Moringa oleifera is a tropical tree with nutritious, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties. Moringa seeds have been studied for their ability to purify water, however roots have not. This study identified the nutrient composition of Moringa roots grown in a greenhouse, and tested whether the roots improved water quality. Moringa roots were dried, powdered and added to contaminated water to test their impact on E. coli, pH, turbidity, and electrical conductivity. The chemical composition of Moringa roots were measured using ICP-MS. The five main elements observed were potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium and calcium. None of the elements extracted were of health concern for drinking water quality. Electrical conductivity and pH remained within drinking water quality guidelines. Moringa root powder resulted in a significant increase in turbidity. Moringa concentration of 600 mg/L removed up to 87% of E. coli in water.

Moringa root powder shows some potential as a point-of-use water treatment.

1.1Introduction to Moringa oleifera
Moringa is a genus that includes 13 species of trees and shrubs (Fahey, 2005). The most widely distributed of these species is Moringa oleifera, which grows across the tropical zone (Morton, 1991; Anwar et al., 2007). It originated in the Himalayas and is known by many common names, including ben oil tree, drumstick tree, and horseradish tree. Moringa has been dubbed “the miracle tree” because of its many properties that are beneficial to human health and well-being.

Almost all parts of the tree are used, either for nutrition or in traditional medicines (Fahey, 2005).

Moringa is an important component of traditional medicines throughout South Asia and many parts of Africa. Moringa has been used for pain relief, treatment for headaches, fevers, and rheumatism and treatment for bug bites (Goyal et al., 2007).More recently, studies on various parts of Moringa have been undertaken to determine the feasibility of Moringa in the treatment of cancer (Jung, 2014).In addition to nutritional and medicinal benefits, Moringa is used in fertilizer, pesticides, contraceptives, perfume, animal food, and as a cleaning agent (Fahey, 2005).

Moringa leaves are particularly nutritious, as they contain gram-for-gram more Vitamin A than carrots, more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach, more Vitamin C than oranges, and more potassium than bananas (Fahey, 2005). Moringa leaves are used to treat scurvy and malnutrition (Gopalakrishnan et al., 2016). Due to the high iron content in the leaves, they have been prescribed for anemia in the Philippines (Miracle Trees, 2016).

Moringa leaves and seeds have been used to remove contaminants from water. Moringa seeds are used to create a powder that can eliminate harmful bacteria in water, making it safe for human consumption (Ndabigengesereet al., 1995). Seeds form a coagulant which reduces the turbidity of water (Lea, 2010). The seeds also contain a protein which inhibits coliform bacteria (Kwaambwaet al., 2010). This protein is the Moringa oleifera cationic protein (MOCP), and it kills bacteria by fusing the bacteria’s cell membranes (Shebeket al., 2015).

Moringa roots have a high medicinal potency (Igwiloet al., 2014). They are antiinflammatory and, as such, have been used as traditional medicines in Senegal and India to treat rheumatism, stomatitis and pain caused by arthritis (Igwiloet al., 2014). The roots are pounded and mixed with salt to form a poultice (Miracle Trees, 2016). The poultice is used to relieve kidney and lower back pain (Miracle Trees, 2016). Moringa roots are believed to be good for the throat, bronchitis, and piles (Goyal et al., 2007). Despite its widespread applications, however, little is known about Moringa roots, particularly its chemical composition and its potential to treat contaminated water.

1.2 Rationale for Research
Given the importance of Moringa to medicine, nutrition, and culture, further studies on its composition can yield information that enhances our understanding of the mechanisms through which the plant is beneficial to humans. A chemical analysis of the roots, one of the lesser studied aspects of the plant, can increase our knowledge of this ‘miracle tree’.

Studying Moringa roots as a treatment option for contaminated water can be beneficial for many reasons. Contaminated water is a growing concern in the world; the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report that 2.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water at home (WHO and UNICEF, 2017). Drinking contaminated water can result in the spread of waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid, diarrhea and gastroenteritis. This results in the death of over 840,000 people each year (PrussUstunet al., 2014). In 2016, 8% or 480,000 children under five died from diarrhea (UNICEF, 2018). Purified water can limit exposure to these preventable diseases, decrease long-term exposure to carcinogenic compounds and heavy metals (Salaudeenet al., 2018), and it can positively impact food security (Rasul and Sharma, 2015).

Using Moringa roots, instead of its seeds, would be a preferred drinking water treatment method for many reasons. Moringa can be vegetatively propagated by cuttings. Roots establish quickly, and the tree can continue to grow after roots have been harvested (Fuglie, 2001). Moringa roots can be harvested throughout the year, and within the first year of tree growth (this study). Moringa seeds are harvested when the trees are mature. The roots have the potential to contain a high concentration of the antimicrobial properties (Tesemma, et al., 2013) and therefore could require less preparation, potentially leading to more widespread use.

Finally, the use of Moringa roots in water purification would allow the nutrient-rich areas of the plant, such as the leaves and seeds (Fahey, 2005) to be used as a food source. This is of particular importance because many countries with the worst water quality are also threatened by food insecurity. According to the FAO (1996), “Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. Food insecurity exists when those needs are not met. Despite the progress made towards addressing these needs, food insecurity still affects millions of people. In Sub-Saharan Africa, nearly 218 million people are affected by food insecurity, roughly one quarter of the population (UNDP, 2012). The availability of the nutritious Moringa seeds and leaves can provide access to food security.

1.3 Research Objectives
1. Determine the chemical elements present in fresh and dried Moringa roots.

2. Determine whether the length of growth time impacts the chemical elements present in dried Moringa roots by comparing roots grown for six months to roots grown for seven months.

3. Determine the chemical elements present in water treated with Moringa roots.

4. Compare the chemicals present in Moringa roots with that of a common beverage, 2% cow milk.

1.4 Organization of study
This thesis is organized as follows. First, research objectives and questions are addressed in Chapter 1. Chapter 2 is a literature review of Moringa oleifera, detailing its known properties and uses, as well as previous scientific research conducted on the tree. This chapter highlights the gaps in current research which this thesis will address. Chapter 3 discusses the process of growing Moringa oleifera in a greenhouse as well as the methods used to harvest and process the roots to create the powder used in subsequent treatments. This chapter focuses on the chemical profile of Moringaroot, as determined through Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS). In Chapter 4, the effect of Moringa roots on drinking water quality is discussed. The impact on contaminated water includes a study on how Moringa root powder impacts the indicator organisms E. coli and total coliforms, and the impact of Moringa root powder on the pH, electrical conductivity, and water turbidity. Finally, Chapter 5 is a summary and conclusion of the thesis work, including a discussion of the limitations of this study and suggestions for further research.

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Item Type: Project Material  |  Attribute: 43 pages  |  Chapters: 1-5
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