Noni: Everything You Need to Know

Noni is a unique fruit that has dozens different names – it all just depends on what country you’re in. It’s sometimes called Indian mulberry, hog apple, or great morinda, but its scientific name is Morinda citrifolia.

Why so many names?

Because it’s one of the most revered superfruits in existence.

The History of Noni

It all started with a canoe and the Pacific Islanders. Though they obviously knew about the benefits long before they started exploring the Pacific Islands, it became readily apparent how much they truly valued the noni fruit.

The noni tree is a survivor. When I imagine the Polynesians taking the noni tree with them in their canoes, I like to think they took them along for a symbolic reason as well as the tree’s many uses.

Unlike most plants, noni trees don’t mind a little salt. They’re perfectly content to be hit by salt spray all day and all night. But more so than that, noni trees often find themselves growing in the cracks of lava flows. Now, I realize that there aren’t many places to grow on lava, so the cracks are the most logical. But there’s just something inspiring about seeing a tree thrive and pushing hardened lava out of the way.

Noni was one of only two dozen plants that were taken by canoe to new islands. The Pacific Islanders figured that they could survive as long as they had these 24 plants. Some were brought for food, some for medicine, and some to make fabric and cordage – all of life’s essentials.

It’s in this manner that noni was spread across the Pacific Ocean. There’s a map (below) that will show you where it’s currently grown.

Noni: More Than Just Fruit

In the nutritional world, we always seem to think of noni and how the fruit benefits us. But there’s a lot more to this alien-looking fruit than just its nutrients.

The leaf is used to wrap and cook food in (similar to a banana leaf), fed to livestock and silkworms, and is made into tea and poultices.

The stem was used to make various parts for canoes, to make handles for tools, to dig with, and was used to make red dye.

The roots were used to make a yellow pigment and were also carved.

The tree has many uses beyond the fruit, but of course, the fruit was just as important to the ancient Polynesians.

How to Know if Noni is Ripe

Noni has yet another reason it was brought along.

Noni trees will start to bear fruit between 9 months and a year. It’s a relatively short timeframe. An orange tree can take up to 15 years to bear fruit (if grown from a seed). Avocado trees take about 5 years. Having a short period until noni fruit started growing was a complete boon to travelers looking to populate a new island.

Plus, once noni trees start producing fruit, they don’t stop. There is no harvest season for noni because it grows year-round – which is one reason it’s also called the famine fruit.

When noni is immature, it’s green. As it starts to mature, it starts turning white. Once white with a tinge of green, it’s ripe enough to pick.

What’s the difference in a day or two?

There are potent enzymes at work in noni. It’s one of the reasons why it’s so beneficial. These enzymes are also the main reason noni is perfect for fermenting.

A noni fruit that isn’t completely ripe when it’s picked won’t produce nearly as much juice as one that is.

After picking a noni fruit, it’ll turn white and translucent within a few days. At this point, it’s ready to be fermented.

How to Make Noni Juice

There are a couple of different ways to make noni juice. The first is a much simpler way that some native Hawaiians employ.

  1. Wash the noni fruit and allow it to completely dry.
  2. Place the ripened fruit (the flesh should be white and translucent) in a clean, glass jar (food grade plastic will also work). Make sure you do not tighten the lid completely because the glass can break due to the gases that are released during the fermentation process.
  3. Place it outside in the sun and allow it to ferment for 6-8 weeks.
  4. Optional: strain the noni to remove any sediment and, obviously, the fruit.

This next way is a more involved process, but you’ll end up with a more consistent product and you’ll get more nutrients from your noni.

The first two steps are basically the same, so we’ll skip to step 3.

  1. After you place one layer of noni in the container, add a layer of leaves on top of it.
  2. Keep building layers until you’re out of noni.
  3. Rather than placing it in the sun, keep your jar/container in a controlled environment. Excess light and temperature can negatively affect your juice, so a place that doesn’t get much light and is around 75 degrees F.
  4. Allow it for ferment for at least 6 weeks. Closer to two months is better, but it’ll change depending on the ambient temperature. Do a taste test at 6 weeks to determine if you want to stop fermenting it or not.
  5. Separate the juice from the solid parts. Compress the fruit, if possible.
  6. Grind up the leaves, pulp, and seeds.
  7. Reincorporate the solids into the juice.
  8. Refrigerate to halt the fermentation process.

Noni’s Unique Taste

It doesn’t taste like apple juice. People often consider it to be an acquired taste – which is why you’ll often see noni juice combined with other juices in the marketplace.

If you’re looking to reap the benefits of noni, drinking a juice that has noni plus a variety of other juices won’t net you the results you desire. You simply won’t be getting an efficacious dose.

Plus…

The more you consume noni, the more you’ll find you start to crave it. Your body knows what it wants. I went through a similar situation when I began making my own fermented vegetables.

Where Noni is Grown

where noni is grown

Though noni traces its origins back to Australasia and Southeast Asia, it is now grown around the world.

Noni’s Nutrition Facts

I realize it doesn’t seem like noni juice provides a lot of nutrition, and thus, not a lot of benefits, but you’ll see that assumption is incredibly wrong in the next section. Keep in mind, however, that this these nutrition facts are only for a single tablespoon of noni.

noni nutrition facts

The Benefits of Noni

Traditionally, the Polynesians used noni to help combat fatigue and increase their endurance – a primary reason why they would want to take it on their journeys to find new islands.

At the time, the Polynesians weren’t aware of all noni’s nutrients. They just knew it worked for their intestinal issues and that it had a whole slew of other benefits.

Noni contains a lot of nutrients you won’t commonly find on a nutrition facts panel.

For instance, proxeronine, various polysaccharides, scopoletin, limonene, etc. Trust me, the list goes on for quite a while. It’s estimated to contain over 160 nutrients and other compounds.

Xeronine is an alkaloid that supports proper functioning in our bodies by combining with proteins to help them do their jobs. Noni contains the precursor to xeronine, proxeronine.

Limonene is a monoterpene that can help support the immune system by assisting the normal detoxification process. [1]

Noni is one of the best sources of polysaccharides in the world. Polysaccharides are large sugar molecules bonded together. They’re more commonly known as glucans or starches. They don’t deserve the bad reputation their much simpler counterparts get (simple sugars). The polysaccharides in noni have immunomodulatory effects, so they can support your immune system. [2, 3, 4]

In addition to its digestion and detox benefits, noni’s ability to scavenge free radicals was found to be 2.8 times greater than vitamin C. [5]

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