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The Power of Noni

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Noni

Photo: Noni Fruit

I’ve woke up early and decided to go for a three-mile run around the old neighborhood where I grew up. I was back in Puerto Rico after a few months of cold weather. As I came back to my parents’ house and as I walked inside, I’ve quickly sensed a strong smell.

I’ve said–“What the hell is that?” My dad began to laugh and with a huge smile told me—“That’s Noni.” He found out from an old client of his that the Noni fruit had many medicinal properties, even Cancer. Whatever it is, if my dad put up with the smell during preparation of Noni, either the fruit must be the magic cure or his client lied to him.

Noni normally smells during preparation. You could peel the fruit, cut it in squares, throw it in the blender along with cranberry juice and served with ice. It’s that simple. There are many other preparations and uses for Noni. This is the second natural ingredient in my series and below I share with you what I have found so far.

Origins and Historical use
Folk Medicine
Culinary uses
Health benefits
Research
Negative effects / allergies
References

Origins and Historical use


Morinda citrifolia, (commonly known as Great morinda, Indian mulberry, Beach mulberry, Tahitian Noni, Noni, Nonu, Nona), is assumed to have originated in Southeast Asia and was distributed throughout the Pacific islands by natural and man-made means.  It is believed that approximately 2000 years ago, ancient peoples of French Polynesia brought the noni plant with them as a source of food and medicine when they colonized the islands of the South Pacific. Written documentation about the use of noni as food dates back to the late 1700s when Captain James Cook observed that the fruit was consumed in Tahiti.  Subsequent publications indicate that noni fruit was commonly eaten in Fiji, Roratonga, Samoa, Australia, and India.

An important source of food, the noni fruit has been used for centuries as a food source. Early Polynesians recognized its pure value and consumed it in times of famine. During World War II, soldiers based on tropic Polynesian islands were taught by the native Polynesian people to eat the noni fruit to sustain their strength. The noni fruit became a staple food choice for people of Raratonga, Samoa and Fiji who ate the noni fruit raw or cooked. Australian Aborigines were fond of the noni fruit and consumed it raw with salt. Seeds, leaves, bark and root were also consumed by people familiar with the qualities of this unusual plant. The roots and bark of the noni plant were scraped and pounded to form a yellow or red dye used to color tapa cloths and clothing.

Polynesian legends are full of heroes and heroines who subsisted on the noni plant in days of hardship. In fact, one Tongan legend notes that the God Maui was restored to life by placing noni leaves all over his body. While the historical accounts of noni are rare and somewhat mystical, the more fascinating aspect of the noni plant was the seemingly miraculous healing properties that natives all over the Pacific believed the noni plant possessed.

Folk Medicine


The noni plant was a principal method of treatment of nearly every disease imaginable, from reproductive system disorders to broken bones to infectious and inflammatory disorders to weight, skin, and hair problems. Traditional uses of the noni plant are varied and virtually every part of the plant is used as some form of medicine.  Healers used noni leaves as a bandage or poultice for wounds.  Young, green fruits were crushed and the extracted juice was used as a remedy for lesions or sores in the mouth.  Root or stem bark was typically used to treat inflammation or infections. Other conditions treated with noni include fevers, skin disease, respiratory problems, gastrointestinal upset, menstrual or urinary problems, diabetes, and venereal diseases.

The leaves were used for relieving cough, nausea, colic ailments, tuberculosis, sprains, deep bruising, rheumatism, bone fractures, dislocations, hypertension, diabetes, stomach ache, loss of appetite, urinary tract ailments, abdominal swelling, hernias, and vitamin A deficiency. The fruits were used for lumbago, asthma, dysentery, head lice, wound poultice, broken bones, sores or scabs, sore throat, peeling and cracking of toes and feet, cuts, wounds, abscesses, mouth and gum infections, toothaches, appetite and brain stimulant food, boils, carbuncles, tuberculosis, sprains, deep bruises, rheumatism, stomach ulcers, hypertension. The juice of noni fruit was believed to regulate menstrual flow, urinary tract problems and arthritis. The stem of noni was used for treatment of jaundice and hypertension. The seeds (oil) were used as scalp insecticides and insect repellents. The leaves, flowers, fruit, bark were also collectively used for eye conditions, skin wounds, abscesses, gum and throat disease, respiratory ailments, constipation, fever, and as a laxative.

