Moringa Oleifera, popularly known as the “wonderful tree” belongs to the plant family named “Moringaceae.” The Moringa seeds find extensive uses in the traditional medicines and other nutritional formulations. It is used as an herbal remedy against cancer throughout the world especially in Africa and Asia. Moringa oleifera is a significant constituent of phytochemicals such as phenolics, flavonoids, alkaloids, vitamins, glycosides, sterols, minerals, and amino acids. Moringa seeds are reported to own diuretic, anti-tumor, and anti-microbial activities. However, their cytotoxic effects against cancer cells are slightly acknowledged.
Breast cancer is a major health concern of the present times. It is reported to be the second most common tumor in both the genders after lung cancer.
Chemotherapies are employed to treat tumor cells, suppress their growth and prevent their propagation but these therapies pose certain side effects on the body which include the weakening of immune system, abnormal levels of neutrophils and high levels of calcium in the blood.
These adverse effects have provoked the search for effective chemotherapies employing the use of natural plant sources offering minimal side effects and toxicity to the wellbeing of an organism.
One of the epidemiological studies in Malaysia has reported the “antiproliferative” effect of the Moringa seeds on MCF-7. MCF-7 is the name given to the estrogen positive cell lines of breast cancer.
In this study, researchers investigated the cytotoxic activity of M. oleifera seeds and its anti-tumor effects on MCF-7. MCF-7 is often used as an ex-vivo model in the therapeutic studies or researches regarding breast cancer.
Dried seeds of M. oleifera were collected from Penang, Malaysia. It was April 2015 when the research was conducted. The researchers purified certain extracts and fractions from Moringa seeds. They then assessed the cytotoxic effect of the extract on the tumor affected breast cells (MCF7) and healthy or normal breast cells (MCF10A).
For the experiment, the phytochemicals were extracted from a finely ground powder of Moring seeds via water and 80% ethanol solvents. Water was used because of its characteristic of being the universal solvent and ethanol too has greater solubility and strong ability to extract phytochemicals out.
Another study in 2005 reported the ethanolic extract of M. oleifera to be cytotoxic against leukemia and melanoma cell lines.
The ethanolic extract was divided into 4 equal fractions. Four different solvents were added to them, one solvent to each fraction. The solvents included,
The fractionation of the extract using different solvents was done in order to concentrate and augment the purity of the active compounds.
The antiproliferative effects of the samples were then determined. The researchers noted that Moringa seeds significantly reduced or inhibited the growth of MCF-7 cells. It was reported that a mixture of crude water extract, hexane, and dichloromethane inhibited the proliferation of MCF7. However, only the hexane portion exhibited minimum cytotoxic effects.
The researchers also concluded that hexane, out of the three samples, showed momentous antiproliferative effects on MCF7 with trivial cytotoxic effects on MCF 10A, the normal breast cells.
Aside from M. oleifera’s antiproliferative effect on breast cancer cells, numerous studies have reported the Moringa seeds to be beneficial in various aspects,
- It constitutes 90 different nutrients.
- It is a rich source of magnesium, calcium, vitamin B3, iron, and fibres.
- It is reported to improve sleep, blood sugar level, and heart health.
- It lowers cholesterol and induces the death of tumor cells.
- Moringa leaves are a complete protein source–they contain at least 18 amino acids and around 46 essential antioxidants.
- It is reported to be anti-inflammatory in nature.