Skip to main content
Get your brand new Wikispaces Classroom now
and do "back to school" in style.
Pages and Files
Website Hit Counter
Noni Fruit (
By Evelyn Teo
Evelyn Teo holding two mature noni fruits (Cheng, L. 2009)
Common names in different countries
Mengkudu (Malaysia), nhau ( other parts of SE Asia), painkiller bush (Caribbean), Cheese fruit (Australia), mulberry, nuna and ach (India).
SE Asia and Australia, cultivated in Polynesia, India, Caribbean, central and NS America.
Average height of the tree
Description of the leaves
wide elliptical leaves 5-17 cm length, 10-40 cm width
Description of the flowers
small tubular white flowers grouped in a bundle on the peduncle
Colour of the fruit
The young fruits are green and and this fades to pale yellow when ripe. The fruits can be harvested at any time throughout the year.
Personal comment about the taste of noni fruit
As the fruits gradually ripen on the tree, It is possible to smell the pungent odour about 5 metres away from the tree. It is not the kind of tropical fruit that has welcoming aromas, that would quench your thirst like pineapple, watermelon, mangosteen, wax apple, tangerine. In Malaysia, noni leaves are commonly used for wrapping raw fish to cook in a similar way that roast meat is cooked in an oven bag or in aluminium foil. The fruit juices have a long history of medicinal uses. Local people in Malaysia would crush the fruit with mortar and pestle (before the existence of blenders) and drink only the juice. In old times, noni juice was commonly used for the treatment of nausea, headache, period pain and almost any discomforts from inside to outside of the body. Even though people in Malaysia cannot demonstrate the specific use of noni juice they would not hesitate to take noni juice in the first place.
Noni juice does not smell pleasant but it is tasteless. Normally, syrup is added into the freshly crushed juice to make it easier to drink especially for children. Due to high humidity in the country, the elderly often suffer from joint pains. The traditional therapists believe that joint pain is related to wind being trapped around the joint and dampness could accelerate the pain around the joint. According to traditional treatment, the dampness and wind require to be extracted from the joint in order to heal the pain, to do this a medium is needed. Noni leaves (the medium) are heated over a fire, without burning the leaves, just placing the leaves over the flame then applying them directly to the sore joint. This method is believed to be effective and is inexpensive.
fruit colour changing from green to pale yellow (Teo, E.S.M. 2009)
Noni is the Tahitian name for the fruit of
, it has, however, many different names. In Malaysia for example, the fruit is known as mengkudu while in India it is known as Indian mulberry, nuna and ach. In the Caribbean it is called it the painkiller bush because the fruit was traditionally crushed and applied on wounds (McClatchey, 2002). The fruit has strong butyric acid odour when mature so Australians call
as cheese fruit (McClatchey, 2002; Chan-Blanco
comes originally from Polynesia or South East Asia is still not known. According to Johansson (1994),
was an endemic species of the Pacific. Herbal medicines like the seeds, fruit, roots and leaves of
have been used for a long time to treat both internal and external ailments by the pacific islanders. Therefore it is believed that
seeds were being distributed to Southeast Asia, India and Caribbean by fellow voyagers (Abbott, 1992; Whistler, 1992).
have been used therapeutically for at least two thousand years in the Eastern pacific (i.e. in Hawaii and Tahiti). It is still used as a herbal medicine in many Pacific islands (Abbott, 1992; Whistler, 1992; Hirazumi
, 1996; Wang
., 1999). Some papers indicate that
is native to Southeast Asia (e.g. Malaysia) and is cultivated in India, Caribbean, Polynesia and the States but there are limited documentations to identify the origin of the plant (Dixon
, 1999; Ross, 2001; Nelson, 2006) thou herbal medicines are still common in the proposed countries.
