Noni is a tropical fruit that was originally native to Polynesian islands, but is now grown in many tropical regions around the world. It has been widely regarded in the traditional cultures of these regions to have medicinal properties. And it has a reputation as a relaxant and stress reliever, being used widely as a natural means of calming nerves and helping support sleep when consumed before bedtime.
A new study out of Japan may confirm that very reputation. The animal study, published in the journal Physiology & Behavior, has found that noni actually protects the brain from stress in a way that maintains cognitive function. Mice were subjected to stress and then made to run a water maze, a commonly used test to determine cognitive function. One group was given noni juice while the control was not. What was found was that the group that was given noni were both more efficient at completing the maze and showed less signs of inflammation in the blood vessels of the brain, a common effect of stress. The researchers concluded that noni juice has a protective effect against the kind of stress that causes cognitive impairment.
That’s good stuff. And it makes me wish I knew about noni juice when I was still in school doing exams. I could have used something that helped me think clearly under stress.
Noni is also reported to be effective for a range of health issues such as colds, cancer, diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, skin infections, depression, atherosclerosis and arthritis. Although scientific studies on the validity of these claims is limited, noni does have some compounds that may explain some of these effects.
Noni contains a number of antibacterial compounds, including scopoletin which has been shown to disable E. coli, responsible for food poisoning and H. pylori, a bacteria associated with stomach ulcers. Noni’s anti-tumor activity may be due to its content of damnacanthal, a compound that inhibits the enzyme tyrosine kinase, a mechanism found to inhibit and even shrink tumors. In fact, several studies have found that noni is an immune system stimulator, boosting B cells that make antibodies against specific invaders, and activating two aspects of the front line innate immune system: natural killer cells and macrophages. Noni has also been found in studies to protect the liver.
I also wonder if the reduced inflammatory response due to stress observed in studies could explain some of these physiological effects. Inflammation and stress are commonly thought to exacerbate (and could be even directly responsible for) problems like asthma, hypertension, atherosclerosis and arthritis. Perhaps this is the mechanism that’s at work in noni’s medicinal properties.
The science is there on noni fruit. It certainly helps to explain why traditional cultures held the fruit in such high regard. It’s reported that the Polynesians used to refer to it as the “Fruit of the Gods.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t taste or smell the best. If you do decide to give it a try, mix it with other juices to brighten up the taste some. Adding it to morning smoothies is another great way to derive noni’s benefits without subjecting yourself to the taste. You can find noni juice in most health food stores, although the fresh fruit is more difficult to find. Ask around in Asian markets and health shops.
The Healthy Foodie is Doug DiPasquale, Holistic Nutritionist and trained chef, living in Toronto. Doug specializes in private in-home holistic cooking lessons.