Morinda Citrifolia - Queen of herbs

Also called with its famous name “Noni Juice”, the juice of the Morinda citrifolia fruit was highly advertised during the 1990s as an anticancer agent. Also known as Great morinda, Indian mulberry, Beach mulberry, Tahitian Noni, or since recently: Noni (from Hawaiian), Nono (in Tahitian), Mengkudu (from Malay), Nonu (in Tongan), and Ach (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 islands of French Polynesia, of which Tahiti is the most prominent. It can also be found in parts of the West Indies.

Although most claims appear to be based on undocumented reports, Morinda citrifolia does show 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 additional evidence shows other potential 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.

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. It has shown anti-inflammatory effects that have relieved arthritis symptoms in laboratory animals and it has bone-building properties that may give it some effectiveness for treating osteoporosis. 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.

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