Article: Noni

?Great morinda, Noni
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Leaves, flowers, and fruit of Morinda citrifolia
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Gentianales
Family: Rubiaceae
Genus: Morinda
Species: M. citrifolia
Binomial name
Morinda citrifolia
L.

Morinda citrifolia, commonly known as Great morinda, Indian mulberry, Noni (from Hawaiian), Nono (in Tahiti), Aal (in Hindi), is a shrub or small tree in the family Rubiaceae. Morinda citrifolia is native to Southeast Asia but has been extensively spread by man throughout India and into the Pacific islands as far as the French Polynesian Islands prominent in Tahiti Nui.

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Flowers and unripe and ripe fruit of Morinda citrifolia

Noni grows in shady forests as well as on open rocky or sandy shores. It is tolerant of saline soils, drought conditions, and secondary soils. It is therefore found in a wide variety of habitats: volcanic terrains, lava-strewn coasts, and clearings or limestone outcrops. It can grow up to 9 m tall, and has large, simple, dark green, shiny and deeply veined leaves. The richest of the soils in which noni grows are found in French Polynesia Tahiti Nui.

The plant flowers and fruits all year round. The flowers are small and white. The fruit is a multiple fruit that has a pungent odor when ripening, and is hence also known as cheese fruit or even vomit fruit. It is oval and reaches 4-7 cm in size. At first green, the fruit turns yellow then almost white as it ripens. It contains many seeds. Despite its strong smell and bitter taste, the fruit is nevertheless eaten as a famine food[1] and, in some Pacific islands, even a staple food, either raw or cooked [2]. Southeast Asians and Australian Aborigines consume the fruit raw with salt or cook it with curry. The seeds are edible when roasted.

The Noni is especially attractive to weaver ants, which make nests out of the leaves of the tree. These ants protect the plant from some plant-parasitic insects. The smell of the fruit also attracts fruit bats, which aid in dispersing the seeds.

Uses

In China, Samoa, Japan and Tahiti, various parts of the tree (leaves, flowers, fruits, bark) serve as tonics and to contain fever, to treat eye and skin problems, gum and throat problems as well as constipation, stomach pain, or respiratory difficulties. In Malaysia, heated noni leaves applied to the chest are believed to relieve coughs, nausea or colic. In the Philippines, juice is extracted from the leaves as a treatment for arthritis.[citation needed]

The noni fruit is taken, in Indochina especially, for asthma, lumbago and dysentery. As for external uses, unripe fruits can be pounded, then mixed with salt and applied to cut or broken bones. In Hawaii, ripe fruits are applied to draw out pus from an infected boil. The green fruit, leaves and the root/rhizome have traditionally been used to treat menstrual cramps and irregularities, among other symptoms, while the root has also been used to treat urinary difficulties [3].

The bark of the great morinda produces a brownish-purplish dye for batik making; on the Indonesian island of Java, the trees are cultivated for this purpose. In Hawaii, yellowish dye is extracted from its root in order to dye cloth [4]. In Surinam and different other countries, the tree serves as a wind-break, as support for vines and as shade trees for coffee bushes. The fruit is used as a shampoo in Malaysia, where it is said to be helpful against head lice.

Scientific studies have investigated noni's affect on the growth of cancerous tissue [5], while others have found that the noni disrupts vascular growth and exhibits no direct action on cancer [6].

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Wild noni growing in Kuliouou Valley, Hawaii

Legal aspects

In August 2004, the US Food and Drug Administration sent a warning letter to Flora, Inc. over their website promotions of noni juice as a medical product in the context of various testimonials and claims of scientific studies. The FDA has not evaluated noni juice and related substances [7]. In the European Union, juice from the noni is registered as a novel food, however, no noni products have been licensed for medical or therapeutic use [8].

In 2005, two scientific publications described incidents of acute hepatitis caused by ingesting noni. One study suggested the toxin to be anthraquinones, found in the root of the noni [9], while the other named juice as the delivery method [10]. As a result, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) initiated an evaluation of current noni products. In Germany, the National Agency for Risk Evaluation (BfR) started reviewing cases of acute hepatitis which may have been caused by noni products in 2006.

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