Posted on April 29th, 2017

By Dr. Tilak S. Fernando

My friend Asoka Jayawardena in New Jersey who often despatches vital information on health matters sent me an interesting brief on ‘Moringa‘ (Murunga) with a request to write an article on the subject and, if possible, to get it published in a Sinhala newspaper, as the advantages of a Sinhala publication would be far more beneficial to the average Sri Lankan reader.

His advice made me dive into my archives where many moons ago I had written on Moringa, under the headline, “The ultimate answer to polluted water” and to revitalize the topic in a different perspective as it would be far more valuable in the present climate where Chronic Kidney Disease (CKDU) is attributed to contaminated water that has become a matter of trepidation in Sri Lanka.

Sinhala publication, of course, will be a different ball game altogether. Once I attempted to get an English article translated by a young and keen deputy editor of Silumina (upon his own request, akin to Asoka’s request) where he himself translated the article into Sinhala, and approached the editor. To his dismay, the poor fellow received a rebuff from the editor with a thunderous justification, thus: “People will think we have no articles when we start translating English articles and publish in Silumina”. God help the Sinhala readership! I told the young deputy editor.


Murunga tree, which grows abundantly and wildly in our country could be the ultimate answer to purify water within a matter of an hour, thanks to a research done by a British scientist, Dr. Geoff Folkard, at Leicester University some years ago. The writer’s article on Murunga at the time went viral on the Internet, got translated into some foreign languages too, and an Australian Horticultural Magazine sought permission and published the same article under the writer’s byline. The article focussed on the Sri Lankan authorities particularly as an alternative means of water purification, as much as highlighting various other benefits out of this miracle tree.

The research team of Dr. Geoff Folkard at Leicester University had their options open to help any country in water processing techniques out of Moringa at the time. Had Sri Lanka taken the initiative to accept their offer, sufferings of thousands of villagers and their agonies would have been a thing in the past. VIPs and VVIPs at times point a finger at Sri Lankan journalists being biased or always being critical when skeletons in their cupboards are pulled out. Here was a total missed opportunity where it is either due the contemporary politicians being unable to read or do not at all read English newspapers, consequence of which amounts to ‘missed opportunities’ that are published in the English newspapers. By such avoidance or neglect, aren’t they overlooking their moral, social and political obligations and, in a manner of speaking, forcing innocent victims of CKDU towards suffering and pre-mature death forcing them to use contaminated water for drinking and cooking purposes.

The original research on water purification of Moringa was funded by the British Overseas Development Agency and the European Union. They established how crushed seeds of Murunga were capable of attracting and sticking bacteria and other viruses to be trapped in filter beds with other toxic particles in the water. On a brighter side, it is encouraging to see various private NGOs and Associations, with the help of their membership, voluntarily getting involved in the supply and installation of modern filters on a village-to-village basis due to their limited financial resources.

Chemicals and expenditure

Aluminium Sulphate serves as a coagulant and flocculating agent (causing bacteria to form into small clumps or masses) in water treatment plants and potable water. Aluminium Sulphate is also important for lake treatment and restoration. In such a backdrop, the Murunga tree naturally becomes a path breaking innovation to purify water at a cost of only a fraction of the conventional process of chemical treatment, which costs the government millions.

Researchers at the time were vigorously campaigning to persuade governments and international agencies to commence a campaign to promote planting of the Moringa trees extensively worldwide. Dr. Folkard’s research not only identified the plant (Moringa Oleifera) as a miracle tree, but revealed how small and rounded Murunga leaves are packed with an incredible amount of nutritious protein, calcium beta carotene, vitamin C, potassium et al, which were used over four thousand years on medicinal purposes.

Murunga plant is identified as Moringa Oleifera, Drumstick tree, Horseradish tree, Ben oil tree, or Benzoyl tree that is capable of resisting all weather conditions throughout the year. The research also revealed how Moringa seeds could be processed to extract vegetable oil for cooking, to be used as a fuel for lamps, and even for soap manufacture and cosmetics using it as a raw material.

Other spin-offs were said to be the production of ointments to heal bacterial skin infections and using it as a pulp for papermaking. Going by the ‘old granny theories’, the Sri Lankan housewives still use Murunga leaves as an absorbent agent of toxic elements in cooking shellfish, especially prawns and crabs.

Health booster

The presence of isothiocyanates (a chemical compound) in Moringa leaves is supposed to have an anti-diabetic effect. Some statistics reveal by consuming seven grams of Moringa leaf-powder on a daily basis for three months will reduce one’s fasting blood sugar levels by 13.5 per cent to 8 per cent. Another test has revealed by adding 50 grams of Moringa leaves to a meal could reduce the rise in blood sugar by 21 per cent among diabetic patients.

Murunga is said to have a cholesterol-lowering effect equivalent to drug Simavastin (Journal of Ethno pharmacology). From a digestive standpoint, it has a ‘mopping effect’ of the intestines in the removal of extra grunge left over from greasy diets. Its anti-bacterial properties are supposed to get rid of H. Pyrol, a bacteria implicated in gastritis, ulcers and gastric cancer.

Domestic use

Those who are health conscious and are able to afford expensive cold-pressed Moringa oil (Ben Oil) is recommended as the best substitute even for olive oil, which of course costs approximately 15 times over the price of Olive oil.

All parts of this miracle plant are used to treat inflammation, infectious disorders and various problems of the cardiovascular and digestive organs, while improving liver function and enhancing milk flow in nursing mothers. The benefits of Moringa are well documented in both the ayurvedic and Unani systems of traditional medicine, which are one of the ancient healing systems in the world. As per Unani medicine, diseases are created and also healed in the human system by the types of food consumed by the people.

If balanced diets are consumed, the human body in its stable form is able to digest fully prior to leaving the Colon, which minimizes the chances of creating illnesses to a modicum. When the digestive system is in imbalance only, blood, phlegm, catarrh, yellow bile and black bile could create havoc in the human body and make any individual sick.

In the present scenario where thousands are suffering and dying of CKDU in Sri Lanka wouldn’t it be prudent for the government authorities and the health lords to concentrate on water purification with the help of Murunga, which is said to be far more effective than many of the synthetic and chemical materials used currently by importing chemicals at a cost of millions to the tax payer?


  1. Dr.K Says:

    Highly valuable article. Thank you.

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