Plants at a Glance: Healthy Noni

June 17, 2005

Indian Mulberry(Noni)Morinda citrifoliaGeo-distribution: A native plant of thePolynesian islands, noni has been growingin our region for some time, after its introductionby Asian immigrants to Panamawhen the canal was being built. Sincethen, noni has been planted in home gardensin coastal regions of Central Americafor its medicinal benefits.Botanical Description: Noni is a smallevergreen shrub or tree, usually less than 3 meters tall, occasionallyup to 6. It has glossy, evergreen leaves and yellowish-white,magnolia-like flowers. The oblong fruit is 10-15 centimeters long,with unusual scales on the surface of the fruit. It has an unappealingodor when ripe.Medicinal Uses: Noni is a traditional Hawaiian medicinal plantused for a wide range of illnesses. The ripe fruit can be used as apoultice for facial blemishes, rubbed until the oil disappears, andalso to draw out the pus and core from an infected sore or boil,such as from a staph infection. The young unripe fruit can beplaced carefully on deep cuts. Reputedly, the fruit was used as aremedy against tuberculosis, arthritis, rheumatism and the changesof old age. The leaves and bark of the stem were pounded andstrained, resulting in a liquid drunk as a tonic or for urinary disorders,muscle and joint pain, and the juice of the fruit was appliedto the hair to rid it of head lice.Preparation: Two recipes are known. The easiest consists ofblending and straining the soft, ripened fruit with water andpineapple or citrus juice. Several shot glasses of the juice aretaken daily, and the juice can be stored in the refrigerator. Thesecond recipe follows: Fill a wide-mouthed glass jar with the fruitat its yellow stage and cap it tightly. Place the jar in a sunny spotand let it sit for several days, until the fruit turns to mush and thesun-cooked juices drain into the bottom of the jar. The juice canbe strained into a smaller jar and refrigerated until used.Notes: Because of its recent popularity as a natural health drink,noni fruit is now available in many local markets. The seeds canbe collected and planted 2-3 cm deep in plastic nursery bags orcontainers with average soil. Keep them in the shade and wellwatered during the first month, until they sprout. Then move theseedlings into the light and water twice a week. The seedling treescan be planted in their permanent sites 3-6 months later. Nonitrees have adapted well to our tropical soils, particularly in thecoastal and intermediate regions of Costa Rica. The tree does wellin a wide range of soils and produces fruit in 3-5 years. No significantinsect problems are reported.If you would like a gift pack of noni seeds, send a self addressedstamped envelope to: New Dawn, Apartado 372-8000,San Isidro de El General.

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