New use found for ‘world’s most useful tree’

By | March 8, 2010

Moringa tree in Namibia. Credit: Violet GottropA recipe for using “the world’s most useful tree” to purify water is being offered for free download, in the hope that this will help get clean drinking water to billions of poor folk around the world.

The tree in question is the Moringa oleifera (“oily moringa”) aka the horseradish or drumstick tree (also “Mother’s best friend” in some places). The Moringa is cultivated across the tropical world and furnishes food in the form of apparently highly nutritious* pods, leaves and flowers.

It also yields oil which can be used as lighting or cooking fuel (or to make biogas). You can even make a highly effective crop fertiliser out of the miracle Moringa. Handily, the trusty tree is also drought resistant and tolerant of poor soil.

But that’s not all, it turns out. You can also use Moringa products to inexpensively purify dirty drinking water.

“Moringa oleifera is a vegetable tree which is grown in Africa, Central and South America, the Indian subcontinent, and South East Asia. It could be considered to be one of the world’s most useful trees,” says Michael Lea, a Canadian water-purification researcher. “Perhaps most importantly, its seeds can be used to purify drinking water at virtually no cost.”

The method in outline involves crushing the tree’s seeds to powder and making a solution with this. When the solution is added to turbid, dirty water it causes the suspended gunge to rapidly stick together into bigger flecks and so sink rapidly. Almost all contamination is thus carried down quite quickly into a sludge at the bottom of the container, allowing nice clear water to be decanted or siphoned off from the top.

The Moringa-seed technique, according to Lea, isn’t foolproof – there are various bacteria and viruses which will not be affected by it. But it makes water much safer and more pleasant to drink, and Moringa treatment is hugely better than no treatment at all, which is the norm for far too many people. ..

via New use found for ‘world’s most useful tree’ • The Register.

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