Noni: Morinda citrifolia, commonly called Indian mulberry or cheese fruit, is one strange looking fruit. Plus, its taste is bitterly bizarre and enhanced by an odoriferous note. It comes from the same plant family as the tree that grows coffee beans (Rubiaceae). This small tropical Asian evergreen tree has been revered for generations.
Its fruit, roots, and leaves have been used for over 2000 years in Polynesian folk medicine. In addition, it was used historically as a “starvation food,” when food supplies were low. It may have been chosen as a last resort because if its bitter taste and pungent aroma. Smell and taste aside, it contains small amounts of very important vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Further, there could be key health benefits to eating noni.
Noni fruit has been a valued medicinal plant for centuries. In recent years, noni’s use as a botanical health supplement has grown staggeringly. As a result, multiple scientific research studies have been conducted. A variety of studies are getting closer to determining the medical benefits of this unusual plant. Listed below is a brief review of some research. The number of human studies and sample sizes are small, but results are significant. Thus, more human studies are warranted and necessary.
Polynesians have been eating this plant’s fruit, leaves, and roots since ancient times. Their people touted a boost of energy with the fruit. There are a few modern studies that may help substantiate this use. In one study, drinking noni juice twice a day increased endurance in athletes (1). In a study with rodents, ingestion resulted in reduced fatigue and increased physical performance (2).
Perhaps drinking a few ounces of noni juice each day can help fight off common human infections. Studies have demonstrated the immunity boosting and antimicrobial actions of this plant’s extracts. Studies found were in vitro and in vivo.
In a study of 100 patients, taking a dose 1 hour before surgery resulted in significantly less post operative nausea (6).
A few small human studies have shown that drinking noni juice may help reduce joint pain and improve flexibility. This may be related to an anti-inflammatory effect. Larger sized human studies are needed.
In one study, noni extracts were antimicrobial against bacteria commonly on the teeth (9). In another study, noni fruit had an antibacterial effect against oral bacteria (10). Thus, it can’t hurt to give this juice an extra swoosh around the inside of your mouth before swallowing. (However, with noni being such an acquired taste, you may prefer the cowboy approach!)
In a small study with 22 overweight participants, a noni supplement was taken for 12 weeks. This was coupled with exercise. There was a significantly improved body composition and demonstrated weight loss (11). More human studies are needed.
Morinda citrifolia extracts may help fight certain types of cancer. While more research is necessary, a 2012 article reviewed several in vivo and in vitro studies on noni against cancer (12).
Morinda citrifolia juice had an antidiabetic effect in rats (13). In a small human study, the fruit juice was ingested for 2 months by diabetic patients. It helped lower blood sugar levels (14). More human studies are needed.
Noni is high in potassium. Thus, avoid with a potassium restricted diet. Further, large amounts or prolonged use may cause liver damage. Also, avoid during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and with kidney or liver problems. M. citrifiolia may interfere with certain medications. Consult your Doctor with questions (15). Click here to read more about possible contraindications: WebMD.
It may taste bitter and smell foul, but its good for you!
Click here for more information and more detailed reference citations on noni: Morinda citrifolia Research.
Blog by: Kathy Sadowski, MS in Aromatherapy, RA (ARC), Professinal NAHA and AIA Member, LMT