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Known interactions

No interactions found.

Description of Noni

Scientific Name: Morinda

Other Names: Ba Ji Tian, Hog Apple, Indian Mulberry, Menkoedoe, Morinda citrifolia, Noni, Ruibardo Caribe, Wild Pine

Who is this for?

Usually under the name “Noni Juice”, the juice of the Morinda citrifolia fruit was highly advertised during the 1990s as an anticancer agent. Although these claims appear to be based on undocumented reports, Morinda citrifolia may have some properties that may fight cancer and other diseases. In laboratory and animal studies, it has shown some ability to promote immune system activity and to repair damaged cells. In separate laboratory studies, some of the compounds found in Morinda citrifolia and other morinda species, do seem to slow down the growth of the new blood vessels needed for cancer to grow and spread. Some of them may also cause blood vessels in existing tumors to break down. Additional studies show that giving chemicals derived from morinda to laboratory animals may increase the effectiveness of certain drugs used to treat cancer. To date, none of these possible anticancer effects has been documented by well-controlled studies in humans. However, early phases of research for human cancer patients are underway.

Some evidence from laboratory studies also shows potential additional actions of morinda species. In laboratory studies, powdered morinda citrifolia fruit has shown mild anti-inflammatory effects, possibly by blocking an enzyme that promotes pain and inflammation. Chemical analysis of Morinda citrifolia juice has shown that it may have some antibacterial and antiviral properties that may also be present in other types of morinda. In fact, several species of morinda have shown varying effectiveness in killing the organism that causes malaria. Extracts made from the leaves of different morinda species – either singly or in combination – may also be effective against other types of parasites that infect humans. Extracts are concentrated liquid preparations made by soaking plant parts in alcohol or other liquids, and then straining out the solid particles. All these possible anti-inflammatory and anti-infective effects of morinda are based on historical use and case reports. They have not been verified or disproved by clinical studies in humans.

When should I be careful taking it?

The juice of the Morinda citrifolia fruit contains a high percentage of sugar, therefore individuals with diabetes should not use it.

Because Morinda citrifolia fruit juice contains significant amounts of potassium, it may cause blood levels of potassium to become too high. Individuals who have kidney disorders may already be at risk of high potassium because kidney damage limits the ability of the kidneys to pass potassium out of the body. Too much potassium can result in a condition known as hyperkalemia, which may have no symptoms or may cause changes in heartbeat and pulse. Morinda should not be used by individuals with kidney disorders.

Precautions

Not enough is known about the possible effects of morinda on developing babies, infants, or small children to recommend its use. Therefore, pregnant and breast-feeding women and small children should not use it.

What side effects should I watch for?

No major side effects have been reported from the use of morinda. However, some of the chemicals in morinda fruit juice can change the color of urine to pink, orange, or brown temporarily.

What interactions should I watch for?

Morinda contains large amounts of potassium. If it is taken at the same time as potassium supplements, salt substitutes containing potassium, or “potassium-sparing” drugs, such as amiloride, spironolactone, or triamterene; potassium levels may become too high. A condition known as hyperkalemia may result. Although hyperkalemia may cause erratic pulse, irregular heartbeat, or nausea; it often occurs without any specific symptoms. It can be extremely dangerous, however. Individuals who take supplemental potassium or drugs that keep the body from losing potassium, should not take morinda. If you are not sure whether any of your drugs are "potassium-sparing", discuss them with your doctor or pharmacist before you take morinda.

No cases of hperkalemia have been reported from taking morinda while also eating foods high in potassium. Theoretically, however, it is possible. High-potassium foods include apricots, bananas, milk, potatoes, spinach, and sweet potatoes. Orange, prune and tomato juices and dried foods, such as navy beans, lentils, and split peas, are also high in potassium.

Should I take it?

Morinda citrifolia grows as a bushy tree that is usually around 10 feet in height but it can be as tall as 25 feet. Because its large seed pods float, Morinda citrifolia is believed to have spread to the islands of the South Pacific from southern Asia. Approximately 80 morinda species, including Morinda citrifolia, also grow in Australia, India, and other tropical parts of the world. An evergreen, Morinda citrifolia bears large, shiny leaves and small, white flowers, which develop on knobs at the ends of the branches. These knobs then become bumpy, fist-sized, fruits that have a distinctively unpleasant smell and a bitter taste. The fruits have an initial greenish color that changes gradually to a pale yellow color as the fruits ripen.

