Traditional cultures have long used the fruit, bark, leaves, and roots of noni fruit. They have used it as food, medicine, and dye. The noni tree is native to Southeast Asia, but also grows in neighboring India and the Pacific Islands, and as far as New Zealand, Australia, and South America.
It is said that Polynesian Islanders first cultivated and domesticated the noni tree over 2,000 years ago. They used the leaves and fruit as a topical medicine, applying it to boils, lesions, and other skin maladies.
Various other cultures have used the fruit as famine food, livestock feed, topical and internal medicine, and dye. People in China, Japan, and Hawaii have used noni to treat fever, as well as problems with eyes, skin, gums, throat, stomach, digestion, and respiration. In Malaysia and the Philippines, the leaves have been used to relieve cough, nausea, colic, and arthritis. In Indonesia, the fruit has been eaten for asthma, lumbago, and dysentery.
The noni tree, and more specifically its fruit, has been scientifically studied for decades. In 1972, a scientist named Maria Stewart reported that native Hawaiians solve many of their medical problems by drinking noni fruit juice. A University of Hawaii professor named R. M. Heinicke latched on to this idea and began a 20-year study into the properties of noni fruit. In the 1990’s, when he pronounced the existence of an unknown molecule responsible for noni’s health value, people began paying more attention to the fruit. A multi-level marketing company called Morinda began marketing products made from noni fruit. Since then, demand for the fruit has increased dramatically.
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