Noni was more widely used than any other medicinal plant until the European era [1] and is documented as a common medicine around the world in numerous cultures.

In the Marquesas Islands, the healing properties of noni were tied closely to the custom of tattooing bodies. Tattooing was so painful and dangerous that many died in the process. Those who survived used elements of the noni plant to assist in their recovery, and then offered noni to the gods in sacred ceremony. [2]

Native legends from Tonga include tales of the goddess of death killing the demigod Maui. Maui was brought back to life in a sacred ceremony in which the leaves of the noni tree were placed on his body. [3]

And long before settlers came to the Pacific Islands, there are records of noni being used as a health remedy in India.

Noni is one of the Pacific’s most important medicinal plants, with the roots, bark, leaves, buds, and fruit used to treat a wide range of health problems. Part of the stem was used to treat scorpion-fish puncture wounds. Children were fed noni leaves as a treatment for vitamin-A deficiency. Fish and other foods were wrapped in noni leaves before cooking in earthen ovens. Different parts of the noni plant have been used to make a dye for fabric and as a famine food. [4]

“The bark contains a red pigment and the roots a yellow pigment used in dying kapa. A foetid oil was extracted from the syncarp and used in the hair as an insecticide. The ripe fruit was used as a poultice. Juice from the fruit was also used to make a medicinal drink, aumiki ‘awa, as a remedy for tuberculosis, and another drink, aumiki noni, used to counter any unpleasant effects of ‘awa. The rip fruit reportedly was used either raw or cooked for famine food.” [5]

Download a listing of noni’s traditional use (PDF, 22KB) by world region. [6]


  1. Whistler WA. (1985). Traditional and herbal medicine in the Cook Islands. J Ethnopharm 13: 239-80.
  2. Crawford, P. (1993). Nomads of the wind. London: BBC Books. p. 175.
  3. Neal, M. (1965) In Gardens of Hawaii. Hawaii: Bishop Museum Press. p. 804.
  4. Clarke, W.C., Thaman, R.R. Agroforestry in the Pacific Islands: Systems for Sustainability. New York: University Press. Appendix.
  5. University of Hawaii at Manoa. The Noni Web Site. (2004, December 6). Retrieved January 27, 2005, from
  6. “Antitumor Studies of a Traditional Hawaiian Medicinal Plant, Morinda citrifolia (Noni), In Vitro and In Vivo.” Anne Hirazumi Kim, Doctor of Philosophy Dissertation, 1997.