Noni

Noni, an odd-looking fruit, has garnered substantial attention recently due to big claims about its medicinal uses.

Quick Facts
General Information
  • Common name(s)Great morinda, Indian mulberry, beach mulberry, cheese fruit, dog dumpling, mengkudu
  • Scientific nameMorinda citrifolia
  • Main producer(s)United States of America
  • Main Economic UseMedicinal
Noni

Noni is a fruit originally from Southeast Asia, where it has been used as part of culinary lore for hundreds of years. Nowadays, numerous people are familiar with noni as a part of mixed fruit drinks, although there is still much to learn about its immense nutritional and medicinal prestige


Medicinal and Nutritional Information

Quick Facts (Medicinal and Nutritional Information)
  • Medicinal actionAntioxidant, Immune stimulant
  • Key constituentsXeronin
  • Ways to useLiquid extracts, Food, Juiced
  • Medicinal rating(1) Very minor uses
  • Safety rankingUse with caution
Noni Benefits

Health Benefits of Noni

There have been claims that noni can be used for:

  • Stimulating the immune system. This is due to the presence of the alkaloid xeronin.

  • Delaying aging. Noni is thought to contribute to cell regeneration, improving cognitive performance and skin health.

The fruit is also famous for helping people to lose weight. In addition, it is believed that noni may aid in the management of long-term respiratory issues, arthritic pains, and diabetes, though these claims are not scientifically supported.

How It Works

The main reason for noni's varied medicinal properties is the presence of xeronin - an alkaloid that can stimulate the immunological system - in the plant's fruit. In addition, the fruit's nutritional value is also remarkable: it is rich in complex carbohydrates and fructose, and with massive amounts of vitamins A, C, and B3 (niacin), as well as iron, selenium, potassium, and calcium. Likewise, a large number of flavonoids, fatty acids, and other phytonutrients have also been found in the fruit, and its diverse applications are still under research.

Noni contains selenium, which is believed to play a role in cell regeneration, and may also help protect the body from free radicals.

Other herbs that protect and stimulate the immune system are cabbage and echinacea, whereas ginkgo and ginseng have been shown to enhance cognitive performance.

Noni Side Effects

More research into this herb is needed, and several food and drink manufacturers have been warned by the FDA about making unsubstantiated health claims in regard to noni. What is known is that side effects are generally minimal if even existent. Noni is not suitable for those limiting their potassium intake due to kidney problems, as the plant has high levels of this mineral. Links have also been drawn between liver disease and noni, and so it should be avoided by anyone with liver problems.

How to Consume Noni

Quick Facts (How to Consume)
  • Edible partsFruit
  • Edible usesBeverage
  • TastePungent

There are three main ways to consume noni: raw, cooked as part of a larger preparation, or in supplement form. In Western countries, consumption of raw noni is usually limited to people who are looking for a specific short-term health benefit, as its strongly pungent and acidic flavor is not favored by most.

WHILE NONI'S JUICE IS MADE FROM THE PULP OF THE FRUIT, MOST MEDICINAL FORMS ARE OBTAINED ON THE SEEDS.

Natural Forms

  • Raw.The taste and smell of the raw, fresh noni fruit can be unpleasant, so it tends to be mixed with other fruits or sugar to be more palatable.

  • Juice. Because if its pungent flavor, noni is undoubtedly more commonly used in fruit juices than in main dishes.

  • Infusion. The dried leaves of noni can then be steeped in water to make a warm infusion. Noni tea is commonly taken to strength the immune system.

Herbal Remedies & Supplements

  • Liquid extract. Obtained from a distillation process, this preparation is meant to be diluted in water or juices, and concentrate the immune stimulant, antioxidant properties of the fruit.

  • Essential oil. Extracted from the seeds of the noni fruit, this preparation is intended for topical use and has wound healing effects. Its antioxidant power and essential amino acids can help improve skin health.

  • Capsules. This supplemental form of noni is consumed as a whole-body tonic. It allows for a fast intake, easy dosage adjustments, and a consistent concentration of the active ingredients.

Buying

Natural Forms

Both raw noni and noni juice can be found in most large grocery stores and markets around the world. Aside from fruit juice, the most common presentation of raw noni is dried leaves, which are easy to found online.

Herbal Remedies & Supplements

Medicinal preparations of noni are mainly found in specialized health stores. In addition, there is a wide variety of noni supplement choices available through online retailers. Each brand of supplement may come with different concentrations or dosages.

Growing

Quick Facts (Growing)
  • Life cyclePerennial
  • Harvested partsFruit
  • Growing habitatHumid regions
  • Plant spacing average3 m (9.84 ft)
  • Propagation techniquesCuttings, Stem cuttings
  • Potential insect pestsNematodes

Although noni naturally belongs to tropical regions, it is fairly easy to adapt it to a wide range of different light levels, from direct sun to shade, as well as to different soils.

