Written records from early historians documented the excellent health observed among Native Hawaiians.
Although the variety of food they enjoyed was not nearly as extensive as today, they had what they needed to maintain their health for generations. When our early Polynesian ancestors planned their migration to Hawaiʻi, they had to carefully decide what plants were deemed most essential for their survival. With people, animals, and supplies occupying most of the space, they needed to be thoughtful in their decision-making.
The noni plant was among the plants selected, which is of little surprise given its important medicinal qualities. The entire plant – leaves, fruit, bark, and roots – were used for healing. Its fruit may also have been eaten during famines as well.
Noni fruit contains vitamins A and C, niacin, potassium, and a number of phytonutrients (naturally-occurring plant chemicals), each with unique benefits. Among two phytonutrients worth highlighting are flavonoids and polyphenols.
Flavonoids have been shown to help detox your body and decrease blood pressure and blood sugars. Polyphenols, specifically gallic acid, helps decrease arthritis, ulcers and irritable bowel disease, and improves memory. These and other phytonutrients in noni have also been shown to stimulate the immune system and fight viral and bacterial infections.
Noni may also help with weight loss. Besides decreasing body fat, it can also decrease total cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
The leaves of the noni plant can be heated and applied to bruises, wounds, and burns. The bark was used for cuts, roots for skin disorders, and immature fruit was used in various concoctions to treat a range of ailments including fractures, concussions, menstrual cramps and more. Amazing to consider that all these benefits were packaged in one plant!
Noni juice is simple to make at home. Pick ripe noni fruit, wash, and air-dry (do not peel it). Fill a glass jar to the top with the fruit. Place the sealed jar in an area of your house that has fairly stable temperature and light exposure. As the noni ferments, juice will naturally accumulate at the bottom of the jar. As the fruit shrinks, add more noni to the jar. Once you have enough juice it’s ready to drink.
Including noni in one’s daily routine must be done cautiously, as incorrect use, or too much noni, can be harmful. Consume only fresh noni fruit or juice – do not take noni in the form of a pill or supplement. According to research, a safe daily amount for adults is 2-3 fluid ounces a day.
It is also recommended you talk with your doctor before taking noni, as it shouldn’t be combined with certain medications (including some blood pressure medications, blood thinners, and diuretics), or if you have chronic kidney disease or liver disease.
Add a noni plant to your backyard and start your own homegrown “farmacy.”
Born and raised in Kona, Hawaiʻi, Dr. Jodi Leslie Matsuo is a Native Hawaiian Registered Dietician and certified diabetes educator, with training in Integrative and Functional Nutrition. Follow her on Facebook (@DrJodiLeslieMatsuo), Instagram (@drlesliematsuo) and on Twitter (@DrLeslieMatsuo).