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Saturday, November 19, 2011


Noni fruit has been used for medicine, as has the rest of the tree, in the Polynesian islands for more than 2,000 years, and with such a long history of use, it has to be safe for human consumption, although on some islands it is used for animal feed. One can see why it got the name Indian Mulberry as at first sight, if you don’t think of the size of the fruit, it looks like a white mulberry. The trees grow to between 4 and 16 metres high.
M. citrifolia var. potteri
  There are different varieties of noni trees and one has white and green leaves; this one is Morinda citrifolia var potteri and grows on Hawaii. There are many myths about the efficacy of the Morinda citrifolia trees and the one which illustrates the potency noni is thought to have comes from Tonga. The myth says that the leaves from the tree were placed on the corpse of the god Maui and he was restored to life.
  Traditionally the fruit has been used for a variety of purposes, the unripe green fruit is crushed and applied to sores and herpes scabs around the mouth, and mashed it is used as a gargle for sore throats. Crushed unripe fruit is also used to heal peeling skin and chaps on the hands and feet, and to get rid of parasites around old wounds as well as for oral problems including toothache; it is also used as a stimulant for the appetite and brain. It may also be used in poultices which are applied to boils, rheumatic joints and chests of TB sufferers as well as to sprains and to bring out discolouration after deep bruising. The oil from the seeds is used for stomach ulcers. Juice from the fruit is used to cleanse badly infected cuts.
  The trunk of the tree is used for canoe parts and paddles, as well as handles for axes and other implements, as well as for firewood and for the red-purple dye which can be extracted from the bark. A decoction of the bark is used in cases of jaundice. At one time scientists feared that the anthraquinones in the fruit might cause liver damage, but this was subsequently proved not to be the case.
  The infusion of the flowers is used to get rid of sties around the eyes, while the thick roots are used for carvings and to produce a yellow dye. The dyes obtained from the tree are used in batik.
  The leaves have been used as food for silk worms, and in cooking to wrap and flavour meat. They are also good for animal fodder and are placed on the head to cure headaches, burns and fevers. They are also made into a tisane or tea, and scientists agree that they are safe for human consumption.
  The unripe fruit has also been used to stop menstrual cramps and is used as an emmenagogue and de-obstructant on some islands. Oil which can be extracted from the bark was once used to get rid of head lice and other insects in the hair.
  The fruit is used as a famine food mainly although it is a staple in some diets. In South-East Asia it is eaten raw with salt as it is by the Aborigines in Australia. In some places it is cooked and eaten in curry sauces. It is a bitter tasting fruit even when ripe.
  Captain James Cook recorded seeing the fruit being eaten raw in Tahiti during his voyages in the 18th century. Since then the world of Complementary and Alternative medicine has attempted to show that the fruit and juice of this tree has amazing health benefits, claiming variously that it can help in the treatment of addictions, ADD/ADHD (attention deficit disorders), AIDS, various cancers, jet lag and so on. None of these claims have been proven however. It is also claimed that the fruit and parts of the tree have antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties, that it can help reduce high blood pressure and reduce stress, cure chronic fatigue, and enhance the functioning of the immune system. Many of these claims have been made by the manufacturers of noni juice.
  The facts are that some new substances have been found in the tree and these are under investigation. The USFDA does not approve the use of noni for any diseases and does not recognize its effectiveness.
  Noni juice contains about half the vitamin C of a navel orange, vitamin B3 (niacin), has a lot of the minerals potassium, iron and calcium; contains rutin, which is also found in rue and which is known to have medicinal benefits, linoleic acid, and other fatty acids, amino acids, flavonoids, beta-sitosterol, carotene, catechin and alkaloids among other things. It is a member of the Rubiaceae family of plants which makes it a relation of Kadamb, cleavers, coffee, cinchonca, and a distant relation of sweet woodruff, madder and yellow bedstraw.
  It is possible that noni and the Morinda trees have amazing medicinal benefits for us, but be wary of any claims made about products from it now, as they have not been substantiated.

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