Escalating trends of chronic diseases such as type-2 diabetes (T2D) have sparked a renewed interest in complementary and alternative medicine, including herbal products. Morinda citrifolia
(noni) has been used for centuries by Pacific Islanders to treat various ailments. Commercial noni fruit juice has been marketed as a dietary supplement since 1996. In 2003, the European Commission approved Tahitian noni juice as a novel food by the Health and Consumer Protection Directorate General. Among noni’s several health benefits, others and we have demonstrated the anti-diabetic effects of fermented noni fruit juice in animal models. Unfortunately, noni’s exciting journey from Polynesian medicine to the research bench does not reach its final destination of successful clinical outcomes when translated into commercial products. Noni products are perceived to be safe due to their “natural” origin. However, inadequate evidence regarding bioactive compounds, molecular targets, mechanism of action, pharmacokinetics, long-term safety, effective dosages, and/or unanticipated side effects are major roadblocks to successful translation “from bench side to bedside”. In this review we summarize the anti-diabetic potential of noni, differences between traditional and modern use of noni, along with beneficial clinical studies of noni products and challenges in clinical translation of noni’s health benefits.
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