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Noni Fruit – Food for Health

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Noni has great potential for the treatment and possible prevention of many degenerative diseases in pets.

For centuries, the Noni fruit has been used across the Pacific as food and for health. It has been utilized in the treatment of many aliments, including kidney disease, diabetes, fish poisoning, tonsillitis, abdominal swelling, burns, broken bones, and inflammation of the toes and fingers. It is reported to have a broad range of therapeutic effects – antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, anti-tumor, anthelmintic, analgesic, hypotensive, anti-inflammatory, and immune-enhancing.1

In animal studies, no toxicities have been reported with the use of Noni fruit. While tests show antioxidative activity in extracts from leaf, fruit and root, I recommend only using fruit products. 

HISTORY

Noni is the common name for Morinda citrifolia. It’s also called Indian mulberry, Nono or Nonu, cheese fruit, Mengkudu, Bingkudu and Nhau in various cultures around the world. In addition to Polynesian stories of heroes and heroines who used Noni to survive famine, modern scientific and medical communities are beginning to study the medical knowledge and pharmacopoeia compiled by the Polynesians. Documentation of Noni fruit consumption in the Fiji Islands was found in an 1866 publication in London.2 By the 19th century, it was realized that Noni fruit was an important part of the diet throughout the Pacific Islands, Southeast Asia, Australia, and India.

CHEMISTRY

The Noni plant contains a broad spectrum of nutrients, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory, anti-neoplastic, antiparasitic, tranquilizing and immune-modulating substances. Different parts of the plant have different chemical compositions.

Noni contains over 160 phytochemicals, including phenolic compounds, organic acids, and alkaloids.3 Researchers are also finding some additional novel compounds. The following are a few major components that may be responsible for Noni’s benefits.1

  • Xeronine – a critical normal metabolic co-regulator. In 1985, Heinicke4,5,6 reported this plant alkaloid in Noni; it’s similar to the bromelain found in pineapple. Xeronine activates proteins and enzymes such as pro-collagenase and protease, which help heal damaged tissues, therefore preventing further disease. Heinicke also concluded that the ingestion of Noni caused a feeling of well-being because it increased the release of endorphins from the brain.
  • Scopoletin – dilates vasculature, and is antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, histamine-inhibiting, and a serotonin modulator.
  • Octoanoic acid, amino acids, caproic acid, caprylic acid, ursolic acid.
  • Terpenoids, alkaloids, proxeronine, sitosterol.
  • Anthraquinones – antiseptic and antibacterial.
  • 1-methoxy-2-formyl-3-hydroxyanthraquinone from the roots – antiviral.
  • Carotene, vitamins A and C, potassium, rutin, flavone glycosides – free radical scavengers.
  • Essential fatty acids.
  • Alizarin, acubin, L-asperuloside – antibacterial.
  • Polysaccharides – noni-ppt, galactose, arabinose, rhamnose, glucuronic acid. Immunostimulatory, immunomodulatory, anti-tumor; may play a role in the cancer-fighting benefits of Noni.
  1. Antimicrobial activity

Various research1 has showed significant antimicrobial and antifungal activity against Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Proteus morgaii, Staphylococcus aureus, Baciilis subtilis, Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Shigela, H. pylori, A. niger, C. albicans, T. mentagrophytes and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Noni also interferes with the serum-induced morphological conversion of Candida albicans from a cellular yeast into a filamentous form in vitro, and inhibits the germination of Apergillus nidulans spores. I have successfully treated bacterial diarrhea, ear and skin infections merely with Noni. 

  1. Cancer

Research has shown that Noni has great potential for scavenging reactive oxygen free radicals and decreasing lipid peroxidation,1 thus reducing cancer risk. Therefore, it would be useful to include in the daily diet of breeds or breed lines susceptible to cancer, and in dogs living with heavy cigarette smokers. Unspayed geriatric female cats or dogs may benefit from daily Noni to prevent breast cancers.

Once cancer is diagnosed, Noni is a useful addition to any treatment protocol because of its synergistic properties affecting the immune system. Although I could not find any studies using Noni in combination with other phytopharmaceuticals, antioxidants, TCM herbs, or homotoxicology, I would encourage veterinarians to try this herb in the treatment of mammary and lung cancers, lymphoma and liver cancers.

Several clinical studies have demonstrated Noni’s synergistic actions with chemotherapeutic drugs,7 so it may be another complementary botanical to use without side effects and at “suboptimal” drug (lower) dosages.

