Cosmeceutical Critique

Morinda citrifolia (Noni) tree: Many names, even more applications


Skin inflammation, infections, mouth ulcers, and wound healing are among the indications for the use of the traditional Polynesian medicinal plant Morinda citrifolia, also known as Noni, which has been in use on the islands for two millennia.1-4 The plant, found abundantly in Southeast Asia, Australia, the Pacific Basin, and the Caribbean, is called Great Morinda or cheese fruit in Australia, Nono in Tahiti, Indian Mulberry in India, and Ba ji tian in China.4-6 It is also deployed for a wide range of health purposes in Brazil.7

Noni fruit or Indian Mulberry Morinda citrifolia, is a tree in the coffee family, Rubiaceae. Its native range extends through Southeast Asia and Australasia, and the species is now cultivated throughout the tropics and widely naturalized. CampPhoto/iStock/Getty Images

Noni has been credited with conferring various salutary benefits against arthritis, diabetes, fever, gingivitis, headaches, infections, inflammation, respiratory illnesses, and tuberculosis.3,8 In alternative medicine, the fruit juice, which has been found to be safe, is used for multiple indications, with a slew of studies presenting evidence for anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and apoptosis-inducing benefits against cancer.5,6 All parts of M. citrifolia – leaves, fruits, roots, bark, flowers, and seeds – have been used in traditional medical practices.8 This column will focus on recent research into the broad array of biologic activities attributed to the plant and possible dermatologic uses.

Diverse biologic properties

In 2007, Nayak et al. showed that the juice of M. citrifolia fruit significantly lowered sugar levels in diabetic rats and facilitated their wound healing.1

Three years later, Thani et al. determined that the leaves of M. citrifolia exert antiproliferative and antioxidative activities, with chemopreventive benefits seen against epidermoid and cervical cancers.9

In 2011, Serafini et al. confirmed the antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antinociceptive qualities of the aqueous extract from M. citrifolia leaves, with the extract shown to significantly lower leukocyte migration in doses of 200 and 400 mg/kg. Mild antibacterial properties were seen as was an antinociceptive effect at the higher dose in the acetic-acid-induced writhing test.3

A comprehensive literature review in 2017 by Torres et al. identified a varied and extensive list of biological activities of M. citrifolia, including immunostimulatory, antitumor, antidiabetic, antiobesity, antibacterial and antiseptic, antifungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antinociceptive and analgesic, antioxidant, neuroprotective, wound healing, antiallergic, photoprotective, and antiwrinkle among several others. Despite its use in disease prevention and treatment around the world, the researchers call for more in vitro and in vivo models in addition to clinical trials to further examine the health benefits of Noni.7

Early in 2019, De La Cruz-Sánchez et al. determined that the methanolic extract of M. citrifolia displayed marked activity against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), thus supporting its continuing applications in traditional medical practice.2

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