Noni is a small evergreen tree in the coffee family with the scientific name Morinda citrifolia. Sometimes known as the Indian mulberry or cheese fruit, this plant bears fruit year round. Although this yellow tropical fruit has a bad smell resembling bleu cheese and does not taste good, it is used frequently for medicinal purposes. Noni, originally native to Polynesia, now grows in many tropical regions. The Polynesians thought highly of this fruit and called it the fruit of the gods.
Noni contains bioactive phytochemicals called iridoids. Iridoids, rarely found in fruits, do not degrade during processing and storage. Even when they are exposed to heat, light, and air, iridoids are able to retain their chemical composition. Research has shown that iridoids promote heart health, help maintain healthy HDL cholesterol levels, rid the body of harmful free radicals, and support healthy brain activity.
Reportedly, noni has been used to treat a variety of ailments including diabetes, heart problems, high blood pressure, and skin cancer. It has also been used to treat urinary infections, menstrual cramps, and bowel irregularities. When taken before bedtime, noni is said to be a relaxant and stress reliever that helps with sleep disorders.
Scientific research on the effectiveness of noni in treating health problems is limited. Physiology & Behavior Journal recently published a Japanese study dealing with the use of noni in animals. According to their research, noni protected mice brains from stress while maintaining cognitive functioning. Two groups of mice were involved in their study. One group was given noni juice and the other was not. They then subjected the mice to stressful conditions before having them run a water maze. The group that had noni juice did better at running the maze and showed lower signs of stress than the group that did not get noni juice, indicating that noni juice protects against stress that can lead to cognitive impairment.
Most health food stores sell noni juice. The fruit itself is harder to find in stores but many be available in some Asian markets. Because of noni’s bad taste, its juice is more palatable if mixed with other juices or added to smoothies.