has been exploited by American food scientists, Story and Wadsworth in 1993 as soon as they gathered all required information to introduce
juice as nutritional supplement. A recent
market report shows an exponential increase in
juice production during the 2000s where the USA alone, 19 patents and trademark applications for production of both domestic and international market (USPTO, 2005) have occured. Folk tales among the islanders have aroused the interest of food scientists in the States during their visit to Tahiti searching for food related research projects (Story and Wadsworth, 1993). Some evidence collected from the domestic residents through verbal communication and some research findings on the effectiveness of
fruit to treat various internal complications, fruit juice and powder supplement were widely produced for commercial purposes (SCF, 2002). Processed
products, especially juice has been marketed in the States in 1996, other countries/continents that were targeted recently include Canada, Japan, Australia, Mexico, Norway, Hong Kong (SCF, 2002), Africa, Pacific and Asia (Elkins, 1998; Solomon, 1999). Other Noni products apart from juice are being commercialised, see
Morinda citrifolia var. bracteata (Chin, C.K.F (Jun 2009))
There are more than 80
species that have been discovered in the tropics (Morton, 1992; Cardon, 2003). The commonly grown commercial varieties are:
M. citrifolia var. citrifolia, M. citrifolia var. bracteata and M. citrifolia var. potteri.
These varieties have different morphological aspects but the chemical properties are similar (i.e. phenolic compounds, organic acids and
) (Wang and Su, 2001; Nelson, 2005).
Morinda citrifolia var. citrifolia
Also known as Hawaiian noni and there are two subtypes of
M. citrifolia var. citrifolia.
In general, the large-fruited type have ovate leaves while the small-fruited type have narrower but more elliptical-elongated leaves.
M. citrifolia var. bracteata
growing fruit (Chin, C.K.F (Jun 2009))
Is indigenous to Malaysia, Indonesia and other regions between the Indian and Pacific oceans. the fruit is small-fruited type decorated with conspicuous bracts below at the tip end of the fruit. The leaves are wide-elliptical in shape and relatively bigger than the Hawaiian noni.
M. citrifolia var. potteri
It is distributed across the Pacific regions and has an overall look of a shrub. This variety is commonly seen as decorative plantation for landscaping due to its beautiful shiny green foliage and green and white variegated leaves.
is a woody fruit bearing plant. The leaves and fruit are evergreen when young and the surface of both leaves and fruits are waxy and glossy (Nelson, 2006). The woody trunk of
can grow as tall as 10 m, depending on cultivar. Cultivars that grow in the pacific islands are described as a shrub rather than tree as they grow to a height of about 3 to 6 m. Taller cultivars like
M. citrifolia var. bracteata
are found in Southeast Asia have a conical shape where the branches become much narrower at the tip of the tree. Other plant varieties have an overall “mushroom” branching with a higher leaf density. Flowers are white in colour, with 75-90 ovoid to globose heads. The fruit is technically known as syncarp, where the flesh is milky white, soft and slimy when ripe.
has an extensive lateral rooting system and a strong deep tap root.
Back view of noni leaf (Chin, C.K.F.2009)
Front view of noni leaf (Chin, C.K.F. 2009)
There are 160 phytochemical compounds that have been identified by Wang and Su (2001) and the main micronutrients are listed as follows:
Amongst the phenolic compounds, anthraquinones were reported to be the most important compound responsible for the health benefits (Wang and Su, 2001). Damnacanthal, morindone, morindin, aucubin, asperuloside and scopoletin are anthraquinones (Wang and Su, 2001). Other phenolic compounds reported by Morton
. (1992); Dittmar (1993) and Dixon
. (1999) include: alizarin, nordam-nacanthal, rubiadin, rubiadin-1-methyl ether and other anthraquinone glycosides. Two major organic acids were as identified caproic and caprylic acids by Dittmar (1993) while xeronine is the principal alkaloid in M. citrifolia fruit (Heinicke, 1985). The fruit contains 90% of water and the dry matter consists of soluble solids, dietary fibers and proteins (Chunchieng, 2003). About 11.3% of the dry matter is protein and main amino acids are aspartic, glutamic and isoleucine (Chunchieng, 2003). Minerals such as potassium, sulphur, calcium, phosphorus and trace element such as selenium were reported to be present in the juice (8.4%) (Chunchieng, 2003). Ascorbic acid was measured in the fruit by Morton (1992) and Shovic and Whistler (2001) in the range of 24 to 158 mg/100 g DM. The strong odour of
fruit is possibly caused by the organic acids, mainly octanoic and hexanoic acids. An approximate of 51 volatile compounds was identified in the fruit, alcohols (3-methyl-3-buten-1-ol), esters (methyl octanoate, methyl decanoate), ketones (2-heptanone), and lactones (E-6-dodeceno-γ-lactone). Farine