Culinary uses


Noni fruit was commonly consumed by Polynesians. Despite its strong smell and bitter taste, the fruit is nevertheless eaten as a famine food and, in some Pacific islands, even a staple food, either raw or cooked. Southeast Asians and Australian Aborigines consume the fruit raw with salt or cook it with curry. The seeds are edible when roasted. Perhaps, the most popular use of noni is as a fruit juice.

Juice of ripe noni fruits is used in sauces, dressings, and marinades in Australian bush cuisine. Young leaves are eaten raw, cooked as a vegetable, or used for wrapping in fish dishes. Parts of the noni fruit are turned into poultices, tonics and juice. Noni tea is also very popular.

Health benefits


The health benefits of noni can be attributed to its properties as an immune booster, digestive stimulant, anti-oxidant, analgesic, antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor,  and anti-cancerous phytochemical. Although the exact mechanism of action is unknown, the noni plant contains a number of components which may be responsible for its purported benefits.

Xeronines: is an alkaloid that interacts with structurally abnormal proteins to convert them into their proper conformation; thought to be a critical normal metabolic coregulator; aids in hypertension, menstrual cramps, arthritis, ulcers, musculoskeletal injuries, indigestion, depression, and addictions.

Scopoletin: Is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, histamine inhibiting, vascular dilating, serotonin modulator; aids in arthritis, allergies, migraines, depression, hypertension.

Polysaccharides (noni-ppt, galactose, arabinose, rhamnose, glucuronic acid): Immunostimulatory, immunomodulatory, anti-tumor effects; may play a role in the cancer-fighting benefits of noni.

Glycosides (rutin, asperulosidic acid): Free radical scavengers, inhibition of UVB-induced activator protein-1 activity; role in cancer-fighting effects.

Anthraquinones (damnacanthal) has antiseptic and anti-bacterial effects, while amino acids and essential fatty acids found in noni helps with healthy skin, maintenance of normal nervous system, cardiovascular system, and cellular function.

The presence of these components explains the purported benefits of noni. Besides the folk uses, noni is found to help sufferers of depression, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive behaviors and sleep deprivation due to its property of serotonin modulation. Presence of scopoletin also helps in lowering blood pressure and regulating sleep and hunger patterns. Due to its superior antioxidant properties, noni is also used improve mental alertness, and enhance learning and academic performance and generally increase energy levels.

Research


Research into the traditional uses of noni indicate that it was the second most popular plant used in herbal remedies with approximately 40 known and recorded formulations. Noni is included in the traditional pharmacopoeias of Native Hawaiians, other Pacific Islanders, and Asian populations.

Antibacterial activity: Acubin, L-asperuloside, and alizarin in the Noni fruit, as well as some other anthraquinone compounds in Noni roots, are all proven antibacterial agents. These compounds have been shown to fight against infectious bacteria strains such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Proteus morgaii, Staphylococcus aureus, Baciillis subtilis, Escherichia coli, Salmonella, and Shigela. These antibacterial elements within Noni are responsible for the treatment of skin infections, colds, fevers, and other bacterial-caused health problems. Scopoletin, a health promotor in Noni, inhibits the activity of E coli, commonly associated with recent outbreaks resulting in hundreds of serious infections and even death. Noni also helps stomach ulcer through inhibition of the bacteria H pylori.

Antiviral activity: Compound isolated from Noni roots, 1-methoxy-2-formyl-3-hydroxyanthraquinone, suppressed the cytopathic effect of HIV infected MT-4 cells, without inhibiting cell growth.

