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2012; Vol.1,No.3 OCTOBER - DECEMBER
ISSN 2319 – 4154


Morinda citrifolia – noni: a brief review of its anti cancer activity

Niveditha Baiju, Pramod.P.Mathews, Skariah.K.S, Ambika K
Department of Oral Pathology, Indira Gandhi Institute of Dental Sciences Kothamangalam, Kerala, India.
Correspondence to: Dr. Niveditha Baiju, Head of the Department of Oral Pathology, Indira Gandhi Institute of Dental Sciences, Kothamangalam, Kerala, India.
E-mail: neenadoc@gmail.com

  • Abstract

    Noni, with the botanical name Morinda Citrifolia is a medicinal plant which is used as a natural nutritional food supplement world wide for centuries. It has been reported to have broad therapeutic effects including anticancer activity. Noni’s effect to cure cancer is at the cellular level. This article reviews the composition and the mechanism of the anticancer activity of Noni.


    Noni, with the botanical name Morinda citrifolia is a medicinal plant that has been used world wide for centuries. Its various vernacular names are: Indian mulberry, nuna or Mannanatti on the Indian subcontinent. Noni is native to south east Asia and Australia and is cultivated in Polynesia, India, the Caribbean, Central and northern South America.1 Ancient Aayurvedic texts cite Noni as Ashyuka, which in Sanskrit means ‘longevity’.

    It is primarily used to stimulate the immune system and thus to fight bacterial, viral, parasitic and fungal infections. It is also used to prevent the formation and proliferation of tumours including malignant neoplasm.2

    Plant Description

    The genus Morinda (Rubiaceae), including the species Morinda citrifolia, is made up of around 80 species. Morinda citrifolia is a bush or small tree,3-10 m tall with abundant wide elliptical leaves (5-17 cm length, 10-40cm width) 2,3 (Figure 1).

    Figure 1

    Morinda citrifolia

    The noni fruit (3-10cm length, 3-6cm width) is oval and fleshy with an embossed appearance (Figure 2). It is slightly wrinkled, semi translucent and ranges in colour from green to yellow to almost white at the time of picking. The ripe fruit exhales a strong butyric acid like rancid smell. The pulp is juicy and bitter, light dull yellow or whitish gelatinous, when the fruit is ripe, numerous hard triangular reddish-brown pits are found, each containing four seeds. 4

    Figure 2

    Morinda citrifolia

    Noni is consumed as juice, although leaves, flower bark and roots can also be used.2

    Most commercially available forms are juice, powder and pills (Figure 3).

    Figure 3

    Morinda citrifolia

  • Pills Juice Powder


    Noni, has 160 phytochemical compounds. The major micronutrients are phenolic compounds, organic acids, alkaloids, proteins, minerals and vitamins.4

    Anti cancer agents in Noni

    1. Polysaccharides

    6-D-Glucopyranose pentaacetate

    A sulphated polysaccharide, destabilize the interaction between glucosaminoglycan and certain proteins. This helps block the mutated cells ability to adhere to new cells, stopping metastasis.5

    Noni precipitate

    Ethanol precipitable fraction is a unique polysaccaride, This polysaccharide is made up of 4 sugars( glucoronic acid, galactose,arabinose and rhamnose).It has immunomodulatory effects 6

    2. Anthraquinones

    The known biological activity of the anthraquinones found in Noni includes fighting inflammation, bacteria, parasites and tumors. Anthraquinones are also used to boost the body’s immune system.

    Damnacanthal an anthraquinone found in Noni inhibits the formation of tumours by interfering with the growth of ras gene activation.7

    Alizarin is another anthraquinone that has found to have an antiangiogenic effect.It blocks blood circulation to malignant tumors.

    Researchers found that quinines significantly inhibited or stopped the growth of malignant cells from human colon carcinoma.8

    Quinones reduced the effect of cancer causing agent Cytochrome C without causing the formation of any free radicals.9

    Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCg)

    EGCg is a polyphenolic flavonoids antioxidant that is found in abundance in Noni. EGCg in Noni inhibits the quinol oxidase (NOX) enzyme tumor activity property thus helps in antiangiogenesis. NOX enzyme are found in a variety of cell types and tissues where they react with oxygen to generate reactive oxygen species (ROS), the free radical form of oxygen that damage to the DNA of cell. NOX is activated in normal cell during cell division process in response to growth hormone signal, but active in all the time in cancerous cell and responsible for the cancerous cell proliferation, cell motility, invasion and angiogenesis process, all of them prerequisites for tumor metastasis.10

    3. Monoterpenes

    One of the most common monoterpenes scientist have examined is limonene (found in lemons and in noni juice). The monoterpene limonene has been shown to prevent mammary, liver, lung and other cancers. Limonene stimulate thymus gland to secrete more T cells that destroy the carcinoma cells.In vitro data suggest it may be effective in treating some forms of leukaemia.11

    4. Terpenoid compounds

    Related to monoterpenes, terpenoid compounds or terpenes are also found in noni. The specific terpenes in noni are eugenol, beta carotene and urosolic acid.

    Beta carotene is associated with reducing cancers of the lung,skin,cervix,prostate and respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts. Beta carotene is believed to function by quenching the singlet oxygen free radical and prevent oxidative damage. And also helps in boosting the thymus gland. Long term use of moderate dose of beta carotene substantially reduced prostate cancer incidence and deaths from it in male smokers.12

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