Osa Koukeomanivong, an enterprising 73-year-old stroke survivor from Phakhao village in Xaythany district, Laos, is using his own lessons learnt to make a variety of healthy products for the public from the amazing moringa tree.
Moringa, or botanically moringa oleifera, is a traditional Asian remedy believed to help treat and prevent diseases and is currently gaining popularity with its leaves and seeds used for making tea and other healthy products.
Osa spent many years servicing buses and operating his own motorcycle repair shop but that all came to an abrupt end in 2012 when he suffered a stroke.
Part of his rehabilitation saw him rekindle an interest in gardening and the moringa trees growing in his yard. This got him thinking about natural remedies using what was growing in his garden which led him to drinking moringa leaf tea.
After he began to feel better, and with the help of his daughter, he undertook more research on the internet about the health giving qualities of the remarkable moringa tree.
Many people believe moringa is a super food that can help treat and prevent diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, anaemia, arthritis, liver diseases, and respiratory, skin and digestive disorders.
Moringa contains significant amounts of vitamins A, C and E, along with calcium, potassium, protein, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants.
Some university studies suggest that moringa helps to reduce inflammation in the body, which can lead to chronic diseases. But moringa, especially the non-leaf parts of the tree, is not recommended for women during pregnancy.
Osa said following the research he experimented with making moringa tea from different parts of the plant for himself. After that, he produced more and tested it with family members along with the housekeeper. Their unanimous reaction was that the moringa tea tasted great and made them feel good, which encouraged him to start making more to sell to friends in the neighbourhood.
“I couldn’t just produce it to sell to them. I also wanted to promote it further to a wider market and needed to receive approval from authorities to prove my product could be drunk for good health,” Osa said.
“So, I asked officials at the Xaythany district agriculture and forestry office to help approve my product. After that, the officials came to my house for an inspection before allowing me to make the natural tea which is good for your health,” he added.
The authorities also accepted him as a member of the district organic group which allows him to sell his Osa Moringa branded tea and products at the That Luang Saturday morning market.
Since he started producing moringa tea about five months ago, harvesting the leaves from his trees has become a weekly ritual.
From the moringa tree Osa produces dried leaves and seeds as well as moringa powder which is similar to green tea matcha powder in appearance.
To produce the leaf products he first harvests the tips of branches with the freshest leaves to maximise the flavour, then he cleans the small moringa branches before hanging them to dry in a shady spot for three days. Exposing them to direct sunlight will cause them to lose nutrients. Following that, he carefully removes leaves directly for packaging while others are ground into a deep green powder in a blender.
While moringa leaves can be harvested all year round, the seeds are seasonal with his trees heavily laden with long seedpods at present. Osa lets the pods dry out in the sun before peeling back the seeds.
He believes two or three seeds should be eaten before meals for the best health benefit and the husks can also be steeped in boiling water to make tea.
Osa explained, “Moringa has many advantages but if we eat too much some believe it will slow the absorption of certain vitamins into our body.”
Besides his tea products, Osa’s daughter is also making cookies, cupcakes, roll cakes and other delicious delights using moringa leaf powder which are sold at the That Luang organic market.
With all these products using moringa leaves, Osa knows he’ll need more trees to harvest in the future so he’s nurturing seedlings which he’ll grow himself or with help from other members of the organic group.
“Fortunately, moringa trees are easy to grow from seedlings in household gardens, but if some people find that inconvenient they can buy his natural moringa,” he added.
Osa also offered to teach anyone interested how to produce the tea, such is his confidence in the moringa tree and its health giving properties. – Vientiane Times/Asia News Network/Siladda Souliyong