Moringa oleifera: A Powerful Source of Environmentally, Medicinally and Biotechnologically Relevant Compounds
Moringa oleifera Lamarck (Moringaceae family) is a plant native from the Western and sub-Himalayan parts of Northwest India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. This species is widely cultivated across Africa, South-East Asia, Arabia, South America and Caribbean Islands. M. oleifera culture is also being distributed in the Semi-Arid Northeast of Brazil. It is a multiuse life tree with great environmental economic importance in industrial and medical areas. This review reports different purposes of M. oleifera including sustaining environmental resources, soil protection and shelter for animals. This plant requires not much care and distinct parts have bioactive compounds. Moringa tissues used in human and animal diets, also withdraw pollutants from water. The seeds with coagulant properties used in water treatment for human consumption, remove waste products like surfactants, heavy metals and pesticides. The oil extracted from seeds is used in cosmetic production and as biodiesel. M. oleifera tissues also contain proteins with different biological activities, including lectins, chitin-binding proteins, trypsin inhibitors, and proteases. The lectins are reported to act as insecticidal agents against Aedes aegypti (vector of dengue, chikungunya and yellow fevers) and Anagasta kuehniella (pest of stored products) and also showed water coagulant, antibacterial, antineoplastic and blood anticoagulant activities. The presence of trypsin inhibitors has been reported in M. oleifera leaves and flowers. The inhibitor from flowers is toxic to larvae of A. aegypti and to the protozoan Trypanosoma cruzi. The flowers also contain caseinolytic proteases that are able to promote clotting of milk. In this sense, M. oleifera is a promising tree from a biotechnological point of view, since it has shown a great variety of uses and it is a source of several compounds with a broad range of biological activities.
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