  1. Pain control

When patients present unresponsive to pain drugs for their inflammation, Noni can be used alone or in combination with other herbs such as Boswellia serrata or Cannabis.  

Making lotions and shampoos with either fruit or leaf extracts may help clear localized skin pain.

  1. Liver detoxification and protection

Because Noni contains many different kinds of antioxidants, it may act synergistically when used with other antioxidants and hepatoprotective botanicals, and could prove beneficial in the treatment of liver cirrhosis, acute and chronic hepatitis, and possibly liver cancer. The just-discovered neolignan compound in Noni, Americanin, was found to be a strong free radical scavenger.8

  1. Parasite control

While I have not used Noni to treat parasites, it has a long history of insecticide and anthelminthic use.9,10 According to Cipollini,11 many ripened fruits such as Noni contain octanoic acid, which is toxic only to parasites when eaten.

Hunting dogs are regularly treated with Noni by Hawaiian hunters who “swear” it controls roundworms, hookworms and parasites from raw wild pork. Other Hawaiians use it to prevent or treat heartworms.

If Noni was proven to be an effective anthelmintic, owners of animals infested with heartworm who are limited in funds or have “issues” with chemical worming methods, may improve the quality of life and longevity of their pets by administering Noni daily.

Many veterinarians on the VBMA eco-trip to Kauai reported that Noni acted as a successful tick repellent in people and animals.

  1. Topical use

I have used a topical 90% Noni and water lotion on cats with allergic skin reactions (to food and fleas), with decreased inflammation after the third application. Licking off the Noni lotion is also beneficial; ingested Noni has been demonstrated to facilitate the repair of skin and tissue by increasing local collagen production. When used as a regular dietary supplement, it can heal minor and often unnoticed tiny injuries.

Topical lotions made from Noni fruit or leaves can relieve pain quickly and should be considered an “enhancer” to add to a shampoo or veterinary lotion. Noni extract could be mixed with other topical analgesics to better mollify pain.

Clients have reported “curing” scratches disease in horses with applications of Noni lotion made from ripe ground-up fruit. 

A company in Kauai (Real-Noni.com) makes the lotion by air drying a mash of fruit pulp, then pouring hot water (below 115°F) over it. When cooled, it’s mixed with purified water, lavender oil and grapefruit seed extract.

I make a salve as follows:

3 large fresh Noni leaves, chopped up

1 turmeric root (the size of one’s thumb), grated fresh raw

½ cup coconut oil

 

Simmer, but don’t burn, until mixture is a yellow/green color (not brown) – about ten to 20 minutes. Filter out all plant material and store in a wide-mouthed glass jar.

DOSAGES FOR NONI

Noni is commercially available in the following forms: fermented or unfermented juice of fruit/mixed with fruit juices; fermented (traditional) ripe Noni fruit; juice extract of unripe fruit; powdered capsules of unripe fruit; and leather made from unripe fruit. Among manufacturers, there is some controversy over the best way to process Noni to retain its medicinal properties:

  1. High heat water extraction dehydrated into a powder.
  2. Mixed with fruit juices and flavors.
  3. Fermented juice – today’s Hawaiian healers (La’au lapa au) claim beneficial results.
  4. Fresh (unripe) fruit leather.

There’s a concern that processes using high heat or fermentation may destroy the enzymes and bioactive ingredients. Mixing with other fruit may form unwanted compounds. More research on all forms is needed to address these concerns. In addition to a need for standardization of the chemical consistency of the Noni product, the variability of clinical and research results may be attributable to the chemical profile of the product used, and the degree to which different ingredients are absorbed and excreted in the patients participating in clinical studies.

My dosing experience is based on using unripe Noni fruit leather (Real Noni) or fermented juice, and only recently, the dried extract powder from Maui, Hawaii (Noni Maui™) that is being used in several clinical trials (Phase I by Huang studying prostate cancer is complete,12 while Issell studied the maximum tolerated dosages in cancer patients13).