Currently, the fruit and fruit juice are used most for medicine, but Morinda citrifolia leaves and roots have also been used at various times. Historically, morinda was used more as a topical remedy than as an oral treatment. Noni juice comes from Morinda citrifolia fruits that have been allowed to ripen on the trees, then picked and placed in the sun to soften on open racks. Once the fruits are soft, they are put into sealed vats to ferment for about 8 weeks. After being separated from the solid residue in the tanks, the juice is bottled or dried to put into capsules.

Natives of the Polynesian islands use nearly every part of the Morinda citrifolia tree. Its fruits, leaves, roots, and seeds are used as foods or flavorings. Morinda citrifolia bark and roots make yellow and red dyes and the bark formerly provided fibers for clothing and other material. Its hard wood has a nice texture that makes it suitable for carvings and small furniture. Even the sludge left after juice extraction is applied to fields as fertilizer.

Various parts of many morinda species are also used as medicine in tropical areas. In the islands of Polynesia, nearly all parts of various morinda species have been used to treat a wide variety of conditions that include asthma, digestive complaints, fevers, heart problems, and infections. Juice from ripe or immature fruits has also been used to treat diabetes, high blood pressure, and jellyfish stings. Fresh morinda leaves may be placed around joints to relieve arthritis pain or around the head to lessen a headache. If they are heated before application, fresh leaves of some morinda species become sticky, thus staying in place like an adhesive bandage would. A preparation of morinda roots may be made into a salve for wounds and the fresh leaves are also used on burns and skin wounds.

For centuries, traditional Chinese healers have used the dried roots of a related Morinda species, Morinda officinalis, as an energy-boosting tonic. Known as ba ji tian in Asia, this preparation may also be used to treat gastrointestinal and urinary tract conditions. Recent studies in laboratory cultures and animals show that Morinda officinalis root may have some possible antidepressant and antianxiety properties, as well. In separate early studies of laboratory mice, Morinda officinalis has shown variable effects on blood sugar levels. Whether other species of morinda — including Morinda citrifolia — have similar properties is not yet known.

Dosage and Administration

Note: In commercial products, Morinda citrifolia and Morinda officinalis are often combined.

Typical suggested doses of Morinda citrifolia (noni) juice range from one tablespoon to 2 tablespoons (about one-half ounce to one ounce) once or twice a day. However, doses up to 10 ounces per day have been reported. Note that not all morinda juice products contain pure juice; products containing as little as 10% morinda juice have been marketed in the United States. Individuals who decide to take morinda juice should read labels carefully, select a 100% juice product, and follow the label directions for dosing.

Despite a high content of sugar, the juice has a bitter taste and a strong smell that many people find offensive; therefore, Morinda citrifolia is also sold as a dried extract in capsules or tablets ranging in strength from 200 mg to 600 mg. Extracts are concentrated preparations usually made by soaking chopped or mashed plant parts in a liquid such as alcohol, and then straining out the solid parts. In some cases, the liquid is then dried to powder form. The effects that drying the juice might have on morinda’s medicinal value are not known.

Recommended doses of the extract vary considerably, so the package directions should be followed. In general, approximately 1200 mg (1.2 grams) of Morinda citrifolia as liquid or powdered extract is considered to equal one ounce of Morinda citrifolia fruit juice.

Summary

Although many parts of the morinda plant have been used to treat multiple conditions for centuries in the South Sea Islands, the most common current use in western countries is to prevent and treat cancer. Some evidence does suggest that morinda juice can increase immune function and also help repair cell damage, but further studies are needed to prove these findings.

Risks

Morinda juice contains high amounts of potassium and sugar, making it inappropriate for use by individuals with diabetes or kidney disorders. Not enough is known about its effects to recommend it for pregnant or breast-feeding women or for young children.

Side Effects

No major side effects have been associated with using morinda, but it can cause a change in the color of urine.

Interactions

Because morinda contains a significant amount of potassium, taking it with drugs that keep potassium in the body or with drugs, supplements, or foods that also contain large amounts of potassium may lead to hyperkalemia.

Last Revised November 3, 2004

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(Note: The above information is not intended to replace the advice of your physician, pharmacist, or other healthcare professional. It is not meant to indicate that the use of the product is safe, appropriate, or effective for you.)

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