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UNBC researchers discover benefits of moringa tree root powder


Dr. Chris Opio and Chandehl Morgan washing the moringa tree roots that kick-started their research in 2016. UNBC photo
Dr. Chris Opio and Chandehl Morgan washing the moringa tree roots that kick-started their research in 2016. UNBC photo

Researchers at the University of Northern British Columbia have discovered that root powder from the Moringa “miracle tree” can kill most E. coli bacteria in contaminated water.

Ecosystem Science and Management Professor Dr. Chris Opio and Chandehl Morgan, a UNBC graduate student, have been researching the impact of morigina (Moringa oleifera) on water quality for two years.

Moringa has been dubbed the “miracle tree” due to the many uses of every part of the tree. It is nutritious, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial and has been used in many traditional medicines.

“The initial results mean that Moringa root powder does have some potential to be used as a point-of-use water treatment,” said Opio. “Further research will need to done to optimize this method, as well as test the palatability of the treated water.”

At the onset of their study in March 2016, Opio and Morgan wanted to identify the chemical and nutritional composition of Moringa roots and determine whether the roots can purify water by reducing the turbidity and bacteria in water.

As part of the study, a Moringa tree was grown at UNBC’s I.K. Barber Enhanced Forestry Lab in Prince George. Roots of the trees were harvested, dried and powdered.

The root powder was tested to determine its chemical components. Water that had powdered Moringa root added to it was also tested to determine what elements the roots released into the water. It was compared both with the Canadian guidelines for drinking water quality, and with the elements present in milk.

The Moringa roots are high in five macronutrients: potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium and calcium.

The use of Moringa root powder to treat water is exploratory research. A method was developed in order to test if the Moringa had any impact of bacteria in water. The powdered roots were added to water that had been contaminated with E. coli. Different concentrations of Moringa root powder were added to the contaminated water to see if it had any impact and the root powder was able to kill up to 87 per cent of the E. coli in the water.

Opio and Morgan also tested the impact of Moringa roots on other parameters of water quality. They discovered that the water treated with the roots had an acceptable pH and electrical conductivity. The root powder did not have a significant impact on the turbidity of water.

-UNBC

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