Malunggay leaves are popular vegetables in Chinese, Filipino and other South Asian cuisine, and they also have a number of uses in herbal medicine and other practical settings. Malunggay is indigenous to tropical regions in India, the Philippines and Africa. The plant grows as high as 30 feet, featuring trunks that are white and erect and white flowers with lengthy pods and winged seeds.
Malunggay leaves often appear in salads, as greens or as ingredients in soups. People fry the flowers in batter or mix them with other foods. The pods, though, are the most valuable and useful portion of the plant. The pods contain important vitamins, amino acids as well as other nutrients. They are served raw or cooked, and when fried, they release a sweet, clear, odorless oil.
As early as the 1940s, scientists at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore found that malunggay leaves contain a compound rich in antifungal, antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. A Nicaraguan study published in ECHO Development Notes found that malunggay leaves also have the potential to fight and possibly prevent tumors. The substance benzyl isothiocyanate is inside malunggay leaves, and many studies have shown the potential for this chemical to protect the body from cancer.