It is assumed that Noni (“Aspirin of the Ancients”) originated in Southeast Asia (Indonesia) and was brought, approximately 2000 years ago, by ancient peoples of French Polynesia to the islands of the South Pacific. Captain Cook recorded it’s use in Tahiti (Nono) in the 1700s, and later documents show its use in Fiji (Kura), Samoa, Roratonga, Australia (Cheesefruit), Guam (Lada), Caribbean Islands (Painkiller Tree), Africa (Bumbo), India (Indian Mulberry)…. Its hardy seeds have the ability to float which has also contributed to its distribution throughout seacoasts in the South Pacific region. In Hawai’i (Noni – Morinda citrifolia) it is a common medicine. Depending upon latitude, it grows 0-2600ft, though Hawai’ian noni seems to thrive in rainforest lava rock nearest to the ocean. But while some here utilize it for any ailment, and noni producers sometimes swipe up (too) much of the fresh fruit off public trees, there are still many who live here who don’t seem to take advantage of its availability. At the same time, across the mainland and around the world, people are spending upwards of $40 a bottle, as it’s being packaged for consumption, from health food stores to Costco, as yet another “miracle cure”…perhaps the only popular miracle cure that is concurrently being debated as “the foulest liquid ever tasted.”
It is pretty stank, though bees like it, and the smell grows on you, as you become recipient of its benefits. Yet, I can imagine if one is taking these noni tonics and not noticing immediate results, they might easily write it off as another supplement marketing rip-off. Personally, most of the “manufactured” noni I’ve tried didn’t seem to do much. But there’s always something that happens from the fresh fruit to the processed product, and surely quality varies depending upon each company’s methods and their ability to best capture the medicinal qualities. All I can tell ya is this, drinking the fresh juice or pureé or soaking in the fruit is a whole different story, and you can’t deny its effects, because you feel them immediately.
Noni is likely one of the most powerful natural medicines I have ever tried. Part of being able to experience it properly is having easy access to the plant, as it grows in abundance in many areas of Hawai’i. Secondly, that Hawai’i is a breeding ground for so many ailments in which the noni can have obvious beneficial results; things like staph and skin infections, diabetes, a slew of surf injuries ….
Some use noni in a casual manner, but to others it is a powerful plant that is not intended for daily use. Similar to people who take kava to sleep, for many kava involves a ceremony and spiritual relationship with the plant. There are traditional beliefs regarding plants considered “sacred” by native peoples who have utilized them for generations. For those attuned to or interested in the knowledge, that is a righteous endeavor, because we often look too simply at the gifts of the earth. But personally, I don’t believe those who have a limited comprehension of the spiritual aspects disavow themselves from attaining positive results (its use alone might inevitably bring about an understanding leading one on that journey of awareness).
Noni has various chemical constituents. First, it has an impressive array of terpene compounds, three of which—L. Asperuloside, aucubin, and glucose—have been identified by their actyl derivatives. Both caproic and caprylic acids have been isolated. Second, bushfruits, a category of which noni fruit is a member, are also considered a good source of vitamin C. Third, Hawaiin noni has been linked to the synthesis of xeronine in the body which has significant and widespread health implications. Last, the alkaloid content of the noni fruit is thought to be responsible for its therapeutic actions. Alkaloids exhibit a wide range of pharmacological and biological activities in the human body. They are nitrogen-containing organic compounds which can react with acids to form salts and which are the basis of many medicines.
The traditional method (though there are many variations) seems to be picking yellow fruit (as opposed to the too young green), allowing the fruit to ferment by placing it in a bottle and letting it stew for a week, a month, some let it go for a year in the sun (though many agree at least two days is needed). The fruit is then squeezed/filtered. Since gases build up during the fermentation process, many do not use airtight lids but those with a fermentation lock or some other homemade device. Most producers of noni agree glass is preferred over plastic as some plastics can leach into the finished product and affect its quality. Though it’ll smell rotten to anyone unfamiliar with the scent, there is a particular odor of good fermented noni and bad (kinda like making fine wine). If you’re going to get technical, you can test the juice’s PH with a cheap PH test strip kit; noni should read at 3.5 or less (anything higher may be contaminated or have undesirable organisms). Aged, fermented noni juice (dark in color) can be stored at room temperature indefinitely, while the fresh (light in color) needs to be refrigerated.
My favorite way to drink noni is fresh super ripe fruit (kinda fermenting in the skin) squeezed through a cheese cloth into a homemade lemon or limeade (two cups of purified water, add 2-3 heaping tablespoons raw sugar, heat ’til crystals dissolve, cool some, add 1 tablespoon of raw coconut syrup or crystals, stir, add ice to cool more, mix in juice of 2-3 lemons, add juice of one very ripe noni, add water to taste, stirring well – should make a small pitcher). And the effects, dependent on your condition beforehand: warmth through the veins, clear head, energy, vitality. Usually I find it preferable to drink on an empty stomach for the best results, like a morning elixir or when I’m crashing in the afternoon, and wait half hour before consuming food, coffee or medications, etc.
I imagine the more fermented the noni the more potent its effects, especially good for use for more chronic, debilitating medical conditions. While the lighter and more sweet fresh fruit can benefit as a daily elixir for those with general constitution building or specific short-term ailments, such as a cold, infections, tiredness, headache, etc. The list of claimed benefits of noni (via the leaf, the flower, the bark, the root, the fruit) seems to be never ending: laxative, inflammation of joints, astringent, emollient, emmenagogue, sedative, hypotension (lowers blood pressure), blood purifier, tonic, immune system modulator, pesticide poisoning, parasitic, delayed menstruation, arthritis, boils, aphrodisiac, eye inflamation (flowers), malaria (bark), E. Coli, Asthma, Diarrhea, Colic, Autism….
