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Lost Crops of Africa: Volume II: Vegetables
frequently mentioned in ancient Egyptian texts for its oil and medicinal applications.30 This species (a widely used synonym is M. aptera) provided the original ben oil (the name deriving from the Arabic al Bân), an odorless sweet oil that keeps well and is esteemed in perfumery. This species is still found today in Egypt and in Israel’s Rift Valley as far as the southern shore of the Dead Sea. It has wood that is good for firewood and charcoal, and also reportedly resists termites.
There is also the potential for hybridizing Moringa oleifera with other members of its genus. M. stenopetala, for example, has been shown to contain flocculating agents that show a high homology to those in M.oleifera. With M. stenopetala producing bigger seeds (but usually a lower yielder) than M .oleifera, it may be possible to increase overall seed yield through such hybridizations. It may also be possible to increase the oil yield of M .oleifera by producing a hybrid with M. peregrina, whose seeds yield approximately 50 percent oil.
Many believe the Biblical book of Exodus (15:23-27) is the earliest written reference to what is most likely Moringa being used to purify water (probably Moringa peregrina,): “And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? And he cried unto the Lord; and the Lord shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet….”