Morinda citrifolia, also known as noni or Indian mulberry, is a small evergreen shrub or tree of the plant family Rubiaceae. Native to the Pacific islands, Polynesia, Asia, and Australia, it grows up to 10 feet high. The leaves are 8 or more inches long, dark green, oval shaped, and shiny, with deep veins. The flower heads are about an inch long and bear many small white flowers. These heads grow to become the mature fruit, 3 to 4 inches in diameter with a warty, pitted surface. Noni fruit starts out green, turns yellow with ripening, and has a foul odor, especially as it ripens to whiteness and falls to the ground.
Some cultures may eat noni fruit in times of scarcity (the unripened fruit is less noxious). Traditional Polynesian healers have apparently used the fruit for many purposes including bowel disorders (constipation and diarrhea), skin inflammation, infection, mouth sores, fever, contusions, and sprains—but it is said that only sick and desperate people will take it, due to its unpleasant odor and bitter taste. However, the primary indigenous use of this plant appears to be of the leaves, as a topical treatment for wound healing.
In Chinese medicine, the root of M. officinalis is also a standard medication (known as bai ji tian or pa chi tien) used for the digestive system, kidneys, heart, and liver.
Other traditional uses for the plant include making a red dye from the bark and a yellow dye from the root.
Noni has been heavily promoted for an enormous range of uses, including: abrasions, arthritis, atherosclerosis, bladder infections, boils, bowel disorders, burns, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, circulatory weakness, colds, cold sores, congestion, constipation, diabetes, drug addiction, eye inflammations, fever, fractures, gastric ulcers, gingivitis, headaches, heart disease, hypertension, improved digestion, immune weakness, indigestion, intestinal parasites, kidney disease, malaria, menstrual cramps, menstrual irregularities, mouth sores, respiratory disorders, ringworm, sinusitis, skin inflammation, sprains, stroke, thrush, and wounds.1 However, there is no real evidence that it is effective for any of these conditions.
Several animal studies have evaluated the effects of extracts derived from noni. The results suggest noni may have anti-cancer,2,3,4 immune-enhancing,5 and pain-relieving properties.6 However, most of these studies used unrealistically high doses that would be difficult to get from taking the juice itself. There have been no meaningful human trials of noni.
Commercial products that contain noni juice or a juice concentrate are widely available and heavily promoted. These preparations have either eliminated the odor or altered the taste to make it more palatable. Tablets and capsules of the fruit and of the whole plant are also available.
The usual recommendation is the equivalent of 4 ounces of noni juice 30 minutes before breakfast. The typical recommendation is 2 tablespoons daily for liquid concentrates or 500 to 1,000 mg daily for powdered extracts.
According to noni promoters, it should be taken on an empty stomach and not together with coffee, tobacco, or alcohol.7 However, there is no scientific evidence for this recommendation.
Although use of noni is not commonly associated with side effects, comprehensive safety studies have not been performed. A small number of case reports hint that, in rare cases, use of noni might cause severe liver damage, potentially leading to a need for liver transplant.8-9 The risk is believed to be very low, however, if it exists at all.10 Nonetheless, people with liver disease, or who take medications that can harm the liver, or who consume alcohol to excess should not use noni. Maximum safe doses in young children or pregnant or nursing women remains unclear.
1. Elkins R. Hawaiian noni (Morinda citrifolia). Pleasant Grove, UT: Woodland Publishing; 1997.
2. Hirazumi A, Furusawa E, Chou SC, et al. Anticancer activity of Morinda citrifolia (noni) on intraperitoneally implanted Lewis lung carcinoma in syngeneic mice. Proc West Pharmacol Soc. 1994;37:145-146.
3. Hirazumi A, Furusawa E, Chou SC, et al. Immunomodulation contributes to the anticancer activity of Morinda citrifolia (noni) fruit juice. Proc West Pharmacol Soc. 1996;39:7-9.
4. Hirazumi A, Furusawa E. An immunomodulatory polysaccharide-rich substance from the fruit juice of Morinda citrifolia (noni) with antitumour activity. Phytother Res. 1999;13:380-387.
5. Hiramatsu T, Imoto M, Koyano T, et al. Induction of normal phenotypes in ras-transformed cells by damnacanthal from Morinda citrifolia. Cancer Lett. 1993;73:161-166.
6. Younos C, Rolland A, Fleurentin J, et al. Analgesic and behavioural effects of Morinda citrifolia. Planta Med. 1990;56:430-434.
8. Millonig G, Stadlmann S, Vogel W. Herbal hepatotoxicity: acute hepatitis caused by a Noni preparation (Morinda citrifolia). Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2005;17(4):445-447.
9. Stadlbauer V, Fickert P, Lackner C et al. Hepatotoxicity of NONI juice: report of two cases. World J Gastroenterol. 2005;11:4758-4760.
10. Opinion of the Scientific Panel NDA related to the safety of noni juice (juice of the fruits of Morinda citrifolia). http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/science/nda/nda_opinions/nda_op_ej376_noni.html. Accessed September 9, 2006.
Last reviewed December 2015 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
Last Updated: 12/15/2015
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