Table 1. Nutritional panel of Hawaiian
halved and whole noni (Chin, C.K.F. 2009)
fresh noni seeds (Chin, C.K.F. 2009)
Therapeutic properties of
juice is believed to be beneficial for the treatment of high blood pressure, menstrual cramps, arthritis, gastric ulcers, sprains, injuries, mental depression, senility, poor digestion, atherosclerosis, blood vessel problems, drug addiction, relief of pains (McClatchey, 2002), diabetes, gout, cancer, boils, skin and internal ailments (Wang
l., 2001; Palu
, 2008a), help to strengthen and restore vigor to the body after intensive physical training (Thaman, 1990, 1992). Current scientific evident is limited to state the effectiveness of the fruit juice to treat complications as proposed and many of the above claims were evident through communicating with the herbal therapists in Polynesia. Scientific research indicated that
(alkaloid family) is physiologically active compound that is responsible for clinical activities in many botanical drugs (Heinicke, 1985; Heinicke 1998; Wadsworth, 1998). Proxeronine, a precursor to xeronine and proxeronine is physiologically inactive thus it needs to be converted in order to exert its effectiveness to treat physiological complications (McClatchey, 2002).
juice is recommended to be taken in an empty stomach because the proenzyme in the stomach is required for the conversion of proxeronine to xeronine. Xeronine is then absorbed into the body’s tissues through protein receptors that are naturally present throughout the body, these receptors are responsible for the absorption of bioactive components found mostly in plant sources (McClatchey, 2002) In another report, the result was contradicting with the proposed publication because the screening of alkaloid in
juice was undetected, further confirmation test using HPLC was performed, as a result, alkaloids are either not detected or only 1 mg alkaloids/L of juice is present (Palu
Noni fruit at different stages of ripeness (Chin, C.K.F.2009)
is rich in polysaccharides and an important substance known as noni-ppt, was reported to have anti-tumour activity (Hirazumi
.,1994). In addition, noni-ppt also stimulates the release of TNF-α3, IL-1β, IL-10, IL-12 p70 and IFN-γ from the immune system. This statement is also supported by Hirazumi
. (1996) in a later research done in the Lewis Lung Carcinoma mice where the administration of
juice was proven to play an important role in modulating immune cells to come about in times of immunosuppression in both in vivo and in vitro experiments.
The liver in an important organ to detoxify toxins from the digestive system therefore the analysis of possible antinutritives or toxins present in the juice of
is required. In a hepatological study, carbon tetrachloride a common environmental pollutant and carcinogen to the liver was fed to two groups experimental mice, pre-treated with water and
juice separately showed two very distinct results. These mice were sacrificed; the livers were sliced for histopathological examinations while blood was collected for serum aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alanine aminotransferase determinaqtions as they are indicators of liver function. As a result Wang
. (2008) showed that the group pre-treated with
juice prior to acute carbon tetrachloride exposure showed normal liver function and did not induce adverse effects in the liver. Animal studies were conducted to test for the toxicity and allergenicity of the juice of
, as a result, no signs of gross toxicity in the dissected internal organs, allergic reaction and symptoms of allergic response were observed (Eurofins Scientific Inc. 1999; Eurofins Scientific inc. 2000; Kaaber, 2000; Glerup, 2001).
Other benefits that had been reported through scientific findings include the use of
roots to lower blood pressure of anesthetised dog (Davison, 1927; Moorthy and Reddy, 1970; Youngken, 1958; Youngken
., 1960). Gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) ligands are present in the fruit juice of
trial was carried out. The binding of these ligands to the GABA receptors in the neurotransmitter of mammals will produce a sedative and anxiolytic effect (Deng
., 2007). During ancient times in Polynesia,
juice was used as an important pain-relieving drink which acted like morphine in today’s surgical use (Deng
., 2007). It possesses analgesic and tranquilizing effects but the compound responsible for such effects were not stated in the report. However, Younos and colleagues reported that the analgesic efficacy of the fruit juice extract is 75% as strong as morphine, yet no side effects or addiction was observed (Younos
juice has become more and more popular among sportsmen and celebrities due to its effect of increasing energy, recovery time and endurance after a full day’s works or intensive workouts (Palu
., 2008a; Wang and Su (2001). These authors believe that major attribution of the therapeutic properties was due to the multiple antioxidants present in the fruit extracts.
