These days it seems that a growing contingency of people are turning away from traditional Western medicine and seeking out alternative or homeopathic methods to treat their physical and emotional problems. Herbs such as St. John's Wort, ginseng, kava kava, etc. are said to help with a wide variety of ailments, such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, PMS, and the list goes on. Years ago, these items were usually only found at a health food or specialty store, but now your local grocery store is apt to stock some of them in the vitamin section.

With all the newcomers to the natural health bandwagon, it is difficult to decide which one to choose. The list can be overwhelming and many have contraindications with other herbs or medications. One of the newer trends gaining popularity in alternative health is a juice made from the noni fruit. Because it is derived from a fruit rather than an herb some proponents say there are fewer risks and side effects.

The noni fruit is native to many tropical locales, such as Hawaii and Tahiti. In fact, Polynesians have been using the noni fruit for its medicinal properties for over 2000 years. Two of the traditional names for the noni plant, taken quite literally, are "painkiller tree" and "headache tree." However, if you ask the locals, they would tell you one of the drawbacks of the fruit has always been the unpleasant smell and taste. But since companies decided to market the juice, they have made it more palatable by combining it with other juices. Though noni can also be found in a dehydrated powder form, the most common form is as a juice.

Noni juice is touted to have a wide range of health benefits, helping some with such serious illnesses as diabetes and even cancer. The question to ask here is: how is this possible?

Privately funded studies on the fruit have concluded that there are a few chemical components that can be attributed to noni juice's healing properties. One is proxeronine, which is converted in the body to xeronine. According to a Dr. Heinicke, who has been studying the building blocks of xeronine since the 1950s, this biochemical compound is essential to the body. Noni also contains proxeroninase and seratonin, both of which are necessary to produce xeronine. All of these components are normally produced in the body, however, any type of stress may require the body to supply more, which is where the noni juice may help as supplemental proxeronine.

Heinicke believes xeronine helps in the normalization of abnormally functioning cells. In support of Heinicke's assessment, research presented in 1992 at the 83rd meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research showed that mice infected with cancer and given noni lived 105-123 percent longer than cancerous mice without noni. It was also shown that none of the mice sustained any toxic effects from the noni.

Those who have completed scientific studies on the fruit believe that it is an adaptogen, a nutritional substance capable of normalizing "sick cells" by allowing the body to absorb more nutrients from the food we ingest. It is also an explanation for claims that noni helps with widely diverse illnesses.

Doctors who advise patients to take noni explain that it should not be viewed as some sort of panacea -- a cure-all. Though it has helped people with arthritis, diabetes and high blood pressure, no one should take noni in place of their usual medication. If you take the juice and it helps you, do not self-prescribe. Only a doctor is capable of assessing whether your normal dosage of medication could or should be lowered.

In terms of side effects, some people may be allergic to the juice and others have reported that since noni sometimes helps the efficacy of Western medicine some had to have their prescriptions lowered.

If you are interested in taking noni juice for improved health, be advised that not everyone is helped by it. Natural or herbal medicines are not like prescription drugs. They are not designed to treat one specific problem, there are no government regulated standards and they affect people differently. More information is readily available on the Internet and at some health food stores. Also, try talking to others that have used the noni juice and see what their response is.

Since it is a juice it is not likely to hurt you, but it may not help you either.


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© Melt Magazine 2002