Properties and Benefits of Noni: Also known as the cheese fruit or the great morinda, noni (Morinda citrifolia) is a medicinal fruit traditionally used for treating arthritis, rheumatism, menstrual and abdominal pain, hypertension and various skin problems such as abscesses or infected open wounds. The fruit has come to the the attention of the scientific community only recently and has sparked great interest due to its incredibly wide variety of medicinal uses as well as supposed health benefits.
Noni is native to Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, New Guines and the Pacific islands, but its sun-loving nature has made it possible for it to become naturalized in virtually every region with a tropical climate. What does a noni tree (plant) look like? Noni trees are evergreen, tropical trees reaching about 3-6 meters in height. Some specimens may grow up to 9 meters. Seeing that it is part of the coffee family, it is smaller in size than regular trees, almost shrub-like.
Other common names aside from noni include cheese fruit, great morinda, Indian mulberry, beach mulberry, vomit fruit or starvation fruit. The species has large, dark green leaves with deep veines. It bears fruit throughout the year and it is estimated that one tree can yield up to 7-8 kg of fruit per month.
What does the noni fruit look like? The noni fruit is 10-18 cm long, somewhat oval in shape and has a bumpy, green-yellow, then finally white skin when ripe. Each individual bump you see on the skin of the fruit is actually an indicator of a former flower, meaning that the noni fruit as we know it is actually made up of several fruit that have merged together to form one big mass. Overall, you can say that the noni fruit looks a lot like an oversized mulberry. The fruit has a whitish pulp and numerous brownish-purplish seeds. Roasted noni seeds are edible.
What does the noni fruit smell and taste like? There is a very good reason why noni is called the starvation fruit or the vomit fruit: because people only ate it out of necessity and when they did, it made them want to vomit. Joke on the side, both the smell and the taste of noni fruit are almost as repulsive as they are made to be. Truth be told, the noni fruit has a strong smell and quite a bitter taste, reminiscent of that of an overripe, stinky cheese.
What are the health benefits of the noni fruit? Noni fruit were virtually unknown to most of the world, except for the people living in the areas where the species occurs naturally. However, marketers took advantage of the relative obscurity of the species and took it to the people as a cure-all remedy. While it has not yet been proven that noni fruit, bark, seeds and leaves do not possess the properties and health benefits they are credited with, the scientific community is sceptic in regards to it being a miracle-cure. Being a non-believer however is never the answer, so it is up to you to decide whether or not noni is as good for you as it is claimed to be.
In the meantime, here are 5 noteworthy nutrition facts and health benefits of noni fruit:
1) Potent analgesic. Various scientific studies suggest that eating noni on a regular basis can help reduce joint and muscle pain. Apparently, the fruit’s analgesic effect lasts quite some time which would explain why traditional medical practices recommend it for treating or alleviating rheumatism and arthritis pain.
2) Stimulates immunity. According to research, special constituents in noni fruit activate macrophages (white blood cells) that are dormant, thus enhancing our body’s natural defence system. More macrophages means more cells to eat cellular debris, viruses, bacteria or cancer cells and, consequently, a stronger immune system. It was shown that the noni fruit is especially efficient against Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli.
3) Anticancer properties. Studies have shown that noni stimulates nitric oxide production. Nitric oxide is both a free radical and a beneficial chemical compound which promotes vasodilation, lowering blood pressure and reducing angina pain. Nitric oxide has also proved efficient as a cancer therapy, stopping tumour progression, although some studies record it aids tumour progression towards metastasis. At the same time, noni contains phytochemicals such as flavonoids, plant sterols and alkaloids which contribute to a healthy body.
4) Helps lower high blood pressure. In addition to stimulating the production of nitric oxide, a chemical compound that helps lower blood pressure by widening the blood vessels to allow for a smoother blood flow, noni also contains small amounts of vitamin C and selenium, tryptophan and dietary fiber, all of which contribute to maintaining healthy blood vessels and lowering high blood pressure.
5) Good tonic. Noni fruit are a good source of vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. Eating the fruit or drinking (organic) noni juice can give your body a good energy boost, cleanse it and even help speed recovery following an illness. These health benefits are a result of the fruit’s good vitamin C, vitamins A and B3, potassium, iron and calcium content.
Other proclaimed health benefits of noni include: calming colic, lowering fever and high blood cholesterol levels, reducing inflammation causing swelling and pain, improving digestion, blood circulation and energy levels, treating kidney problems, PMS, sores, skin infections and open wounds, improving skin aspect and some hormonal disorders. Overall, noni is quite the promising fruit, full of antioxidant phytochemicals with several wonderful health benefits. While its taste may not be so appealing, it may be worth eating after all.