Anti-tubercular effects: In the International Chemical Congress of the Pacific Basin Societies Meeting in Honolulu, Saludes and colleagues from the Philippines, reported that Noni has been found to kill Mycobacterium tuberculosis. A concentration of extracts from Noni leaves killed 89 percent of the bacteria in a test tube, almost as effective as a leading anti-TB drug, Rifampcin, which has an inhibition rate of 97 percent at the same concentration.

Analgesic activity:3 Joseph Betz reported that the Noni fruits possess analgesic and tranquilizing activites. A French research team led by Younos, tested the analgesic and sedative effects of extracts from the Morinda citrifolia plant. The extract did “show a significant, dose-related, central analgesic activity in the treated mice.” They stated that “these findings validate the traditional analgesic properties of this plant.” The analgesic efficacy of the Noni extract is 75 % as strong as morphine, yet non-addictive and side effect free.

Hypotensive activity: Dang Van Ho of Vietnam demonstrated that a total extract of the Noni roots has a hypotensive effect. Moorthy and coworkers found that an ethanol extract of the Noni roots lowered the blood pressure in an anesthetized dog. Youngken’s research team determined that a hot water extract of Noni roots lowered the blood pressure of an anesthetized dog. A Hawaiian physician reported that Noni fruit juice had a diuretic effect.

Immunological activity: Asahina found that an alcohol extract of Noni fruit at various concentrations inhibited the production of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a), which is an endogenous tumor promotor. Therefore the alcohol extract may inhibit the tumor promoting effect of TNF-a. Hirazumi found that noni-ppt contains a polysaccharide-rich substance that inhibited tumor growth. It did not exert significant cytotoxic effects in adapted cultures of lung cancer cells, but could activate peritoneal exudate cells to impart profound toxicity when co-cultured with the tumor cells. This suggested the possibility that noni-ppt may suppress tumor growth through activation of the host immune system.

Anti-cancerous effects:4 A substance called ursolic acid found in the leaves of the noni plant has been shown to have anti-cancer properties in the body. A Japanese study found that noni fruit contains another substance (damnacanthal) that has some effectiveness against pre-cancerous cells.

The hypothesis that Morinda citrifolia possesses a cancer preventive effect at the initiation stage of carcinogenesis was studied. Preliminary data indicated that 10% Tahitian Noni Liquid Dietary Supplement or Tahitian Noni Juice (TNJ), made from Morinda citrifolia fruit by Morinda Inc, in drinking water for one week was able to prevent DMBA-DNA adduct formation. The levels of DMBA-DNA adducts were reduced by 30% in the heart, 41% in the lung, 42% in the liver, and 80% in the kidney of female SD rats. Even more dramatic results were obtained in male C57 BL-6 mice: 10% TNJ was able to reduce DMBA-DNA adduct formation by 60% in the heart, 50% in the lung, 70% in the liver, and 90% in the kidney. The results suggest that prevention of carcinogen-DNA adduct formation and the antioxidant activity of TNJ may contribute to the cancer preventive effect of Morinda citrifolia.

Mental health and improved high frequency hearing:7 A small human clinical trial of the effect of TNJ on auditory function and quality of life in the patients with decreased bone mineral density and auditory function has been conducted in UIC College of Medicine, Rockford, IL. This study showed that TNJ provided a positive benefit on mental health and improved high frequency hearing.

Statistical clinical survey:8,9 Neil Solomon, formerly Maryland’s first Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene, finished a statistical clinical survey that offers a fairly accurate picture of Noni’s medicinal benefits. He has written books on Noni juice and visited more than 50 doctors and health professionals whose patients previously used or are using Noni to treat different conditions. After reviewing the results of the more than 10,000 Noni juice users, he determined that Noni possesses a variety of efficacious medical properties that modern medicine should not ignore. 67% of 847 people with cancer experienced significant lessening of their symptoms. 91% of patients who used Noni juice noticed an increase in energy levels. 87% of those drinking Noni juice for high blood pressure experienced a significant drop in blood pressure. 90% of those with chronic pain experienced a significant decrease in pain. 80% of arthritis sufferers reported a lessening of arthritic symptoms. 80% of the people with heart disease experienced a decrease of their symptoms. 83% of patients with Type 1&2 diabetes experienced a noticeable change in their condition. 89% of the people experienced improved digestion. 85% of people with allergies experienced a decrease in their symptoms. 77% of people with depression experienced lessening of symptoms. 72% of overweight patient lost weight.

