Noni is so low-profile, in fact, that many people have never heard of it. But that is about to change.
In the past decade, the humble noni -- more specifically its juice -- has rapidly become the top product of the worldwide Complementary and Alternative Medicine movement. In 1996, the leading purveyor of noni juice, a Utah-based firm called Morinda International, listed profits of $40 million. By 2001, those per-annum profits had risen to $550 million.
noni boom is now seeping into
years ago, only three Japanese trading companies were importing noni
products. Today, they number more than 30. Morinda International has
also built an enormous "Tahitian Noni Cafe" not far from the Metropolitan
Government offices in west Shinjuku. Meanwhile, down in
Why all the excitement? The simple answer is "better health." Users around the world are trumpeting noni as a panacea for . . . well, for almost anything.
Noni is said to help relieve backache, skin conditions, high blood pressure, asthma, stomach problems, diabetes -- and the list goes on and on.
At present, however, its success is only anecdotal. Users believe improvements in their conditions are due to taking noni. Clinical verification of noni effectiveness is still awaited.
verification is not essential for the
several universities -- among them the
Theories abound as to why noni might work, but most focus on the fruit's ability to help the body help itself.
example, some advocates say antioxidant-rich noni acts as a chelating
agent by absorbing extra trace metals in the body and then balancing
the body's system by aiding discharge of overabundant toxins. Others
say noni strengthens cell structure, enabling cells to better take care
of themselves. In a 1992 study of the fruit's effects that used mice
as test subjects, researchers at the
also points to noni as something more than snake oil. The island peoples
fruit itself perhaps originated in
Not only do the ripened fruit smell unsavory, the flavor is so objectionable that one company -- Pure Nonu Juice of the South Pacific -- even advertises under the slogan, "Something that tastes this bad must be good for you." ("Nonu" is another term for noni.) Almost no one, needless to say, eats noni straight off the tree.
offset the strong flavor of the juice, most companies cut their product
with other fruit juices. Tahitian Noni Juice, marketed by Morinda International,
looks like grape juice and can even be used
as an icecream topping. Another company,
Juice is the best-selling product, but other noni merchandise includes noni tea, noni shampoo and even noni chocolates.
The noni price, however, is not so attractive. One liter of Tahitian Noni Juice sells for 6,250 yen. If imbibed in daily 30 ml measures, as recommended, this will last for a month. Other more pocket-friendly noni juices can be found online, but none are going to be as cheap as, say, a steaming bowl of chicken soup. Still, noni producers are betting that when it comes to health, Japanese consumers will be willing to pay top prices for noni benefits.
noni production cannot yet compare to the big business of Tahiti or
However, Hawaiian growers counter that they, too, have a pristine environment and their volcanic soil is richer still.
In between this not-so-friendly competition lies the unassuming noni.
It does not look, smell or taste like a star. But this lowly fruit may soon be playing second banana to none.
Noni juice can be purchased in the health sections of major department stores, and is also available online.