Noni – is it all it’s cracked up to be?

What is Noni?

Scientific name: “Morinda Citrifolia”

The Noni plant (sometimes known as “Indian Mulberry”) is found growing throughout the Pacific islands, often along lava flows and in forest regions up to around 430 meters (1,300 feet). Many islanders refer to it as the “Magic Fruit”.

It is a small evergreen tree recognized by its straight trunk, large green leaves, white tubular flowers and distinctive yellow fruit.

It is for this foul smelling fruit that the Noni is best known. Sometimes growing to 12 cm (5 inches) or more, it has a lumpy surface with triangular seeds endowed with an internal air sack that makes the fruit readily buoyant.

The Noni fruit has a long history of medicinal use throughout the Polynesian islands.

History of Noni

Noni is one of a number of medicinal herbs that have been widely used in the South Pacific for thousands of years.

It is believed that the Noni plant actually came to the South Pacific region around two thousand years ago. It arrived along with the settlers from Southeast Asia, now known as the Polynesians.

These intrepid adventurers arrived in the islands scattered throughout the Pacific from the Solomon Islands to Hawaii carrying with them the essential ingredients for life. They came to their new homes bundled with the plants and animals so important to them for daily life, but most importantly for food and medicine.

It is believed that until the nineteenth century around 317 species of plants were used as herbal medicine. A small number of these were used commonly for treatment of general ailments.

What were the health complaints experienced in pre European Polynesia? A very health race of people prior to contact with Western diseases, they mainly experienced problems associated with pregnancy, childbirth and aging, as well as the ever present need for first aid. However there is some evidence that respiratory problems (including asthma), indigestion, consumption, skin problems and tumors were also prevalent.

Of course, Captain Cook’s voyage of discovery through the 1770’s spread tuberculosis, gonorrhea and syphilis, placing a strain on the region’s herbal medicinal capabilities.

Sadly, little is known today about the full range of herbal medicine used by the people of this region. Much of the accumulated wisdom associated with local medicine was passed on by word of mouth for young apprentices to carry on. As Western diseases became epidemics and swept through the region, much valuable knowledge died with the experts who held it before they could pass it on.

Another setback was with the advent of the Christian missionaries. Seeing the popularity of the traditional herbalist as a threat to the spread of the Christian message (which was often more about Western culture than Bible teaching), practicing traditional medicine was declared illegal in many Polynesian lands. In Hawaii these laws lasted until the 1960’s. Much knowledge was lost forever.

Noni in Folklore

It was common for Polynesian communities to use the whole Noni plant. There are almost 40 recorded herbal remedies surviving that involve Noni. These mention combinations of the root, stems, bark, leaves, flowers and fruit.

Eating of the Noni fruit features in the mythology of the region.

Kamapua’a, the pig god who loved the volcano goddess Pele, taunted Pele with the chant, “I have seen the woman gathering Noni / Scratching Noni / Pounding Noni”. This chant supposedly made a derogatory reference to Pele’s eyes which were red, provoking her to battle with him.

Another myth tells of the Tongan god Maui being resurrected after having Noni leaves placed on his body.

What does it do?

Noni has been found useful in treatments of a wide variety of health problems. This is mainly due to the way Noni is thought to effect the body.


Although the jury is still out on precisely what makes Noni work, a number of clinical studies done by Dr. R.M. Heinicke of the University of Hawaii have suggested a link between this fruit and xeronine. Xeronine is a rather small alkaloid occurring in virtually all healthy cells of plants, animals and microorganisms. Without xeronine life would cease.

Why is xeronine so important to cellular health? Testing done on this vital alkaloid suggests that xeronine regulates the shape and rigidity of specific proteins. As proteins have very different functions, a large range of physiological responses are caused by this one simple drug. If a disease is caused specifically by a lack of xeronine supplementation will alleviate the symptoms of the problem.

Dr. Heinicke explains, “I believe that each tissue has cells which contain proteins, which in turn have receptor sites for the absorption of xeronine. Certain of these proteins are the inert forms of enzymes which require absorbed xeronine to become active…..Since Noni is a potential source of this alkaloid [xeronine], Noni juice can be a valuable herbal remedy.”


The effect of xeronine on the body at cellular level assists the removal of dead tissue safely and quickly from burns. Hence Noni appears to be an effective treatment for burns.


Some proteins become potential receptor sites for hormones after they react with xeronine. Hence, Noni’s ability to make a person generally feel well is no doubt due to the xeronine converting brain receptor proteins into active sites for the absorption of endorphin.


Proteins are also responsible for the forming of pores though membranes in the intestines. The absorption of xeronine here can beneficially change the shape of these pores, assessing the passage of molecules and thereby improving digestion.

Other conditions that may respond favorably to Noni treatments include high blood pressure, menstrual cramps, arthritis, gastric ulcers, sprains and injuries, depression, senility, poor digestion, artherosclerosis, blood vessel problems, drug addiction and general pain relief.

