Fun Facts About the Magnificent Malunggay


Malunggay (Moringa oleifera Lamk), better known in English as Horseradish, is a small tree, 8m or less in height, with corky bark and soft white wood. The leaves are alternate, usually thrice pinnate, and 25-50 cm long. There are 3-9 leaflets on the ultimate pinnules. These leaflets are thin, ovate to elliptic and 1-2 cm long. The flowers are white and 1.5-2 cm long on spreading panicles.

Malunggay is strictly a tropical plant and grows well at lower elevations, both under wet and seasonal conditions. However, it can thrive up to 1,300 meters altitude. It can be grown in various soils but thrive best in fertile, well-drained sandy loams.

Malunggay has multiple uses. The young fruits are a good substitute for yardlong bean (Vigna unguiculata (L) Walp.) often used in curries. Stewed fruits cannot be eaten whole, but the contents are sucked and the tough valves are thrown away. The leaves and flowers are eaten as a cooked vegetable or put in soups. Fried seeds taste like groundnuts.

Almost all parts of the tree, the leaves and root bark, in particular, have medicinal applications. The leaves as a poultice are useful in reducing glandular swellings, and a decoction of the roots is used for cleaning sores and ulcers. The bark is used as a rubefacient to the bites of snakes to prevent the poison from spreading. The juice of the roots with milk is also useful as a decoction for hiccups, asthma, gout, lumbago, and rheumatism.

The whole tree is often used as fence material, a shade tree in home gardens and support for pepper vines.

Malunggay is one of the main ingredients in a delicious Tinolang Manok recipe, a favorite soup of many Filipinos.

Additional Facts

The Moringa oleifera is known by different names. In English, it’s called horseradish, drumstick tree, or ben oil tree. In the Philippines, it’s called malunggay or kalamunggay.

Scientists have, so far, investigated only a fraction of the numerous health benefits of the horseradish. To name a few, this magnificent tree is packed with Vitamins A, B6, and C; Iron, and Protein. It’s also an antioxidant and can help protect you against arsenic toxicity.

Content (except Additional Facts) and Featured Photo courtesy of the Department of Agriculture (DA) Region VII, Central Visayas, Philippines.

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