Negative effects / allergies


The side effects of Noni are very limited compared to other natural remedies. Most side effects are not reported so the results and statistics cannot be properly recorded by researchers, doctors and users. It is also believed the immune system is improved with the use of Noni juice for medicinal purposes. Researchers recommend taking one ounce daily without too many side effects. Drinking a good amount of water is also recommended. Lemon is also recommended. Water and lemon tastes good together to cleanse the systems. Taking one ounce of noni juice has been proven by research to be non-toxic and safe.10

Users experience no side effects when using small quantities of the Noni fruit juice. When Noni juice was first introduced, people experienced mild discomforts such as indigestion and bloating. The most severe side effects of Noni can include cough, gas, bad breath, belching, nausea and vomiting, increased menstrual periods, headaches, joint aches, diarrhea, itching and rash, tiredness, pimples and boils. Allergic reactions can also include trouble with breathing and oxygen intake.

Special precautions and warnings: Consumers of noni juice are advised to carefully check labels for warnings which may say, “Not safe for pregnant women” or “Keep out of reach of children.” Athletes intending to use noni juice to supplement their diet should be aware that two brands of noni juice are listed on ConsumerLab.com’s “Athletic Banned Substance Screening Program” as having been screened for substances on the World Anti-Doping Code Prohibited List.

People under medication: Those under medication for diabetes and liver conditions should consult their physician before consuming noni juice. The high potassium content may also be dangerous if you suffer from a kidney condition. Taking noni with these drugs may increase the risk of hyperkalemia (high blood levels of potassium): Amiloride, Hydrochlorothiazide and Triamterene, Spironolactone, Triamterene. Also, taking noni with these drugs may interfere with the action of these drugs – Cyclosporine, Dexamethasone, and Prednisone.


References

  1. Wang MY, West BJ, Jensen CJ, Nowicki D, Su C, Palu AK, Anderson G. Morinda citrifolia (Noni): a literature review and recent advances in Noni research. Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2002 Dec; 23(12):1127-41
  2. Thani W, Vallisuta O, Siripong P, Ruangwises N. Anti-proliferative and antioxidative activities of Thai noni/Yor (Morinda citrifolia Linn.) leaf extract. Southeast Asian J Trop Med Public Health. 2010 Mar; 41(2):482-9.
  3. Basar S, Uhlenhut K, Högger P, Schöne F, Westendorf J. Analgesic and antiinflammatory activity of Morinda citrifolia L. (Noni) fruit. Phytother Res. 2010 Jan; 24(1):38-42.
  4. Wang MY, Su C. Cancer preventive effect of Morinda citrifolia (Noni). Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2001 Dec; 952:161-8.
  5. Engdal S, Klepp O, Nilsen OG. Identification and exploration of herb-drug combinations used by cancer patients. Integr Cancer Ther. 2009 Mar; 8(1):29-36
  6. Lv L, Chen H, Ho CT, Sang S. Chemical components of the roots of Noni (Morinda citrifolia) and their cytotoxic effects. Fitoterapia. 2011 Feb 25
  7. Langford J , Doughty A, Wang MY, Clayton L, Babich M. Effects of Morinda citrifolia on auditory function and quality of life in patients with decreased bone mineral density and auditory function. J Complementary & Alternative Med Submitted, 2002.
  8. Solomon N.  The Noni phenomenon. Discover the powerful tropical healer that fights cancer, lowers high blood pressure and relieves chronic pain. Direct Source Publishing; 1999.
  9. Solomon N. Tahitian Noni Juice: The pain fighter (arthritis/pain). Direct Source Publishing; 2001
  10. West BJ, White LD, Jensen CJ, Palu AK. A double-blind clinical safety study of noni fruit juice. Pac Health Dialog. 2009 Nov; 15(2):21-32.