Growing Guidelines

  • Noni can be grown from seeds, but it is usually more profitable to propagate it from stems or cuttings, since seed germination can take up to 12 months.
  • To get the best yields from noni, the plants should be spaced 10 feet (3 m) apart in order to avoid overcrowding and increasing pest susceptibility.

  • Moderate irrigation is necessary in order get the best possible fruit quality, although the plant can resist droughts if need be.

  • Pruning is strongly encouraged, since the noni tree can easily grow to 20 feet (6 m) tall, which would make it impossible to manage and harvest.

  • Stem propagation makes the plant more susceptible to plagues and diseases, particularly nematodes.

Additional Information

Quick Facts (Additional Information)
  • Other usesAnimal feed, Dye, Repellent

Plant Biology

Noni is a small evergreen tree or shrub, native to Southeast Asia (Indonesia) and Australia, but widely adapted to other tropical regions of the world. A mature noni tree typically reach up to 10-20 feet (3-6 m), its inconspicuous, white, star shaped flowers grow around a globular head and have five stamens. Noni's elongated, glossy leaves somehow resemble those of citrus species. The plant sometimes supports itself on other plants as a liana. Depending on the variety, there is much variation in overall plant form, fruit size, leaf size and morphology, palatability, odor of ripe fruit, and number of seeds per fruit.

  • Classification

    Noni (Morinda citrifolia) is a member of the Rubiaceae family, which contains approximately 13,000 species of flowering plants, notably including coffee (Coffea arabica). Other medicinal plants within the family are cat's claw (Uncaria tomentosa) and cleavers (Galium aparine).

    The botanical name for the genus, Morinda, comes from the combination of two Latin words: morus, 'mulberry', and indicus, 'Indian', in reference to the similarity of the fruit of noni to that of true mulberry (Morus alba). The species name, citriflolia, indicates the resemblance of the plant foliage to that of some citrus species.

  • Varieties and Cultivars of Noni

    There are two main varieties of noni: M. citrifolia var. citrifolia, with elongated leaves and cultivated mainly in Hawaii, and M. citrifolia var. bracteata, which grows mostly in Indonesia and can be recognized by the white bracts that surround the fruits. In addition, Hawaii also possesses a specific cultivar of noni known as 'Potteri', with variegated, white and green leaves.

Historical Information

For over 2,000 years, noni has been an important food source across different Pacific islands. The early French Polynesians consumed it in times of famine, while people in Burma (modern day Myanmar) cooked the unripe fruit in curries and ate the ripe fruits with salt. Australian aborigines were also fond of this fruit, and they were the first to apply its medicinal properties.

On the Asian continent, the seeds, leaves, bark, and roots of the fruit were also eaten in India, Burma, and the Philippines. Nowadays, the production of noni and its related products are a multimillion-dollar industry.

Economic Data

The biggest commercial value of noni is in beverages, fruit powders, toiletries, and oil. The biggest markets for noni currently consist of Asia, Australia, and North America, and the largest producer is Hawaii. The worldwide market for noni moves an estimated $400 million USD annually.

Popular Beliefs

In its native regions, both noni plant and fruit have been used as a “ghost medicine,” based on the religious belief that ghosts are repelled by their pungent smell.

Other Uses

  • Gardening. Noni is an attractive shrub which is generally well suited for home-gardens and landscapes.

  • Flavoring. In some Asian countries, the young leaves of the noni tree are cooked as vegetables and eaten with rice in Java and Thailand; the mature leaves are wrapped around fish for cooking, and the buds are also consumed as food.

  • Timber. The wood is used for the construction of canoe parts and paddles, axe and adze handles, as well as digging sticks, and the roots are used for carving.

  • Fuel. The trunk of the noni tree is used for firewood.

  • Dye. The bark contains a red pigment, whereas a yellow pigment is obtained from the roots. Dyes from noni have been traditionally used to color clothing and fabrics.

  • Fodder. The leaves of noni are also used to feed livestock and silkworms.

  • Repellent. The foul-smelling oil obtained from the noni seeds is used as scalp insecticide or insect repellent.

Bibliography

  • NCCAM Herbs at a Glance, Noni
  • MedlinePlus Herbs and Supplements, Noni
  • New York University - Langone Medical Center, Noni
  • Agroforestry, Species Profiles for Pacific Island Agroforestry - Morinda citrifolia (noni)
  • International Journal of Food Properties, Isolation and Identification of Antioxidative Compound from Fruit of Mengkudu (Morinda citrifolia L.), 2007
  • International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, A new vegetable oil from noni (Morinda citrifolia) seeds, 2008
  • National Tropical Botanical Garden, Meet the Plants: Morinda citrifolia
  • Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology & Physiology, Digital image analysis of the effect of topically applied linoleic acid on acne microcomedones, 1998
  • Acta Pharmaceutica Sinica, Morinda citrifolia (Noni): a literature review and recent advances in Noni research, 2002