When someone is eating noni fruit in your vicinity, you're likely to know it. Sometimes called the "vomit fruit" because of its unpleasant odor, it's prized in alternative medicine — however there's scant research on its effectiveness. If you still want to try it, you have a few options.
What Is Noni?
If you've ever seen noni, you can't forget it. Appearing like some sort of insect cocoon, it's one of the strangest-looking fruits out there. But that, and its scent, doesn't seem to matter to the humans who have consumed it for thousands of years for its supposed medicinal effects.
Also known as morinda, Indian mulberry, hog apple and canarywood, the noni is the fruit of a small evergreen tree growing in areas from Southeastern Asia to Australia, where it often is found among lava flows. Traditionally, people used many parts of the noni plant for both external and internal uses related to myriad health concerns.
These days, people mainly consume the fruit and its juice in various forms, both whole and as a dietary supplement in the form of powders, pills and teas.
How to Eat Noni
You're not going to come across whole noni fruit in most mainstream grocery stores. Specialty retailers, such as Asian markets, sometimes sell the whole fruit. Its other-worldliness is attractive on store shelves, which is what might lead you to pick it up. But once home, what are you supposed to do with it?
That depends on your tastes. The unripe fruit has a tough and bitter texture, compared to the ripened fruit, which is sometimes likened to the flavor of soy sauce. Some cultures cook the unripened fruit in savory dishes, such as curry. Cooking noni is like cooking any vegetable:
- Wash and dry the fruit.
- Cut it into chunks.
- Stir-fry the noni with coconut milk and curry spices until tender.
- Add any other vegetables you desire and serve over rice.
The best way to eat the ripened fruit is whole, just as you would an apple, pear or orange:
- Wash and dry the fruit.
- Peel the skin; this should be easy if the fruit is adequately ripened.
- Eat the translucent flesh plain or sprinkle it with a bit of salt, which is how many Southeast Asians and Australian Aborigines prefer it.
You can also add the ripened fruit to a smoothie with other fruits, which may help mask its flavor if it doesn't appeal to you.
Lastly, the most popular way to consume noni is to drink its juice. You can buy noni juice in some stores and online, or you can make your own at home. There are two ways to do this: a fast way and a painstakingly slow way. The fast way makes a fresh juice, while the slow way makes a fermented juice.
Quick noni juice:
- Wash and dry the ripened fruit.
- Peel the skin and cut into chunks.
- Put in a blender and blend until smooth.
- Strain the juice from the pureed fruit through a fine sieve or a piece of cheesecloth.
- Wash the ripened fruit and put it out in the sun to dry for a few hours.
- Sterilize a container, such as a large mason jar, or several smaller ones.
- Pack the fruits into the jars.
- Leave them to ferment for six to eight weeks.
- At the end of the fermentation period, strain the juice and discard the fruit.
Noni Juice Nutrition
If you've purchased bottled noni juice before, you know how expensive it is. Is it worth it? Not likely. If you compare the nutrition information to other less expensive juices, there's nothing in its nutrient profile that makes it stand out. For example, per 3.5 ounces, noni juice contains less vitamin C, less calcium and less vitamin A than fresh orange juice, according to data from the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources and the USDA.
Noni juice is lower in sugar and calories than orange juice and pomegranate juice; however, many people need to mix noni juice with other juices to make it palatable. Therefore, the sugar content of the final drink is only moderately lower in sugar.
Noni Fruit: Health or Hype?
But noni's benefits, if they exist, are likely not from what you read on the label of your bottle of juice. According to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, noni juice contains glycosides, which are plant compounds that exhibit antioxidant activity. Antioxidants are chemicals that scavenge the body's free radicals — other chemicals that can harm healthy cells and cause disease.
Although research is limited, noni antioxidants may offer some benefits for specific populations. For example, a placebo-controlled trial involving 132 heavy smokers, published in Scientific World Journal in October 2012, found that drinking 29.5 to 188 milliliters of noni juice each day significantly lowered total cholesterol and triglycerides levels compared to a placebo.
In addition, levels of the bad cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein were reduced, while levels of the good cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein increased. Levels of a marker of inflammation in the body linked to heart disease, called homocysteine, were also decreased.
Few other human studies exist; the bulk of noni research has been conducted in laboratory animals and test tubes. In those settings, Sloan Kettering reports that it has shown promise in inducing cancer cell death, reducing oxidative stress and improving memory impairment, but there is not enough evidence to suggest its use in mainstream medicine just yet.
Should You Drink It?
There's no reason why you can't include noni fruit or juice in your diet if it appeals to you. But forcing yourself to stomach it for its purported health benefits is probably a sacrifice of time, money and a settled stomach.
For the cost of noni juice, you can buy a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables that offer abundant vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that are proven to promote health as part of a balanced diet. In addition, investing in organic fruits and vegetables, hormone-free meat and dairy, and fresh fish and eggs, instead of a bottle of juice, will get you a lot more bang for your nutrition buck in the long run.
- College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources: "The Noni Website"
- USDA: "Basic Report: 09206, Orange Juice, Raw (Includes Foods for Usda's Food Distribution Program)"
- USDA: "Basic Report: 09442, Pomegranate Juice, Bottled"
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: "Noni"
- New World Encyclopedia: "Glycoside"
- Kaiser Permanente: "Antioxidants and Free Radicals"
- Scientific World Journal: "Noni Juice Improves Serum Lipid Profiles and Other Risk Markers in Cigarette Smokers."
- Nutrition Journal: "Role of Homocysteine in the Development of Cardiovascular Disease"
- NIH: "Noni"
- African Journal of Plant Science: "Noni: A New Medicinal Plant for the Tropics"
- Dave's Noni: "What is Noni?"
- Puna Noni Naturals: "Making Noni Juice"