COMMENTARY

Possible Role of Moringa oleifera Lam. Root in Epithelial Ovarian Cancer

Chinmoy K. Bose, MD, PhD

Disclosures

February 06, 2007

Description

Moringa oleifera Lam. is the most widely cultivated species of the monogeneric family Moringaceae (order Brassicales). This family includes 13 species of trees and shrubs distributed in sub-Himalayan ranges of Arabia, India, Madagascar, North Eastern and South Western Africa, and Sri Lanka.[8,9] It contains several phytochemicals, some of which are of high interest because of their medicinal value, as described in the next section. In particular, this plant family is rich in a fairly unique group of glycoside compounds called glucosinolates and isothiocyanates. Their chemical names and structures are shown in Figure 1. Moringa oleifera leaves contain 2 nitrile glycosides, niazirin and niazirinin, and 3 mustard oil glycosides, 4-[(4'-O-acetyl-alpha-L-rhamnosyloxy) benzyl] isothiocyanate, niaziminin A, and niaziminin B, which are reported to be responsible for hypotensive activity. In addition, beta-sitosterol, glycerol-1-(9-octadecanoate), 3-O-(6'-O-oleoyl-beta-D-glucopyranosyl)-beta-sitosterol, and beta-sitosterol-3-O-beta-D-glucopyranoside have also been identified. Most of them have anticancer properties.[10]

The root bark of Moringa oleifera contains 2 additional alkaloids (total alkaloids, 0.1%), viz. moringine, which is identical to benzylamine, and moringinine, belonging to the sympathomimetic group of bases. In addition, traces of an essential oil with a pungent smell, phytosterol, waxes, and resins are found in the moringa plant, and it contains a rich and rare combination of zeatin, quercetin, beta-sitosterol, caffeoylquinic acid, pterygospermin, and kaempferol. While the entire tree has antitumor activity, the sex hormone-related property is attributable to its root, as folk medicine use has also proven. This plant can be used in patients with diabetes and thyroid disease. The other most common use of its hormonal property, except insulin and thyroid-like property is as emmenagogue and abortifacient.[11]

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