In addition, a compound found in the fruit called damnacanthol is believed to help inhibit certain viruses and cellular mutations involved in cancer. [Phase One of a cancer study has already taken place]… Recent surveys have suggested that noni fruit exerts antioxidant [and] antibiotic action. In fact, a variety of compounds which have antibacterial properties (such as aucubin) have been identified in the fruit. Constituents found in the fruit portion have exhibited antimicrobial action amino acids…. Because proteins and enzymes have so many varied roles within cell processes, the normalization of these proteins with noni supplementation could initiate a very wide variety of body responses and treat many disease conditions.
I have enjoyed playing with it, feeling it out, and utilizing the plant when it seems to call to me. Because of that, I’ve had a few unique experiences with noni. One that I never read about is that it is the ultimate sunburn cure. It sounds unappealing, to put a strong fruit on one’s skin after it’s been burned. Aloe is typically the more obvious plant to use in such instances, and it seems a more soothing solution. But one day, when on antibiotics, I got severely burned while surfing in the strong Kona sun. It was actually an antibiotic eye drop I was taking because I had had Lasik surgery, and they kinda drained into the sinus cavity leaving me more photosensitive. Of course, I wasn’t thinking eyedrops would get into my system enough to affect my ability to handle the sun, but I ended up with small blisters all over my upper back and chest; hundreds of them. Aloe wasn’t working; nothing was. Being that I only burn on rare occasion I didn’t know what to do, besides the aloe and drinking lots of water. By the second day I was so frustrated I was willing to try anything. I had some noni which I’d found on one of the few noni trees located in the lava rock/desert ecosystem of Kailua-Kona’s Pine Trees (before it was surely uprooted as the family-oriented surf spot was churning into yet another high-end golf course and fulfilling the important fifth home market for the rich and oblivious mainlanders). For some reason I decided to rub it all over the blistered area. Honestly, I don’t know what I was thinking, but within one hour it was as if the blisters got sucked into my body. They literally disappeared before my very eyes.
Of course, noni on its own can burn too. I learned that because I used to soak in the rotten fruit my aunty would bring me. I’d make a bed: plastic garbage bag with towel over it and then a sort of old person diaper/pee pad that you can find at Longs atop that and mush about 3-5 super ripe noni atop it and lie in it for hours and hours to help heal some broken bones, relax muscles, sooth sore hips. It was the only thing, besides hideous pain killers, that allowed me to exist, even walk around, pain-free. When you break a bone here, that’s the first thing your auntie will bring over; noni juice, noni fruit, noni leaves. And how does it work? Fug if I know, we’ll leave some things a mystery, but the fruit will create a heat that deeply penetrates the body and brings healing to the area. Anyway, my auntie usually uses a sarong on the skin and the noni above or wrapped within the sarong, covered with noni leaves, so the fruit isn’t actually touching the skin. Then she recommends lying in the sun, to allow the sun to add more heat and generate more potent affect of the noni. All I have to say is don’t use plastic wrap as I did one day out of convenience; it surely would have been fine for the intended hour, but I fell asleep with it on and ended up with some serious degree burn.
Since it’s so easy to end up with Staph here, as the moist climate seems to breed it in the body and on the land, it’s important to have solutions that don’t lead to antibiotic use. One reef cut and a slightly off PH/sugary environment and you’ll easily find the infection spreading. You have to stay on top of it here, as many who’ve let it go untreated realized the hard way: in the hospital getting chunks of their body cut out. The most simple and immediate cure? Wash boo-boo with hot water, grab a piece of the fresh ripe noni fruit and simply place a chunk on the cut. If you smooth it in place it will actually stay there and create a seal and if it does fall off just apply again. This will help the cut disinfect and protect it as well. Then you take a more concentrate shot of noni juice at least once a day for up to two weeks.
The leaves are usually used for swelling, inflammation, arthritis, cuts, bruises rashes and boils. Heat/steam the leaves to soften them up for use, then place the side of the leaf that faces the sun on the body. You can place young leaves directly on the body as they are softer and have a more sticky quality. Some even throw leaves in a warm bath to release the healing oils.
As far as usage, everyone is different. But like any strong medicine, which has an effect of cleansing/detoxing one’s body, you should take a break between dosages. It’s strong, and overuse can be draining, and deplete organs instead of building them. Of course, it’s always best to confer with a physician and adequately trained herbalist or Hawaiian healer.
So if you’re not in Hawai’i but you want to try noni, there are many companies out there that want to supply it to you. Yet, because of all the variables, I can not recommend any – you need to search out your own and see what works best for you. Though I’ve tried a few, from juice to tinctures, none have had any of same effects as my own processing of the fresh fruit off the tree. Though out of those I did try, strangely enough, it wasn’t the juice but the noni fruit leather that seemed the most potent. And if you’re a Hawai’i Island local and don’t have time to pick and prepare your own, Abundant Life makes their own Noni Puree which is nice. Otherwise, all I can say is this: look for non-pasteurized unadulterated juice packaged preferably in dark glass bottles. And call and ask to talk with the owner; usually you’ll get a vibe of where they’re coming from. If they’re too big to talk or email with individual customers, maybe they’re too big to pay much attention to quality. Hopefully you’ll get a chance to experience the beneficial effects of quality noni and decide for yourself whether it’s a stinky “miracle cure” or not.
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Sites to check out:
Noni by Diana Fairechild (a stewardess with pesticide poisoning and her journey of healing through noni)