/watery phase of blood, transported in the body through specialized proteins to various parts of the body . LDL carries cholesterol from liver to the peripheral tissues, LDL has been designated as bad cholesterol, high density lipoproteins (HDL) transport cholesterol back from the peripheral tissues to the liver and regarded as beneficial cholesterol . The ratios of LDL to HDL, concentration of total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides exceeding 5, 200, 150 and 150 and HDL lower than 35 mg/dL, respectively is associated with enhanced risk of cardiovascular disease. Intake of dietary cholesterol should not exceed 300 mg/day . Dairy products e.g. cheese, cream, butter, butter oil etc. For example, 219, 110, 105 mg/100 g cholesterol is present in butter, cheese and ice cream, respectively . MOO does not cholesterol, blending of butter oil with MOO significantly decreased the concentration of dietary cholesterol .
Rahamn et al.  fractionated MOO into olein and stearin fractions through dry crystallization technique, fatty acid composition of olein fraction revealed the magnitude of oleic acid of oleic acid was greater than 80%. The effect of MOO on the crystallization behaviour of palm oil was investigated and MOO was incorporated into palm oil at 20% concentration. Fractionation was performed by solvent and dry crystallization techniques at 18 and 21 °C and the yield of olein fraction obtained via solvent fractionation was greater than dry crystallization. GC analysis of the liquid fractions revealed that the intensification of oleic acid and triolein. Remarkable differences were noted in the melting characteristics of olein and stearin fractions obtained by two different fractionation methods. MOO stearin has higher melting point and may be used as an alternated of chocolate fat/confectionary fat and bakery shortening, however, theses aspects needs intensive research work . After the rearrangement of esters, melting point of MOO increased from 19.8 °C to 35.2 °C . MOO was transesterified with lipases meihei followed by fractionation. Fatty acid composition, solid fat index of olein and stearin fraction was considerably different from the parent MOO, olein fraction remained clear at 2 °C, with no haziness, offering a great perspective for usage as salad/oil/cooking oil/mayonnaise oil etc. .
Medicinal and nutraceutical action
The impact of MOO centred feed on growth performance, packed cell volume, haemoglobin, white blood cells, monocytes, lipid profile, urea, creatine were determined in albino rats. Three weeks old, 12 albino rats were randomly stratified in two groups, each group was comprised of 6 rats, the average weight ranged from 31.6 to 35 g. The group of rats fed on soybean oil was used as control, while, the second group was fed on MOO, experiment lasted for six weeks. After six weeks, blood samples of both the groups were tested for total cholesterol, high density lipoprotein, low density lipoprotein, triglyceride. Body weight, creatine, urea concentration and haematological parameters of both the groups were not significantly different. These results evidenced that MOO improved the growth performance and had a positive immune stimulatory impact on the growth of albino rats, with neutraceutical effect and no risk of cardiovascular disease .
Moringa seeds produce 30–40% good quality oil, which is high in oleic acid. The quality of MOO is superior to sunflower oil and scientific evidences have shown that biodiesel prepared from MOO was superior to biodiesel made from other substrates . The methyl esters of biodiesel prepared from MOO was 67, which is the highest for a biodiesel fuel. About 2000 l biodiesel can be produced from one hectare and production of biodiesel can be started after one year of the plantation, as tree bears fruit within one year of the cultivation . The biodiesel derived from MOO has higher iodine value as compared to conventional diesel fuels, which indicates that MOO based biodiesel has better stability . With higher octane number, it has higher ignition performance and cold filter plugging point, showing better ignition performance in winter as well. The recovery and quality of biodiesel from MOO is higher as compared to other crops with the recovery of top grade glycerine as by-product. MOO is a better sustainable source of biodiesel than other plants e.g. Jatropha, as Moringa is cultivated primarily for food [47, 48]. 30 days old Moringa plants were milled to mesh size 5, followed by the separation of liquid fraction from solid mass through filtration. The liquid was transferred to gas reactor. 1 kg volatile solids produced 580 L of gas, with 81% methane content .
Personal care formulations
The major fatty acid in MOO is oleic acid, which is widely recommended in the preparation of pharmaceutical ointments. It has high cosmetic value, helps to remove dirt from the skin and is considered as superb cleansing agent. It has non-drying characteristics, can be easily blended with other essential oils; these properties make moringa oil as excellent massage oil. Oil can be used in the preparation of different types of soaps, cosmetic cream and lip balm. MOO based soaps has stable lather with better cleansing perspectives . MOO has been the part of folk medicines since thousands of years; oil was used as perfume and skin lotion by the Egyptian, Roman and Greek communities . Egyptians used MOO in the treatment of skin disorders, as smoothing, moisturizing and oiling agent for the treatment of dry skin and therapeutic massages. It has the capability of absorbing and retaining the flavouring compounds . Currently MOO is widely used in the formulations of body creams, lotions, balms, scrubs and anti-hair fall formulations. In cosmetics, it is preferred over other oil as it does not leave greasy after feel .
MOO can be sued in the formulation of vanaspati, margarine, bakery shortening, salad oil, cooking oil, frying of potato chips, frying fats in industry and restaurants while stearin fractions can be used as bakery fat.
The authors are highly obliged to the Library Department, Government College University Faisalabad (GCUF), University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (UVAS) and IT Department, Higher Education Commission (HEC, Islamabad) for access to journals, books and valuable database.
Availability of data and materials
The dataset supporting the conclusions of this article is included within the article.
MN conceptualized, provided the technical assistance and guided in the data collection. MI helped for drafting the manuscript. “It’s also confirmed that all the authors read and approved the final manuscript”.
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Consent for publication
Ethics approval and consent to participate
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