Morinda species comprise a useful and widely distributed genus of tropical trees, shrubs, and vines. Most of the approximately 80 species originated from Borneo, New Guinea, Northern Australia, and New Caledonia. At least 20 species, including Morinda citrifolia.
(Rubiaceae), have significant modern economic and historical values in the Pacific Islands and in Asia. The buoyant-seeded species such as M. citrifolia became essential components of many tropical coastal and forest ecosystems, where they served important functions as medicines, foods, dyes, or wood for several ancient, indigenous societies (Nelson and Elevitch 2006).
It is often one of the first dicotyledonous species in the succession of plants that colonize newly deposited lava fields in Hawaii (Nelson 2006).
The noni plant produces syncarps throughout the year, from which widely used products such as fresh and fermented juice or powders are manufactured and marketed in the United States as dietary supplements or as novel foods in the European Union (Potterat and Hamburger 2007).
Traditional Uses of Noni
he history of the geographic dissemination and the use of noni throughout the Pacific Islands began approximately 3600 years ago as Polynesian voyagers sequentially colonized new islands. Noni was carried by these explorers to the Hawaiian Islands as a “canoe plant” around AD 400, where inhabitants used the fruits as a famine food and in medicines (Nelson and Elevitch 2006).
The modern consumption of fermented noni juice as medicine developed in the 1990s because of modern advertising claims, marketing programs, and scientific research, which piqued interest in the properties and potential of noni as a healing agent. During the late 1990s, manufactured noni juice (both fresh and fermented), fruit powders, and a variety of other products derived from noni fruits (foods and cosmetics) became popular among consumers in North America, Europe, and Asia.
Noni juice marketing began in the United States as a dietary supplement on July 1, 1996, as well as in Canada, Japan, Australia, Mexico, Norway, and Hong Kong (McClatchey 2002). Noni juice gained approval by the European Commission as a novel food in Europe in 2003 (European Commission 2003)
Noni juice and juice products are readily available internationally in health food stores, grocery markets, via Internet retailers, and through pyramid or multilevel marketing enterprises as freshly squeezed or fermented products or as beverages derived from noni fruit juice concentrates.
Noni juice products are marketed either as 100% pure noni juice or as juice or beverage mixtures consisting of noni juice and other fruit juices or flavors. Some noni juice products also contain added preservatives, sugar, and colors, and some are marketed as organically grown.
The initial popularity and marketing success of noni was based on various unsubstantiated claims made about noni products and their effects on human health. For example, noni was marketed as an immune system stimulant, an anticancer agent, a menstrual cycle regulator, or a blood cleanse. 2007b). Some medical doctors in Hawaii prescribe noni for use by patients in cancer therapies and for other indications (Nelson, unpublished)