Bush Tucker Articles

Even More About Morinda citrifolia

(cheese fruit, noni, morinda)

Elwyn Hegarty

Greg Calvert’s article referred to numerous testimonials for various therapeutic uses of the extracts from fruit of this plant. It grows near tropical seas, including along the North Queensland coast. Various traditional cultures have used the plants in medicine and for dyes etc., but the odorous fruit varies in taste and acceptability as a food. Commercial extracts (liquids and powders) prepared from fresh or fermented fruits are now widely promoted as food supplements in the US and elsewhere.

Many advertisements for morinda and noni products have ascribed their therapeutic activity to a compound formed during digestion, and known as xeronine. There has been some confusion about the nature of this compound. It is usually described as an alkaloid, but apparently in the broadest sense, because it is not recorded in the chemical literature. Dr Heinecke of Hawaii, who named and was granted the original patent for xeronine (US4543212 of 24/9/85) has explained his use of the term on the web pages:
http://www.xeronine.com/noni/page4.html and

There is a comprehensive, independent review of the scientific research and historical factors relevant to the recent commercialisation and medicinal uses of Morinda citrifolia products in:
Dixon AR, McMillen H & Etkin NL (1999). Ferment this: the transformation of Noni, a traditional Polynesian medicine (Morinda citrifolia, Rubiaceae). Economic Botany 53(1) pp 51-68.

The authors conclude that "although these products do have a long history of use for some medical conditions in Polynesian and Hawaiian cultures, the (recent) celebrity of noni is out of proportion to the facts", and they attribute this at least partly to the great difficulty of proving that any improvement in chronic medical conditions is due to a single medicine or activity. As in other cases where such information is difficult to obtain, current research may provide some valuable answers.

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