The Miracle Tree
So how did the Moringa tree gain the impressive title of the “Miracle Tree”? After all, as you can imagine, this has historically been a coveted title to hold. Quite frankly it’s also a nearly impossible title for any tree to hold for long.
To be referred to as the “Miracle Anything” sets expectations sky-high. Keeping the title means any tree has to live up to very high expectations.
The reality is many trees have tried but have failed the test. They have lost the title as quickly as they gained it.
And yet here is a curious thing. Year after year and decade after decade the Moringa tree has been called the Miracle Tree. In fact, the name is gaining in popularity at an alarming rate! Just check the numbers below.
Now for those without time to read the entire post, here is the super quick and concise answer:
Moringa is called the Miracle tree because every part of the tree is highly beneficial and used for nutritional, medicinal or other purposes. Did we mention it’s also fast-growing and drought-resistant?
Today the title ‘Miracle tree’ is synonymous with the Moringa tree but it wasn’t always that way. Here’s some quick history.
“Miracle” Trees of the Past
In the last 100 years, at least a handful of trees earned the coveted title. But none of them held the title very long nor could they deliver as Moringa has.
In 1988 an article was published in California Agriculture entitled ‘Seven-year performance of eucalyptus species in Napa County’.
The report states Eucalyptus was promoted in the early 1900s as the “Miracle Tree.”
Eucalyptus was touted as the tree that would solve the wood fiber supply problems of California. Eucalyptus was planted to be a primary source of lumber, railroad ties, and mining timbers. But all didn’t go well at all. Eucalyptus had one big issue that wasn’t known: excessive shrinkage.
It didn’t take long for people to realize Eucalyptus grown in California was subject to excessive shrinkage and warping that prevented it from being used as planned. People began to sour on the purported “miracle tree” when it became evident that there were significant issues. The title just didn’t stick.
In 1978 Hugh Curran of the Philippines named Leucaena as “super marvelous miracle trees.”
It was known as the Miracle Tree or the tree of a thousand uses.
Questioning the title, in 1982, Michael D. Benge of the Science and Technology Bureau (Office of Forestry Environment and Natural Resources) wrote an article about Leucaena. It was titled: Miracle Tree: Reality or Myth?
He stated that:
Because of Leucaena leucocephala’s multiple uses as forage, fuelwood, poles, green manure, etc., this fast-growing, nitrogen-fixing tree has been the subject of much research in the last decade.
But Benge then went on to present Leucaena in a less than miraculous way.
Today no one associates Leucaena with the coveted title.
Not long after Leucaena was losing favor, another tree tried to stand up to the pressure of title. It was 1983, and the Journal of Bio-Energy News of India ran an article titled: Neem: the Miracle Tree for meeting India’s growing energy needs.
While neem certainly has many amazing uses (we use neem oil it as a natural insecticide) the title didn’t stick for neem either.
There have been other attempts to pin the title on various trees. Species like Neolamarckia cadamba and Anthocephalus Chinensis (1960s Miracle Tree of the Philippines) tried and ultimately failed. So-called Miracle Trees have risen for a brief moment in history and then just a quickly they have fallen from that position.
So how did Moringa earn the title Miracle Tree? And how has it been able to hold the title for over 30 years?
Dr. Martin Price of ECHO
From my research, the title Miracle Tree was first given to Moringa by Dr. Martin Price in 1985.
Dr. Martin Price is the co-founder of Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization known as ECHO. Price first learned of Moringa in 1981 during a visit to a Haitian orphanage where it was used. He was very impressed with Moringa and started spreading the word about it.
(As a side note, I had the experience of attending ECHO for a week-long tropical agriculture training course in 2015. Incidentally, Dr. Price was still at ECHO the week I participated in the training. If you have the chance, give ECHO a visit in Fort Myers, Florida. They are a great organization and love Moringa!)
By 1985, Dr. Price had published an article called “Moringa oleifera; the miracle tree.” The report was an overview of many of the amazing benefits and uses of Moringa.
Lowell Fuglie of World Church Services
A few years later in 1989, Lowell Fuglie reinforced the idea. Fuglie was serving the impoverished and malnourished in Senegal with World Church Services. After seeing amazing results using Moringa, he began writing about his successful use of Moringa in battling against malnutrition and multiple health ailments.
In 1989 from Dakar Senegal he wrote an article titled: Moringa oleifera: Natural nutrition for the tropics, the miracle tree.
Fuglie’s article was now the second article in four years calling Moringa the Miracle tree.
Fast forward 12 years.
In 2001 Fuglie released a 172-page book regarding all things related to Moringa. The book was titled:
The Miracle Tree: the multiple attributes of Moringa.
To this day the title has held! Instead of going away it seems only to be gaining in awareness and popularity.
For example, take a look at the numbers below. I have searched on Google Scholar for published articles that use the term Miracle Tree in reference to Moringa.
Year range and published articles referring to Moringa as the Miracle Tree:
1981 – 1990 (2x articles)
1991 – 2000 (No new articles)
2000 – 2010 (179x articles)
2010 – 2019 (1930x articles!)
Of course, as described above, the first references I found were in 1985 and 1989.
As you can see it took about 15 years or so for the title to catch on, but it’s clear the title has stuck!
So at the end of the day, it wasn’t a clever marketing team but rather two missionaries who were responsible for calling Moringa the “Miracle Tree”. To Price and Fuglie, after seeing the benefits of Moringa and how it was helping people, the name wasn’t a stretch by any means.
Will Moringa be called the Miracle Tree in 100 years? I have no idea. But it’s proved itself over the last three decades as an incredible and natural gift that promotes health and wellness across the globe! That’s a Miracle.
Moringa is continuing to change people’s lives for the better. For the people who learn about Moringa and use it, Moringa truly does become a Miracle tree.
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