The Ben tree (Moringa peregrina (Forssk.) Fiori) is a shrub species belonging to the Moringaceae family.
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
M. peregrina species.
The terms are synonymous:
– Hyperanthera peregrina Forssk .;
– Moringa aptera Gaertn ..
The term Moringa comes from the local vernacular name of this plant: moringo in Malabar, murunga in Sinhalese and murungai in Tamil.
The specific peregrine epithet comes from exotic, foreign or even in the sense of wandering, wandering, which is found here and there, without a preferential location.
Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Moringa peregrina is a plant that occurs naturally in arid or semi-arid countries bordering the Red Sea, from Somalia and Yemen, to Israel and Syria. In tropical Africa it is reported from Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia. It is also reported in Iran and Pakistan, but its presence needs confirmation.
Its natural habitat is that of the rocky slopes; Acacia and Commiphora woods, sometimes on almost bare rock with strongly reduced root system, at altitudes up to 850 meters.
Moringa peregrina is a shrub or small tree up to 10 m tall.
The stem has a gray, purple-gray or bright brown bark.
The branches are slender and also has fragile twigs.
The leaves are alternate, in clusters at the ends of the branches, 15-40 cm long, bi-pinnate, with 2-5 pairs of fins; opposite or alternate leaflets, obovate, oblanceolate or spatulate, 3–20 (35) mm × 2–10 (13) mm, with cuneate to rounded base, rounded or notched apex, gray or waxy green.
The inflorescence is an axillary panicle, loose, very branched, 18-30 cm long.
The flowers are bisexual, slightly zygomorphic, 5-meri, white with a purple or reddened heart, sometimes perfumed; the pedicel is 2-9 mm long, articulated; the sepals are free, from oblong to lanceolate, 7–9 mm × 1,5–3 mm, sharp, hairy on both faces; the petals are free, strictly oblong, obovate or spatulate, 8–15 mm × 2–5 mm, hairy inside; stamens 5, free, 4.5-7 mm long, alternating with 5 staminodes, 4-5 mm long; the ovary is superior, with a short, cylindrical, hairy, unicellular peduncle, slender stylus.
The fruit is an elongated capsule (10–) 32–39 cm × (1–) 1,5–1,7 cm, somewhat trigonometric, slightly narrowed between the seeds, with beak, glabrous, dehiscent with 3 valves. The seeds are globose to ovoid or trine, 10-12 mm × 10-12 mm, brown in color.
Moringa peregrina is one that is harvested in the wild for local use as a source of a high quality oil, which is mainly used locally. It is a very useful plant for purifying water and is a very important local fuel source. The use of oil dates back to antiquity and is mentioned in ancient Egyptian texts and in the Bible.
The plant is grown as an ornamental in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, and although there is concern about the decline of wild Moringa peregrina plants, especially where it is harvested for firewood, it is not listed on the IUCN Red List. It is in danger in Sinai in Egypt.
The first fruits are produced about 3 years after sowing.
The plant grows rapidly from both seeds and cuttings; 3 – 4 meters of annual increase in height is not unusual when adequate humidity is available.
Topping or pruning after harvesting is recommended to favor branching. This increases pod production and makes harvesting easier as the tree is kept at a manageable height.
A single tree can produce up to 1,000 pods per year.
Propagation can take place by seed, better if sown in a nursery in light shade and with a 5-month transplant of seedlings.
The plant can also be propagated by cuttings, taking 100 – 150 cm long branches, which have a good degree of rooting and taking root.
Customs and Traditions –
Moringa peregrina is a plant grown mainly for seed oil, called “ben oil”. The use of oil dates back to antiquity and is already mentioned in ancient Egyptian texts and in the Bible. The oil is used for cooking, in cosmetics and in medicine. In Yemen, oil is used as a lubricant for small machines. The seeds are also used as coagulants to purify water, eg. in Sudan. In southern Sudan and Yemen, Moringa peregrina is a useful plant for bees and its leaves are used as fodder. The seeds are used medicinally in the Middle East and Sudan. The oil is used to treat abdominal pain. The tuber of the young plant is consumed in Yemen and Oman. The plant is grown as an ornamental in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East. Wood is harvested for fuel in southern Sinai, but it has now become scarce.
Moringa peregrina seed contains about 50% oil. It is similar to the oil extracted from the seed of Moringa oleifera Lam. The approximate fatty acid composition of the oil is: palmitic acid 9%, stearic acid 4%, arachidic acid 2%, behenic acid 2%, oleic acid 71%, linoleic acid 1% and gadoleic acid 2%. The oil contains the sterols campesterol, stigmasterol and -sitosterol and the tocopherols α-, γ- and δ-tocopherol. The purifying properties of the seed water are due to a protein that coagulates the dispersed particles.
Oil is used for cooking.
Furthermore, the oil obtained from the seed is used in cosmetics.
The traditional methods of extracting oil, used by the Bedouins, are very simple but produce little oil. The seeds are crushed, water is added and the seeds are boiled. The mixture is left overnight to allow the oil to come to the surface, from where it is skimmed. In a more advanced method the seeds are crushed, water is added and the mixture is gently heated for 10 – 15 minutes. The oil is then extracted using a screw press or a hydraulic press.
The seeds are used as a coagulant to purify water.
For water purification, the seeds are ground into a paste. The pasta is put in a bottle and water is added. The mixture is stirred for 5 minutes to activate the protein. The mixture is then sieved and the solution is added to cloudy water. After slow stirring for 20 minutes, fine particles, including bacteria, coagulate, sink and sink to the bottom. After one hour, clean water can be taken.
As for other uses, the wood is very succulent and therefore not used for construction but is collected as fuel in southern Sinai, even if it has now become scarcely available.
From an ecological point of view, interventions are necessary for the protection of Moringa peregrina and its vulnerable habitat. The continued use of the seed for oil production and water clarification requires its domestication and cultivation. The first results of the experiments to achieve this are promising.
Preparation Method –
Moringa peregrina is a plant that is used both by those that grow spontaneously and by those cultivated.
A little of everything is used from the plant but it is above all the seeds that play an important role, both for the extraction of the oil, which is used for food, medicine and cosmetics, and for water purification.
The methods for extracting oil are both traditional, with lower yields, and industrial ones with higher yields.
For water purification, they are ground into a paste that is placed in a bottle to which water is added. This mixture is stirred for 5 minutes to activate the protein and then sieved and the solution added to cloudy water. After slow stirring for 20 minutes, fine particles, including bacteria, coagulate, sink and sink to the bottom. After one hour, clean water can be taken.
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.
Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; therefore no responsibility is taken for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.