Extracts from Noni (Morinda citrifolia) Have Shown to be Chemopreventive and Therapeutic Agents for Cancers


Noni fruit is from the Morinda citrifolia tree which is from the coffee family called Rubiaceae.  The tree originates from Southeast Asia and Australasia and is widely cultivated in the tropical zones.

Figure 1:  Morinda citrifolia tree  (Source)

Morinda citrifolia is known by various English common names, such as:

  • Beach mulberry
  • Cheese fruit
  • Great morinda
  • Indian mulberry
  • Noni

There are a number of phytochemicals in the fruit of morinda citrifolia, and include:

  • alkaloids
  • beta-sitosterol
  • catechin
  • damnacanthal  (from roots) 
  • fatty acids
  • flavonoids
  • iridoids
  • lignans
  • oligosaccharides
  • polysaccharides
  • proxeronine
  • scopoletin

One particular chemical compound in morinda citrifolia is damnacanthal.  Damnacanthal is from the anthraquinone family of aromatic organic compounds.  It is derived from the roots of morinda citrifolia and they have been proven to have anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-cancer activities. The most medicinally valuable anthraquinones in the roots of this plant is damnacanthal, which has been used for treatment of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.  1

Figure 2:  Damnacanthal molecule  (Source)

Damnacanthal is a compound of particular interest to the medical community due to its striking pharmacological properties. Damnacanthal has been shown to inhibit:  2

  • oncogene Ras  3
    • RAS genes encode a protein that controls the cell cycle and can lead to uncontrolled cell division
  • p56lck tyrosine kinase
  • NF-KB pathway
  • induce apoptosis in vitro  4

Damnacanthal has been studied by researchers for its ability to be a viable candidate for chemoprevention or therapeutic agents for cancers.      

One study found that damnacanthal inhibited growth of several cancer cell lines (HCT-116, HT-29, MCF-7 and PC-3) in a dose- and time-dependent manner with a decrease in cyclin D1 protein expression. Damnacanthal did not change mRNA of cyclin D1; rather it suppressed cyclin D1 expression at the post-translational level. Subsequent experiments with several mutant cyclin D1 constructs suggest that the lysine sites of cyclin D1 play a pivotal role in damnacanthal-mediated cyclin D1 degradation. Furthermore, damnacanthal was encapsulated in self-assembled chitosan nanoparticles to improve both physicochemical and biological activities.  5

In another study from 2003, the researchers tested the effects of noni juice in a three-dimensional fibrin clot matrix model using human placental vein and human breast tumor explants as sources for angiogenic vessel development.  Noni in concentrations of 5% (vol/vol) or greater was highly effective in inhibiting the initiation of new vessel sprouts from placental vein explants, compared with initiation in control explants in media supplemented with an equivalent amount of saline.  These concentrations of noni were also effective in reducing the growth rate and proliferation of newly developing capillary sprouts.  When used at a concentration of 10% in growth media, noni was able to induce vessel degeneration and apoptosis in wells with established capillary networks within a few days of its application.  10% noni juice in media was an effective inhibitor of capillary initiation in explants from human breast tumors.  In tumor explants which did show capillary sprouting, the vessels rapidly degenerated (2-3 days) in those exposed to media supplemented with 10% noni.  6

