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Noni Health Terms

noni tree

Polynesian explorers and settlers recognized the importance of plants as long-lasting, self-renewing resources. They carefully cultivated and utilized many specific plants for food, clothing, handicrafts, medicine, and religious ceremonies. They recognized their interdependency with these plants, and acted as dedicated stewards to them.

For this reason, they brought certain key plants with them to every new island they colonized. These plants are called the canoe plantsMorinda Citrifolia or noni  was one such canoe plant.

Morinda Citrifolia is a tree in the coffee family. There’s a misconception out there that noni is a shrub, but in reality it grows up to about 9 meters (30 feet), or even taller. The leaves are shiny, dark green, and deeply veined with light green. The name “citrifolia” comes from the leaves’ similarity to citrus leaves.

The fruit is what makes the noni tree unusual. Noni fruit is a syncarp, also known as a multiple fruit. That means it’s made up of the fruits of several flowers, which fuse together. Other examples of syncarps are pineapples and jackfruits.

While most fruits start as a flower which then develops into a fruit, noni fruit develops a small fruit first, which looks kind of like a little green pine cone. Then small, white flowers form and come out all over the fruit. If you look at a photo of a mature white noni fruit, you will see many, many brown spots where a flower has been attached (50-75 flowers per fruit).

From there, the green fruit keeps growing. As it matures, it starts to turn yellowish white, usually starting at one end. Eventually the fruit changes completely in color to white, at which time it’s ready to pick. Polynesians learned to eat the raw, unfermented pulp of the fruit as a preventative.