What Is It?
Health Benefits
Dosage Information
Guidelines for Use
General Interaction
Possible Side Effects

What Is It?

Originally native to the Pacific islands of Tahiti (French Polynesia), the herb morinda citrifolia (better known as noni) is a distinctive-smelling tropical plant that now grows wild in other parts of the region, including Hawaii, New Zealand, and Australia. For more than 2,000 years Polynesian folk healers and others who became familiar with the fruit-bearing plant have valued it highly as both a food and healing agent.

Also known as Indian mulberry, morinda citrifolia is an evergreen shrub or small tree, with shiny, dark green leaves, that bears a multitude of small white flowers. The flower heads grow into small bumpy fruits, which turn from green to yellow and then to white as they ripen and ultimately fall from the branch. Medicinal properties are believed to reside in the leaves, roots, and the distinctive fruits.

In fact, the fruit, which emits a fetid aroma akin to blue cheese, is often consumed as a food at various stages of its ripeness. The fruit is also manipulated and pressed to produce a sweet, sugary drink used in traditional medicine. Noni juice and other noni products have enjoyed a surge in popularity in the United States over the past few years. Noni goes by several other names as well, including Tahitian noni juice, mora de la India, hog apple, and Caribe.

Health Benefits

Traditional healers claim that the fruit can be eaten or consumed as a juice, or added to basic recipes, for the purposes of warding off arthritis, rheumatic disease, the effects of aging, tuberculosis, and a variety of other ills.

Traditional healers use specific parts of the noni plant to treat different medical conditions. The plant's leaves, for instance, are wrapped around arthritic joints, applied to the forehead to ease a headache, or brewed into tea to sip as a tonic. The stem bark and green leaves are crushed and strained to produce a liquid that is drunk to treat urinary tract problems and as a general tonic.

Noni is also used topically. Ripe fruit is mashed into a poultice and then applied to blemishes and boils to draw out pus. A soft mush of unripened fruit is combined with salt and applied to cuts and broken bones to accelerate healing.

The juice of the noni fruit is worked in to the hair and scalp as a shampoo to kill head lice. (Typically this shampooing is followed by an aromatic rinse to clear the fruit's pungent smell.) Noni juice is sometimes recommended for heart problems such as high blood pressure, either alone or combined with capsaicin (cayenne pepper). Its high sugar content has been used in the treatment of diabetes.

Recently, Dr. Neil Solomon made dozens of claims for the ability of noni to heal a huge array of ills in his widely distributed booklet, Noni: The Tropical Fruit with 101 Medicinal Uses. Some caution is advised here, however. While many of the traditional uses for noni may well work, relatively little modern research has been conducted to determine which of the long list of applications is valid. In fact, there are no actual known health benefits from noni other than the anecdotal claims made by its manufacturers and multi-level marketing distributors.

The most intriguing and apparently most closely examined of the many claims for noni is for the prevention and correction of cancer-related changes in the body.

Specifically, noni may help to:

  • Prevent and possibly treat cancer. Researchers in Illinois, Hawaii, and in other parts of the world are exploring the anticancer effects of noni juice. Extracts have shown anti-tumor activity in animal studies. It's not clear how noni works in countering cancerous changes in the body, although there are indications that it does so by activating the immune system in certain ways, especially in the very first stages of cancer development. The University of Hawaii is conducting an NIH-funded phase I study of noni in cancer patients to see if the animal findings have any relevance to humans.

  • Dosage Information

    Special tips:

    --Exporters of noni sell the plant in different forms, including fresh juice, blended juice made from noni concentrate, as a powder, and in capsules as freeze-dried noni fruit extract. There is no sound evidence that one form is superior to another.

    -- A typical noni dosage is 3 to 6 grams (or 8 to 10 ounces of juice) taken daily in two divided doses on an empty stomach. To enhance absorption, some sources recommend taking noni capsules with an 8-ounce glass of water, at least 30 minutes before a meal.

    -- Powdered noni can also be prepared as a liquid. Add 5 to 9 grams of noni powder to 4 cups of water and boil until the liquid is reduced by half. Cool and split into two doses to be taken at separate times of the day, on an empty stomach.

    Guidelines for Use

    If the taste or smell of noni juice is disagreeable to you, try mixing it with water or another fruit juice (apple, orange) to dilute the flavor.

    General Interaction

  • Compounds in noni called anthraquinones can alter the color of urine slightly, lending it a pink or reddish tint. This effect is harmless. However, if you are submitting urine for laboratory testing, make sure to let the tester know that you are taking a compound containing anthraquinones.

  • There are no other known drug or nutrient interactions associated with noni.

  • Possible Side Effects

  • Noni juice is high in sugar and should be used cautiously by people with diabetes and others who need to limit their glucose and caloric intake.

  • Constipation can occur with certain forms of noni; lessen the amount you consume if this problem develops.

  • Cautions

  • Read the label carefully. Noni, which is from the plant Morinda citrifolia, should not be confused with Morinda officinalis. The latter is a different plant altogether, which will provide none of the potential benefits that Morinda citrifolia can.

  • Noni juice contains considerable amounts of potassium, so avoid high intakes of this herb if you have kidney problems or if you have been instructed to limit your potassium intake.

  • Date Published: 04/19/2005
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