A third study showed that Morinda citrifolia possesses a cancer preventive effect at the initiation stage of carcinogenesis was studied.  10% Tahitian Noni Liquid Dietary Supplement or Tahitian Noni Juice (TNJ), made from Morinda citrifolia fruit by Morinda Inc, in drinking water for one week was able to prevent DMBA-DNA adduct formation.  The levels of DMBA-DNA adducts were reduced by 30% in the heart, 41% in the lung, 42% in the liver, and 80% in the kidney of female SD rats.  Even more dramatic results were obtained in male C57 BL-6 mice:  10% TNJ was able to reduce DMBA-
DNA adduct formation by 60% in the heart, 50% in the lung, 70% in the liver, and 90% in the kidney.  In order to explore the mechanism of this preventive effect, the antioxidant activity of TNJ was examined in vitro by lipid hydroperoxide (LPO) and tetrazolium nitroblue (TNB) assays. In the LPO assay, LPO oxidizes leucomethylene blue to methylene blue in the presence of hemoglobin.  The resultant blue color was quantified at 660 nm spectrophotometrically. In the TNB assay, superoxide anion radicals (SAR) reduce TNB into formazan blue that was also measured by absorption at 602 nm.  TNJ showed a dose-dependent inhibition of both LPO and SAR in our system.  The antioxidant activity of TNJ was compared to the effects of vitamin C, grape seed powder (GSP), and pycnogenol (PYC) at the daily dose per serving level recommended by U.S.RDAs or manufacturers.  The results suggest that prevention of carcinogen-DNA adduct formation and the antioxidant activity of TNJ may contribute to the cancer preventive effect of Morinda citrifolia. 

The use of Morinda citrifolia has been studied with regard to specific cancers with either the chemical compound damnacanthal, an extract from the root of the plant, or the fruit of the plant, commonly named Noni fruit.  These cancers include:

  • Brain cancer (Neuroblastoma)
  • Breast cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Lung cancer

Brain cancer  (Neuroblastoma)

A concentration of 0.1 mg/mL of crude extract of Morinda citrifolia fruits exhibited cytotoxic activity against breast cancer (MCF7) and neuroblastoma (LAN5) cell lines at 29% and 36%, respectively. The same concentration of extract showed no toxicity to Vero and very little toxicity to BHK (6%) and Hep2 (13%) cells.  8

Breast cancer

A concentration of 0.1 mg/mL of crude extract of Morinda citrifolia fruits exhibited cytotoxic activity against breast cancer (MCF7) and neuroblastoma (LAN5) cell lines at 29% and 36%, respectively. The same concentration of extract showed no toxicity to Vero and very little toxicity to BHK (6%) and Hep2 (13%) cells.  9

Colon cancer

Anti-tumorigenic activity of damnacanthal was investigated using several assays including cloning efficiency, soft-agar, and cell migration assays.  This study from 2012 examined systematic approaches on the cancer suppressing capability of damnacanthal in colorectal tumorigenesis. Damnacanthal exhibited cell growth arrest as well as caspase activity induction in colorectal cancer cells. 10

Lung cancer

The fruit juice of Morinda citrifolia (noni) contains a polysaccharide-rich substance (noni-ppt) with anti-tumor activity in the Lewis lung (LLC) peritoneal carcinomatosis model.  Therapeutic administration of noni-ppt significantly enhanced the duration of survival of inbred syngeneic LLC tumour bearing mice. 

Improved survival time and curative effects occurred when noni-ppt was combined with sub-optimal doses of the standard chemotherapeutic agents, adriamycin (Adria), cisplatin (CDDP), 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), and vincristine (VCR), suggesting important clinical applications of noni-ppt as a supplemental agent in cancer treatment.  11

In a study from 2009, the researchers examined the impact of Tahitian Noni Juice (TNJ) on the aromatic DNA adducts of PBLs, before and after a 1-month intervention, using (32)P postlabeling assay.  Quantitative determination of aromatic DNA adducts in peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs) of current smokers is an useful surrogate biomarker for the evaluation of environmental carcinogen exposure or chemopreventive intervention. 

The results suggest that drinking 1 to 4 oz of TNJ daily may reduce the cancer risk in heavy cigarette smokers by blocking carcinogen-DNA binding or excising DNA adducts from genomic DNA.  12


It is preferred that a Noni product contains a combination of the fruit, leaves and roots of Morinda citrifolia.  At the very least a product that contains the roots of Morinda citrifolia would contain damnacanthal.

David Wolfe Foods™ NoniLand Noni Root Extract, 50 mL

Natures Noni

Genesis Today, Noni 100, Organic Noni Juice

Noni Fruit Powder – Organic


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