In a study published in 1949 in “Pacific Science”, Noni products were suggested as having moderate antibacterial properties against the bacteria M. pyrogenes, E. coli and Ps. aeruginosa.

Further, Dr. Isabella Abbott G.P. of the University of Hawaii says that there are possibly many other uses for Noni. Speaking of the recent popularity of the herb, she said, “they use it for diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer…” She then goes on to describe how her mother used the ripe fruit juice on cuts and scrapes to prevent infection.

Some people have reported success in using Noni to treat breast cancer and eye problems.

Dr. Joseph Betz, a research chemist with the FDA’s Division of Natural Products Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition says about Noni, “Morinda Citrifolia has been tested for a number of biological activities in animal and anti microbial studies.” He reports that the dried fruit has a smooth muscle stimulatory activity and a histaminergic effect. The root was also reported as possessing analgesic and tranquilizing activity.

A report out of Keio University and The Institute of Biomedical Sciences in Japan (“Cancer Letters”, September 30, 1993 issue) claimed that a compound called damnacanthal had been isolated from the Noni root which induced normal morphology and cytoskeletal structure in K-ras-NRK cancer cells.

Noni has also proved to be an effective antioxidant. The photo nutrients in Noni promote cell nourishment and protection from free radicals that cause cell break down. Additionally, Noni contains selenium, one of the best antioxidant compounds known.

Other health problems thought to receive substantial help from Noni are:

AIDS; Allergies; Athlete’s foot; Autoimmune system dysfunction; Broken bones; Cataracts; Chronic Fatigue Syndrome; Chemical sensitivity; Colitis; Comas; Colds; Constipation; Coughing; Croup; Cysts; Diaper rash; Double vision; Dry skin spots; Eczema; Energy; Fevers; Gout; Headache; Heart disease; Herniated disk; Hyperkertoses; Infections; Insomnia; Irregular heartbeat; Kidney cancer; Knee pain; Liver cancer; Macular degeneration; Migraine; Multiple Sclerosis; Muscle pain; Nervous system damage; Neurological disorder; Pre-menstrual syndrome; Prostate cancer; Psoriasis; RSDS; Sinus; Sleep; Spinal chord problems; Stroke; Sunburn; T-cell count; Tumors; Varicose veins; and yeast rash.

How do I most effectively use it?

Noni is a safe herb to take in normally recommended dosages. however it is recommended that pregnant or nursing mothers should consult their health professional before taking Noni.

Noni is best consumed on an empty stomach. This enables a quicker passage through the stomach and into the intestines before stomach acid can destroy the enzyme that liberates the xeronine.

Taste is often a factor. Noni juice can taste awful, but the more modern freeze-dried techniques have perfected methods of providing the Noni in a relatively tasteless powder capsule form.

The world’s foremost expert on Noni, Dr. Ralph Heinicke recommends that the herbal preparations containing Noni be made from the light green, semi-ripe fruit rather than the ripe, whitish fruit. “The green fruit has more of the potentially valuable components”, he explains.

Processing of Noni

Once picked Noni starts to denature extremely quickly due to its very active enzymes.

It is important to ascertain that producers of Noni have high levels of quality control in regard to the harvesting and immediate processing of the fruit. Otherwise you may be buying an inferior product.

Juice or Caps?

It is not possible to produce a commercially acceptable Noni juice product without adding large quantities of water, flavoring and preservative. Pure Noni juice is a particularly foul smelling and tasting brew.

“None of my colleagues would touch the untreated juice”, writes Dr. Heinicke. “Even after I had removed most of the disagreeable flavor from the juice, my colleagues still found it unfit to drink.”

Typical Noni juice products are 88% water content, and so you must drink literally gallons of juice to get the same benefits as other more concentrated forms.

The popular belief that the only acceptable form of Noni supplement is in liquid juice are probably due to a misconception put forward for commercial reasons.

Acclaimed Noni researcher Rita Elkins M.H. writes, “The best supplementation of Noni is a freeze-dried, powdered form. This freeze-drying process removes only the water without damaging any of this plant’s vital enzymes.”

There are other methods of processing Noni.

Thermal processing and dehydration techniques both use methods employing using high heat (110 degrees F) which can damage the active ingredients in the Noni. Thermal processing is most common in liquid preparations while dehydration processing usually ends up as capsules.

Air drying has found to be a way around the problems of excessive heat, but opens up other difficulties associated with quality control in commercial quantities.

Your use of Noni

Whoever we are and wherever we may live, we cannot afford to ignore the significant benefits that Noni may offer to our every day health.

Not just for specific ailments but for general well being, as well as preventative health management, Noni is worth experiencing.

Truly that old saying may be revamped in light of what is known about this age old herb:

“An ounce of Noni is worth a pound of cure!”


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