Morinda citrifolia L.: A potential medicinal and nutritive fruit plant
Authors: Lalit Arya, Manjusha Verma
Sr. Scientists, NBPGR, Pusa Campus, New Delhi-12



Morinda citrifolia L. (origin: India and South East Asia, Mortan, 1992) belongs to genus Morinda [derived from two Latin words Morus (Mulberry) and indicus (Indian)] and is a member of family Rubiaceae. Morinda citrifolia, commonly known as Indian noni or Indian Mulberry is a fruit plant (3-10 m tall, with broad elliptical leaves, small tubular white flowers, ovoid and fleshy fruits, ranges in color from green to yellow to almost white at the time of picking and pulp is juicy and bitter, seeds reddish brown, triangular shaped and, with an air sac making the seeds buoyant) of immense importance. It is distributed in coastal areas in open lands and in forests of dry tracts of India viz. Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and along the coastal areas of Kerala and many other places as well as to other tropical countries of Asia, South America and Caribbean and Polynesian Islands. Morinda citrifolia L. was the second most popular plant used in herbal remedies by the ancestors of the Polynesians. Its roots, stems, bark, leaves, flowers, and fruits are used in various combinations in herbal remedies. It is also known as the most popular plant used for medicinal and nutritional benefits (Blancoa et al, 2006). Additionally, a yellow or red dye is produced from roots and used as a food in tropical regions throughout the world.

Some important Nutrient constituents of Noni fruit

Water: 90% water

Protein: 11.3% of the dry matter (Amino acids: glutamic acid, aspartic acid and isoleucine)

Minerals: 8.4% of the dry matter (potassium, sulphur, calcium and phosphorus; traces of selenium)

Vitamins: mainly ascorbic acid (24-158 mg/100 g dry matter) and provitamin A

Some very important medicinally active components of the ~160 phytochemical compounds identified from Morinda citrifolia:

Xeronine alkaloid is a critical normal metabolic coregulator and has beneficial effects in arthritis, high blood pressure, gastric ulcers, injuries, menstrual cramps, mental depression, senility, sprains, poor digestion, pain and drug addiction.

Anthraquinones (damnacanthal extracted mainly from the roots, is of particular interest among the Anthraquinones) have anti-oxidative activity (anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anticancer activities, and analgesic)

Polyphenols, reducing glycosides, lignin derivatives are the other sources of antioxidative activity in Morinda citrifolia

Scopoletin is a coumarin and have analgesic properties as well as a significant ability to control serotonin levels in the body. It also has anti-microbial and anti-hypertensive effects.

Moreover, M. citrifolia L. leaves also have strong antioxidant activity, and have been used as therapeutic teas, infusions and capsules. M. citrifolia L. leaves contain a variety of phytochemical constituents, including terpenoids, phytosterols, fatty acids and their glycosides iridoids and their glycosides and flavonol glycosides.

World Noni Research Foundation (WNRF, Chennai, India) is dedicatedly working on M citrifolia for commercial production of Noni products and research being carried out through various Institutes. National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR, New Delhi, India) is one of them working on conservation and also some molecular characterization.

Morinda citrifolia L., with its recognized antioxidant potential and without any known side effects can be used as food additives in the food processing industry and have prospective for use in preventive medicine.

References

1. Blancoa YC, Vaillantb F, Perezb AM, Reynesc M, Brillouetc JM, Bratc P (2006) The noni fruit (Morinda citrifolia L.): A review of agricultural research, nutritional and therapeutic properties. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis 19: 645-654.

2. Morton JF (1992) The ocean-going noni or Indian mulberry (Morinda citrifolia, Rubiaceae) and some of its 'colorful'relatives. Economic Botany 46(3):241-256.

Noni fruit (Morinda citrifolia).jpg
"Image Source: Noni fruit (Morinda citrifolia)" by Wilfredo Rodriguez
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