Scientific research into the composition and use of
M. citrifolia var.
have become more frequent and popular in the last decade. The usage of
is very wide, from treating external to internal ailments. Most experimental trials were carried out using mice and the variety of feed given to mice is very limited; mice eat only what is given to them while humans eat and drink a wide variety of foods and beverages on a daily basis. Although it is almost impossible to analyse the outcome of all food combinations with the juice of
at least the interactions between the fruit juice and bioactive/biochemical compounds found in beverages like tea, coffee and alcoholic drinks (e.g. wine) need to be taken into account. Regular coffee or tea drinkers could simply take 5-6 cups of these hot drinks per day. According to Wang and Su (2001) there are 160 phytochemical compounds that have been discovered so far but detailed information about these compounds is very limited and further elucidation will be useful for the development of a new use or functional food from noni fruit. If
extract is shown to be safe for medical purposes then many internal ailments could be treated with lower cost especially in the tropics where
grows easily. It is a fruit that can be enjoyed as a food and as a medicine.
Special thanks to my family members, cousins; Chin, C.K.F and Jee, Jee, J.B.J for helping to take photos of
. My expression of gratitude goes to my mother for bringing whole noni fruits all the way from Malaysia.
Abbott, I. A. (1992). La’au Hawaii: Traditional Hawaiian uses of plants. Honolulu, Hawaii: Bishop Museum Press, 1992.
Acute oral toxicity study in rats -limit test: TAHITIAN NONI® Juice. 1999 Oct 6. Product Safety Labs (Eurofins Scientific, Inc). East Brunswick, New Jersey, USA.
Cardon, D., 2003. Le Monde des Teintures Naturelles. Belin, Paris.
Chan-Blanco, Y., Vaillant, F., Perez, A. M., Reynes, M., Brillouet, J. M., Brat, P. (2006). The noni fruit (
L): A review of agricultural research, nutritional and therapeutic properties.
J of food composition and analysis
. 19, 645-654.
Chunhieng, M.T., 2003. De′veloppement de nouveaux aliments sante′tropicale: application a` la noix du Bre′ sil Bertholettia excelsa et au fruit de Cambodge Morinda citrifolia. Ph.D. thesis, INPL, France.
Davison C. (1927). Hawaiian medicine. TheQueen’s Hospital Bulletin with Palama Clinic. 4, 2-5.
Dittmar, A. (1993). Morinda citrifolia L. Use in indigeneous Samoan medicine.
Journal of herbs, spices and medicine plant
. 1, 77-92.
Dixon, A.R., McMillen, H., Etkin, N.L., 1999. Ferment this: the transformation of Noni, a traditional Polynesian medicine (Morinda citrifolia, Rubiaceae). Ecological Botony 53, 51–68.
Elkins, R. (1998). Hawaiian Noni (Morinda citrifolia) Prize Herb of Hawaii and the South Pacific. Woodland Publishing, Utah.
Farine, J.P., Legal, L., Moreteau, B., Le Quere, J.L., 1996. Volatile components of ripe fruits of Morinda citrifolia and their effects on Drosophila. Phytochemistry 41, 433–438.
Glerup P. TAHITIAN TNJ: A 13-week oral (gavage) toxicity study in rats. 2001 May. ScantoxBiologisk Laboratorium A/S, DK-426. LilleSkensved, Denmark.
Heinicke, R. M. (1985). The pharmacologically active ingredient of Noni.
Bulletin of the National tropical botanical garden
. 15, 10-14.
Heinicke, R. M. (1998). Poster on: Doctors across North America talk about Tahitian noni juice. Canada.
Hirazumi, A., Furusawa, E., Chou, S. C., and Hokama, Y. (1994). Anticancer activity of Morinda citrifolia (noni) on intraperitoneally implanted Lewis lung carcinoma in syngeneic mice. Proc West Pharmacol Soc. 37, 145-146.
Hirazumi, A., Furusawa, E., Chou, S. C., and Hokama, Y. (1996). Immunomodulation contributes to the anticancer activity of morinda citrifolia (noni) fruit juice.
