The noni tree, also known as the Indian mulberry, is a small evergreen that can be found naturally growing among seashores and freshly deposited lava flows in the Pacific Islands, Southeast Asia, Australia and India, independent of much human intervention. The noni tree is a small, shrub-like plant baring rounded branches accompanied by dark shiny leaves and edible white flowers. The fruit produced by the tree is potato shaped with a greenish white exterior with skin comprised of many round, scaly grooves.
Juice derived from the noni fruit has been heralded as a plant medicine for over 2000 years in the regions of Polynesia, China and India, typically as a topical medicine. Meanwhile the noni tree’s bark and roots have traditionally been utilized to produce a yellow dye, derived from its yellow chemical constituents known as anthraquinones.
A surge in interest within the domain of alternative medicine, has led to in-depth scientific analysis of the noni fruit. Areas of research include the fruit’s chemical make up, including vitamins and minerals, the mechanism that allows it to nourish the endocrine system and sex organs, and its anti-inflammatory properties, which contribute to it’s ability to aid those who suffer from physical diseases such as cancer and mental ailments such as depression.
Noni truly packs a nutritional punch; this fruity powerhouse is loaded with vitamins B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6, B12, vitamin C, folate, vitamin E and beta carotene. Whilst the minerals found in the noni fruit’s nourishing flesh include calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron and phosphorus.
The above list is indeed impressive, but what can such a combination achieve within the human body? Exactly what effects will such a dump of beneficial compounds have on our internal systems?
Reset spoke to naturopath Jennifer Matthews, a.k.a. Naturopath Jen of the popular Wellness Empire blog, about the beneficial mechanisms offered by noni.
“Being a naturopath I am always wary of quick fixes and miracle cures, so when I was asked by Reset to write about my views on noni, I jumped at the chance,” says Matthews via email. “I thought it was important to educate you on both the benefits and consequences of using this product. Recently there has been research indicating noni’s amazing healing properties when it comes to cervical cancer and a variety of other conditions so I was excited about sharing my views of this plant.
“For many years noni has been used as a topical product for joint pain and skin conditions. Now, it is being researched for its effects on cancer and even conditions like cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. After studying the research and anecdotal evidence I have come to the conclusion that noni may be a useful complementary treatment for a variety of different purposes.
“In terms of immunity, noni has been shown to increase the efficiency of your T Cell and B Cell Lymphocytes, therefore being very effective at boosting your immune system. Noni may also be used to defend against microbes such as staphylococcus aureus and candida albicans due to its antimicrobial and antifungal properties.”
Matthews also contributed her opinion on noni’s anti-cancer action, specifically in relation to cervical cancer:
“Many studies have been done showing that Noni — both on its own and in combination with the cytotoxic drug ‘Cisplatin’ — is effective at increasing apoptosis (cell death) in cervical cancer cells and therefore may be a useful complementary treatment.”
So should we all include the noni fruit in our diets? Matthews concludes:
“Does that mean that everybody should be consuming noni? Well, in my opinion there haven’t been a lot of side effects noted, except in those who have pre-existing liver disease (as it has two compounds which have been known to make liver disease worse) or who have kidney problems as it is high in potassium. Other than that, it is useful as an antioxidant and a general nutrient. But remember that just taking noni alone will not ensure optimal wellness. It is important to also make sure that you take other factors into account such as nutrition, fitness, stress and sleep.”
One simple yet profound way to experience the health benefits of the noni tree is through the ingestion of tea. Noni leaves contain a medley of vitamins and minerals such as phosphorous, iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin E, vitamin K1 and niacin, which can contribute towards reducing the risk of cancer, improving digestion and reducing inflammation.
Share Remedies provides a recipe to create noni tea at home:
1 teaspoon of dried, ground noni leaves per 8 ounces of room temperature / tepid water. Mix and set aside for a few hours or overnight. Strain and drink cool or as iced tea with lemon.
For hot tea, pour boiled water over the leaves and steep for 5 minutes. Add a little cold pressed honey or agave nectar to taste — though drinking without added sweetness is best for optimum health.
Noni is no stranger to the laboratory setting. More and more research papers are being published on the massive potential of this humble green fruit.
A study conducted at the University of Illinois College of Medicine examined the protective effects of noni juice on chronic liver damage in female rats. Upon analyzing both blood and liver test data the authors concluded: “Noni juice appears to protect the liver from chronic exogenous exposures. Such protective mechanisms are supportive evidence for the utility of noni in traditional medicine for liver ailments.”
Potent Source Of Antioxidants
The powerful antioxidant compounds found in the noni fruit have been shown to prevent cardiovascular disease, reduce inflammation and aid in boosting the immune system. Antioxidant capacity is measured in ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity), a value that is tested per 100g of a particular food. The higher a food’s ORAC number, the higher its concentration of antioxidants. The ORAC value of noni fruit is 800. To put this in perspective, tomatoes clock in at 546 and cucumbers at 140.
Research carried out partially at the College of Pharmacy at the University of Illinois examined the antioxidant potential of noni juice in a 30 day, double-blind and placebo controlled clinical trial with 285 heavy smokers. The studies authors concluded that a clear antioxidant effect had been catalyzed in humans exposed to tobacco smoke upon administration of noni juice.
Immune System Enhancement
Noni’s immune boosting abilities are largely down to a group of beneficial compounds known as polysaccharides. These are simple chains of sugar units (monosaccharides), which stimulate the effectiveness of white blood cells within the body and thus contribute to the defense of our internal systems from foreign invaders.
Among noni’s diverse collection of phytochemicals is scopoletin, a compound which has proven antibacterial, antifungal and anti-histamine properties. It also provides anti-inflammatory relief, which can be utilized to relieve bronchial illnesses.
In addition, the noni is home to a type of molecule known as polysaccharides, that can enhance mood by increasing feel-good chemicals within the brain. Polysaccharides also have the ability to reduce cholesterol and blood sugar, cease fatigue and boost libido.
In a paper published by the UIC College of Medicine in Illinois, noni juice was found to be capable of preventing DNA adduct formation. A DNA adduct is a piece of DNA that has bonded to a cancer causing chemical. The levels of DNA adducts were reduced by 60 percent in the heart, 50 percent in the lung, 70 percent in the liver and 90 percent in the kidneys of male rats.
Prevention potential isn’t the only area where noni excels; compounds in the fruit may also reduce tumor size. A study born out of Duquesne University in Pittsburgh concluded that: “noni may be useful to enhance treatment responses in women with existing HER2/neu breast cancer since TNJ [Tahitian noni juice] resulted in significant reductions in tumor weight and volume and in longer tumor doubling times in mice. Remarkably, its ability to inhibit the growth of this aggressive form of cancer occurred with the mouse equivalent of a recommended dose for humans (<3 oz/day).”
Noni may very well be an effective, heart nourishing tonic, with substantial evidence pointing towards its ability to improve blood flow in the arteries by releasing tension in the muscle cells surrounding them.
Adding to this, another paper derived from the University of Illinois College of Medicine highlights noni’s ability to protect the heart. In the study 132 adult heavy smokers completed a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. The volunteers consumed noni juice daily for one month and the results showed a significant reduction in cholesterol levels.
Noni fruit has an extremely long history as a medicinal plant, which has been used for treating a vast array of ailments, including those that target the central nervous system. Researchers from the University of Malaya in Malaysia studied the anti-psychotic potential in mice and found it significantly inhibited psychotic behavior. The authors concluded that their results suggest: “noni has antipsychotic-like activity which can be utilized in the treatment of psychiatric disorders. However, further studies are warranted to identify the active principles responsible for the anti-psychotic activity of noni.”