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What is noni juice? Is this herbal remedy effective for IBS?

Dr. Brown: Noni is a small tree in the family Rubiaceae. It is grown in the Pacific islands, India, and throughout Southeast Asia. A juice made from its fruit has developed an almost-mythical reputation as an effective therapy for a wide variety of gastrointestinal illnesses and complaints, specifically irritable bowel syndrome. The fruit in an uncooked or unflavored juice has a rather strong odor and taste and has the nickname “vomit fruit” or “famine food.” As a juice, the fruit loses much of its nutrient content but retains a very high level of vitamin C. Many of the purportedly beneficial phytochemicals in noni juice are found in other fruit juices and to date, medical studies have not yet confirmed a health benefit to noni juice. Most of the benefits of noni juice come from folk medicine. A recently published monograph (Noni Revolution, Woodland Press, 2002) listed over 40 different maladies for which noni juice is used in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)! It has been used in China and India to treat constipation, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and bloating, as seen in irritable bowel syndrome. It is also claimed to be beneficial in chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, two disorders often seen as co-morbid conditions in IBS. Its use in the United States began in 1992 when it was marketed in Maui, Hawaii. Noni juice is now widely produced and accounts for $2 billion in sales annually. Despite the widespread use of noni juice in the self-treatment of symptoms by patients with IBS there is no peer-reviewed published clinical trial of noni juice in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, non-ulcer dyspepsia, or other functional bowel diseases. Its effective use in IBS is therefore highly suspect and may not exceed that seen with placebo. Almost all commentaries regarding its efficacy are testimonials of single individuals or those manufacturing or selling the product. Some believe that noni juice could not be marketed as a beverage due to its pungent odor and taste hence its reincarnation as a medicinal substance. There have not been any clearly defined toxicity with noni juice but it contains large amounts of potassium, so it should be avoided in those with kidney disease. It should probably not be used by pregnant patients and children. The juice does have anti-oxidant properties that may emanate from its high vitamin C content. Its use in IBS cannot yet be recommended.
2008-08-24 16:32:39

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