From Polynesian Healers to Health Food Stores: Changing Perspectives of Morinda citrifolia (Rubiaceae)
Morinda citrifolia L (noni) is one of the most important traditional Polynesian medicinal plants. Remedies from isolated Polynesian cultures, such as that of Rotuma, illustrate traditional indications that focus upon leaves, roots, bark, and green fruit, primarily for topical ailments. Anecdotally collected Hawaiian remedies that employ noni fruit illustrate changing usage patterns with shifts in recent times to preparation of juice made of ripe or decaying fruit. Ralph M. Heinicke promoted a wide range of claims about noni, and these seem to have fueled much of the current commercial interest in the plant. Recent studies of the proliferation of commercial products have shown that noni product manufacturers are promoting a range of therapeutic claims. These claims are based upon traditional Polynesian uses, Heinicke’s ideas, and fragments of recent scientific studies including the activity of noni in the treatment of cancer. A review is provided of recent studies of potential anticancer activity of noni fruit. While noni’s anticancer potential is still being explored, it continues to be widely used by Polynesians and non-Polynesians alike for both traditional and newly hypothesized indications.