Because Noni’s compounds are known to react with proteins, the herb should be taken on an empty stomach.  I recommend the following dosing schedules:

Fruit leather: 1” by 1” square piece = 750 mg

Tiny dogs and cats – 750mg divided over two doses

Dogs 20lbs to 35lbs – 1,500mg per day

Large dogs 50lbs to 90lbs – 3,000mg per day

Giant breeds – 4,500-6,000mg per day

Fermented juice

Tiny dogs and cats – 5ml bid

Medium sized dogs – 10ml to 15ml bid

Large dogs – 30ml bid

Giant breeds – 60ml bid

EVALUATING THE QUALITY OF NONI PRODUCTS

The quality of a Noni product and its nutritional components are directly related to how and where the plant is grown. Concentrations of active constituents rely heavily on the quality of the soil, water, and the geographical location, terrain and the weather.  In general, plants growing in their undisturbed natural environments (“in the wild”) have a higher concentration of nutrients and phytochemicals than those grown on plantations. Weather changes such as drought can adversely affect the nutrient concentration in the plants.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My lecture from the 2006 AHVMA (American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association) Conference covered all the research done on Noni, which is extensive. Some researchers believe, as do many conventional veterinarians, that herbs should be fully studied before use. Unfortunately, if we waited for every plant to achieve definitive “scientific” support before we use it, many animals could suffer.

Many VBMA (Veterinary Botanical Medical Association) members are treating animals based on information gathered from other practitioners, herbalists, healers, books, ethnobotany, and from “researching the research” that is available. We have taken the steps to begin integrating herbal medicines into treatment protocols, making systematic observations and recording the results, as well as sharing these observations with the herbal and scientific communities.

In my opinion, Noni is safe, with great potential for the treatment and possibly the prevention of many degenerative diseases. Given the widespread use of Noni plants without serious accompanying warnings, it seems doubtful that a major concern would arise. Practitioners are encouraged to begin integrating herbal treatments into current protocols while critically evaluating the quality of new products and dose-response relationships over time.


1Wang MY, West BJ, Jensen CJ, Nowicki D, Su C, Palu AK, Anderson G. “Morinda citrifolia (Noni): A literature review and recent advances in Noni research”. Acta Pharmacologica Sinica [Acta Pharmacol Sin] 2002; 23(12): 1127-1141.

2Seeman B, Flora V. A description of the plants of the Viti or Fiji Islands with an account of their history, uses, and properties. London: L Reeve and Co; 1986.  p. 1865-73.

3Chan, Chan-Blanco Y, Vaillant F, Perez AM, Reynes M, Brillouet JM, Brat P. “The noni fruit ( Morinda citrifolia L.): A review of agricultural research, nutritional and therapeutic properties”. J Food Compost Anal. 2006;19(6-7):645-654.

4Heinicke RM. “The pharmacologically active ingredient of Noni”. Bulletin of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, 1985. 

5Heinicke RM, Gortner W A.  “Stem bromelain–A new protease preparation from pineapple plants”. Economic Botany 1957;11: 225-234.

6Heinicke RM, Levand O. “Ferulic acid as a component of a complex carbohydrate polymer of bromelain”. Phytochemistry 1968; 7:1659-1662.

7Hirazumi A, Furusawa E. “An immunomodulatory polysaccharide-rich substance from the fruit juice of Morinda citrifolia (Noni) with antitumour activity”. Phytotherapy Research: PTR [Phytother Res] 1999; 13(5):380-387.

8Su BN, Pawlus AD, Jung HA, Keller WJ, McLaughlin JL, Kinghorn AD. “Chemical constituents of the fruits of Morinda citrifolia (Noni) and their antioxidant activity”. Journal of Natural Products [J Nat Prod] 2005; 68(4): 592-595.

9Murdiatia et al, 2000.

10Rangadhar Satapathy, 2007.

11Hirazumi A, Furusawa E, Chou SC, Hokama Y. “Anti cancer activity of Morinda citrifolia on intraperitoneally implanted lewis lung carcinoma in syngenic mice”. Proceedings Western Pharmacology Society. 1994;37:145-146.

12manoa.hawaii.edu/kaunana/uh-cancer-center-evaluates-noni/

13ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4439249/

Dr. Ihor Basko graduated from Michigan State University in 1971 with a DVM degree with special interest in cardiology, orthopedic surgery and internal medicine. He began his studies in Chinese medicine, acupuncture, herbology and homeopathy in 1974. He joined the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society in 1977 and began teaching acupuncture, herbalog, and nutrition to IVAS in 1979. He was certified in 1985 and is a member of the AHVMA, AVMA, VBMA, and HVMA licensed in California and Hawaii. Dr. Basko practices TCM/Acupuncture and Nutritional Therapy on Kauai and Oahu, Hawaii.