Proc West Pharmacol Soc
Johansson, J. T. (1994). The genus Morinda (Morindae, Rubiodeae, Rubiaceae) in New Caledonia: taxonomy and phylogeny. Opera Botanica. 1221, 1-67.
Kaaber K. TAHITIAN NONI® Juice: active systemic anaphylaxis test inthe guinea pig. 2000Feb 18 . ScantoxBiologisk.
Laboratorium A/S, DK-426, Lille Skensved, Denmark. 64 Guinea pig antigenicity study. TAHITIAN NONI® juice. 2000 Feb 29. Product Safety Labs (Eurofins Scientific, Inc).East Brunswick, New Jersey, USA.
McClatchey. W. (2002). From Polynesian healers to health food stores: changing perspectives of
(Rubiaceae). Integrative cancer therapies. 1(2), 110-120.
Moorthy NK, Reddy GS. (1970). Preliminary phytochemical and pharmacological study of
. 67, 167-71.
Morton, J.F. (1992). The ocean-going Noni, or Indian mulberry (Morinda citrifolia, Rubiaceae) and some of its ‘‘colourful’’ relatives. Ecological Botony 46, 241–256.
Nelson, S. C. (2005). Noni seed handling and seedling production. Fruits & nuts. Retrived on Jun 17, 2009 from
Nelson, S. C. (2006). Morinda citrifolia (noni). Species Profiles for Pacific island agroforestry. Permanent agriculture resources (PAR), Honolulu Hawaii.
Palu, A. K., Kim, A. H., West, B. J., Deng, S., Jensen, J., White, L. (2008a). The effects of Morinda citrifolia L. (noni) on the immune system: its molecular mechanisms of action.
. 115, 502-506.
Palu, A. K., Seifulla, R. D., West, B. J. (2008b). Morinda citrifolia L. (noni) improves athlete endurance: its mechanisms of action.
J Medic Plant Res
. 2(7), 154-158.
Pride Publishing. (1997).Noni: Polynesia’s natural pharmacy.pp13.
(SCF) Opinion of the scientific committee on food on Tahitian noni juice. (2002). Retrived on Jun 26, 2009 from
Solomon, N. (1999). The Noni Phenomenon. Direct Source Publishing, Utah.
Storey, S., Wadsworth, John. (1998). Doctors across North America talk about Tahitian noni juice.
Thaman, R. R. (1990). Kribati agroforestry: trees, people and the atoll environment.
Atoll Res Bull
. 333, 1-29.
Thaman, R. R. (1992). Batiri kei baravi: the ethnobotany of Pacific island costal plants.
Atoll Res Bull.
361, (May). Smithsonian. Inst Wash DC.
USPTO. (2005). Patent full-text and image database. Patents ( Morinda citrifolia). Retrieved on Jun 20, 2009 from
Wadsworth, J. (1998). Poster on: Doctors across North America talk about Tahitian noni juice. Canada.
Wang, M., Kikuzaki, H., Csiszar, K., Boyd, C. D., Maunakea, A., Fong, S. F. T., Ghai, G., Rosen, R. T., Nakatani, N., and Ho, C-T. (1999). Novel trisaccharide fatty acid ester identified from the fruits of
J Agric & Food Chem
Wang, M.Y., Su, C. (2001). Cancer preventive effect of Morinda citrifolia (Noni). Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 952, 161–168.
Wang, M. Y., Nowicki, D., Anderson, G. (2008). Liver protective effects of
Plant foods hum nutria
. 63, 59-63.
Whistler, W. A. (1992). Polynesia Herbal Medicine. Lawai, Kaua’I, Hawaii National Tropical Botanical Garde
Youngken, H. W. A study of the root of
Linn, I. (1958).
J Am Pharm Assoc
. 47, 162-5.
Youngken, H. W., Jenkins, H. J., Butler, C. L. (1960). Studies on
J Am Pharm Assoc
. 49, 271-3.
Younos, C., Rolland, A., Fleurentin, J., Lanhers, M. C., lin, R., Mortier, F. (1990). Analgesic and behavioural effects of
. 56, 430-4.
help on how to format text
Turn off "Getting Started"