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The Medical Benefits of the Noni Fruit of Hawaii
What's that you say? You've never heard of the Noni fruit? Well, if medical science continues to validate the reputation its been given through a multitude of native traditions, you might find yourself storing it by the gallon in your refrigerator.
If you are the scientific type, you may know this fruit by the name Morinda citrifolia. Its official classifications are:
Species: M. citrifolia
The genus has around 80 different species. The name "Morinda" comes from the Latin morus (mulberry), and indicus (Indian). This is a reference to the similarity of the Morinda genus to the mulberry, the Morus indica. Citrifolia references the leaves very similar to the plants of the Citrus genus.
The Noni fruit, as it is known to those of us in Hawaii, is native to Southeast Asia. Noni is a multiple fruit, meaning that each flower (when fertilized) produces a fruit (drupe), but as they grow they merge into one single compound (syncarp). Other examples of multiple fruits include the breadfruit, the pineapple, and the mulberry.
This evergreen shrub or small tree has shiny, oval-shaped, dark green leaves and produces clusters of small, white flowers. The flower heads of the Noni transform into small green fruits with a bumpy texture, due to the reddish-brown seed pits that cover them. As the fruit matures, the color changes from green to yellow; when it is ripe, it turns white and either falls from the branch or is picked. It takes about three months for a Noni fruit to grow and ripen.
The tree can grow as tall as twenty feet, and bears fruit all year round. It grows well on rocky or sandy shores, but best in mineral-rich volcanic ash. It is often found on limestone outcrops, coasts of lava, and any other type of volcanic terrain. In God's great design of nature, fruit bats consider the smelly fruit to be a pleasing fragrance, and they are assigned to seed dispersal. However, we humble humans can propagate to our heart's content with seeds and cuttings.
The Bitter Taste of Medicine
The Noni fruit is edible in raw form, but its reputation for being one of the foulest-smelling, nastiest-tasting foods on the planet is well-founded. Although most people don't pack a Noni fruit in their lunch box, or add one to the fruit basket being presented as a gift to the family doctor at Christmas, large numbers of people consume some form of the plant every single day.
Noni fruit (raw and/or cooked) is a staple food in some of the Pacific islands, Samoa, Fiji, and Raratonga among them. The Australian Aborigines prefer it as a curry stew or raw and salted. The seeds can be roasted and the young leaves are a protein-containing vegetable.
The Noni is as widely known for its medicinal properties as it is for its rotten aroma. The fruit, seeds, flowers, roots, and bark are all used in one way or another for health purposes, and this has been so for a very long time. The earliest reference to its medicinal use dates back several thousand years to India's Sanskrit writings.
Once again, for as many places that grow the Noni fruit, there are as many traditional medicinal uses. For topical uses, it can be used raw or pounded into a mush and mixed with salt. The smelly salve is applied to cuts and broken bones. Raw ripe fruit is applied to infected boils for the purpose of drawing out the pus. It is also topically applied to animal bites, insect bites, inflammation, and burns. In some places heated leaves are placed on the chest to relieve nausea, coughs, and colic, or placed on the forehead to treat headaches.
Tonics made from various parts of the Noni bush are used to treat eye, skin, gum, throat, skin, and stomach problems. Traditional healers use Noni extracts for treating arthritis, menstruation, dysentery, lumbago, asthma, intestinal worms, food poisoning, nausea, and urinary, bowel, and respiratory problems.
In the history of Hawaii, Noni trees have been planted to provide shade for coffee plants. On Java, an island of Indonesia, trees are cultivated for their bark, which produces a reddish-brown dye used in batik making. In some cultures it is used as a shampoo, and considered helpful in keeping head lice away. And people all over the world find it an economical choice for pig feed.
Welcome to the Western World
While it was in use in many eastern and island cultures for a long time, it wasn't until the beginning of the 20th century that the Noni infiltrated the western world. Traditional and folk medicines are handed down from generation to generation, and the fact that it worked for great-great-grandma is enough; it is not enough for the west to know something works, there must be an explanation why. (Satisfactory answers are appearing, and in 2003, Tahitian Noni â„¢ Juice was included in the Physician's Desk Reference for Non-Prescription Drugs and Dietary Supplements.)
On the western front, medical science continues its research, but the fruit has found acceptance among many as a natural remedy in the form of a juice, chock full of vitamin C and marketed as Tahitian Noni, or Hawaiian Noni. Its praises are sung from the lips of believers with Noni-breath everywhere.
It is sold as blended juice made from Noni concentrate, in powder form, as fresh juice, and as capsules of freeze-dried fruit extract. It is recommended that if the taste or smell of the Noni juice is disagreeable to you (safe assumption), its flavor can be enhanced, or better yet, masked, by combining it with another fruit juice.
It is in demand for everything from minor injuries to life-threatening illnesses, including (but certainly not limited to) the following:
High blood pressure
Headaches of all strengths
Any Warnings on this Wonderfruit?
So far, it's safe to say that you might experience constipation. People with diabetes should consult their doctor before adding Noni to their diet as it is high in sugar. Ditto for people with kidney problems; Noni juice has a lot of potassium.
You also might notice a slightly different color to your urine. This is caused by a compound in the fruit known as anthraquinone. This is no cause for alarm, just something to be aware of and to let the technician know, if for any reason you need a lab test while taking Noni.
My Personal Opinion
With well over 100 nutritional components identified in Noni, including all the B vitamins, vitamin C and other antioxidants, calcium, beta-carotene, magnesium, potassium, pectin, and protein, it would seem almost impossible that there could not be a wide range of health benefits to be harvested from the Noni fruit.
In fact, researchers in Hawaii and other parts of the country and world continue to explore the possibilities of Noni as an anticancer agent. Now if that turns out to be so, this leukemia survivor may have to buy a clothespin for her nose and convert to the movement.