Noni (English) Kura (Fiji)

Morinda citrifolia (Rubiaceae)

Characteristics

Tree, up to 9 m tall. Leaves large, simple, opposite, dark green, shiny and deeply veined. Flowers and fruits all year round. Botanically, the fruit is a multiple fruit, 10-18 cm long, very strong vomit-like smell (to attract fruit bats for seed dispersal). At first green, the fruit turns yellow then almost white as it ripens. It contains many seeds. Noni grows in shady forests as well as on open rocky or sandy shores, tolerant of saline soils and drought conditions. It is especially attractive to weaver ants, which make nests from the leaves of the tree. These ants protect the plant from some plant-parasitic insects. Hence, it is a mutualistic symbiosis.

Distribution

Native to Southeast Asia and Australasia. Brought to Pacific islands as canoe plant by Austronesian voyagers. The species is now cultivated throughout the tropics and widely naturalized.

Natural Medical Properties

Nowadays, single trees are encouraged or cultivated in gardens mainly for medicinal purposes.
The curative properties of the plant parts are ascribed to the presence of medicinally active anthraquinone derivates.
The fruit contains rancid smelling capric acid and unpleasant tasting caprylic acid. It is thought that antibiotically active compounds are present.
The roots are febrifuge, tonic and antiseptic.
They are used to treat stiffness and tetanus and have been proven to combat arterial tension.
An infusion of the root is used in treating urinary disorders.
The bark is used in a treatment to aid childbirth.
Externally, the root is crushed and mixed with oil and is used as a smallpox salve.
An infusion of the root bark is used to treat skin diseases.
The roots are harvested as required and used in decoctions.
The wilted or heated leaf is applied as a poultice to painful swellings in order to bring relief.
A poultice of the leaves is applied to wounds or to the head in order to relieve headaches.
The crushed leaves, mixed with oil, are applied to the face for the treatment of neuralgia.
The leaves are harvested as required during the growing season.
The fruits are used as a diuretic, a laxative, an emollient and as an emmenagogue, for treating asthma and other respiratory problems, as a treatment for arthritic and comparable inflammations, in cases of leucorrhoea and copraemia and for maladies of the inner organs.
Liquid pressed from young fruit is snuffed into each nostril to treat bad breath and raspy voice.
It is also used in the treatment of mouth ulcers, haemorrhoids, hernia or swollen testicles, headaches, pain caused by barb of poisonous fish, removal of a splinter, childbirth, diabetes, diarrhoea and dysentery, fever, intestinal worms, filariasis, leprosy, and tuberculosis.
Young fruits are used to treat high blood pressure.
The fruits can be harvested ripe or unripe and are sometimes charred and mixed with salt for medicinal use.
The roots, leaves and fruits may have anthelmintic properties. In traditional medicine the parts used are administered raw or as juices and infusions or in ointments and poultices.

Did you know?

Noni is sometimes called a “starvation fruit”, implying that it was used by indigenous peoples as emergency food during times of famine. Despite its strong smell (vomit-like) and bitter taste, the fruit was nevertheless eaten, in some Pacific islands even as a staple food, either raw or cooked.

Further reading:

Literature

World Flora Online
WorldChecklist of Selected Plant Families
A working list of all plant species