A few weeks ago a friend asked if I had heard of Moringa oleifera. I hadn’t, so I jotted it down in my ideas notebook. I’m always interested in learning something new, especially if it’s about supporting chicken health naturally.
It’s a small tree, native to India, but found in parts of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East. All parts of the plant: roots, stem, leaves, seed pods, resin and flowers are considered to be healing herbs in Ayurvedic (traditional Indian) and Unani (Middle Eastern) medicine.
Moringa oleifera was honored as the “Botanical of the Year 2007” by the American National Institute of Health. Once you do a little reading about its varied and many uses it’s no wonder it’s often called the Miracle Tree.
The leaves are the most nutritious part, providing a significant source of vitamins A, B complex, C, E, K, manganese, and other essential nutrients: carbohydrates, especially low fat, dietary fibers; alpha linoleic acid; minerals; and lipids. It contains 25%-32% protein and all nine amino acids, making it a complete protein.
In many parts of the world M. oleifera is used as a dietary supplement for both people and livestock. It can provide nine times more protein than yogurt, 17 times more calcium than milk, seven times more vitamin C than oranges, ten times more vitamin A than carrots, 25 times more iron than spinach, and 15 times more potassium than bananas. The leaves are reported to be an acquired taste, somewhat of a cross between clover and tabasco.
The misuse and overuse of antibiotics has resulted in a number of negative impacts for both commercial poultry producers as well as small flock keepers. The emergence of drug-resistant organisms has been an impetus in the search for alternatives to treat a variety of pathogenic microbes. The Word Health Organization (WHO) has recommended the development and use of environment-friendly alternatives to conventional pharmaceuticals to control diseases in poultry and other livestock.
Moringa has been studied in both people and animals as an herbal remedy and food additive with demonstrated benefits due to its antiviral, antifungal, anticarcinogenic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Moringa Use For Chickens
There are many studies on the benefits of Moringa for both meat chickens and laying hens.
- M. oleifera has been used as a growth promoter, immune enhancer and antioxidant, as well as lowering cholesterol levels.
- Feeding seed powder acts as a broad-spectrum antibiotic and immune system booster.
- Improves egg production, yolk colour and feed conversion rates.
- Intensifies colour of comb, beak and legs.
- The seeds contain pterygospermin, a potent antibiotic and fungicide effective against Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
- In many Western countries Moringa is available at health foods stores in capsules, as a powder or bitters.
- It can be grown from seed in hardiness zones 9-11; potentially zone 8, if well protected. Moringa does best in climates with average temperatures of 21C/70F and consistently above 17C/62F year round.
- It could be grown in other hardiness zones in a heated greenhouse or outside as an annual.
- If you were using it for chickens the leaves could be given fresh, or dried, and added to their feed (same with the seeds).
- I read an online account of a rooster being successfully treated with dried Moringa for arthritis. Of course, it’s anecdotal, but I’m assuming it’s efficacy was due to the plant’s anti-inflammatory properties.
Update: Just after I wrote this post I picked up a case of soup for my lunches at work. It was only after I made the purchase that I took a close look at the label and noticed Moringa as one of the ingredients. I’m not sure why it’s added, but the timing was interesting, given that I’d only just discovered it.
Credits: Italian Journal of Animal Science; MDPI; National Library of Medicine; Poultry DVM. Featured Photo: Try.Trip.Rinse.Repeat