Tahitian Noni Juice and Migraine: Miracle Cure or Hoax?

There's lots of hype about Noni juice. Is any of it true?

Noni fruit
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A woman recently contacted me and reported she had found the cure to migraine disorder: Tahitian Noni juice. She said that after drinking Noni juice for just a few weeks, her chronic daily migraines disappeared. She now experiences only an occasional migraine, which she says she quickly relieves with a tablespoon or two of Noni juice.

Does all this sound too good to be true?

What in the World Is Noni Juice?

Tahitian Noni juice comes from the morinda citrifolia fruit, found in the South Pacific region. The Noni tree actually is a close relative of the shrubs and small trees that produce coffee.

South Pacific islanders have used Noni for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Noni advocates say it can be used for several conditions and to achieve many goals: increasing energy, lessening allergy symptoms, improving asthma, losing weight, improving arthritis and diabetes, decreasing pain (including headache pain) and to lessen symptoms of cancer, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis and stroke.

However, those health claims aren't backed up by the medical research. According to the National Institute of Medicine, scientists are studying the fruit to see whether it does have medicinal qualities, but in the meantime, the Food and Drug Administration has issued numerous warnings to Noni juice sellers about making unproven health claims.

Noni Juice Not Studied in Migraine

Although the Noni tree is known locally in some places as "Headache tree" and its juice traditionally has been used to treat headaches, there hasn't been any medical research to show whether it might be effective in migraine disorder.

One study did report that Noni juice may be effective in relieving inflammation. The juice has been tested in people with osteoarthritis, where early results indicated it might be effective in reducing the need for pain medication.

Numerous anecdotal reports indicate that some people may have been successful in treating their migraine headaches with Noni juice. However, there's no way to verify those reports, and I'd be skeptical, since they may be linked to Noni juice distributors.

Potential Safety Issues with Noni

There have been several reports of liver damage in people regularly consuming Noni juice or tea, according to the National Library of Medicine, although it's not clear whether Noni actually was the cause.

If you have kidney problems, you should avoid Noni products, since they contain large amounts of potassium (people with kidney disease have a tendency to build up too much potassium in their bodies). Finally, never consume any Noni juice or other products if you're pregnant — Noni has been used to induce abortions. It's also unsafe if you're breastfeeding.

False health claims can be easy to spot. Look for products that claim a quick effective cure-all; statements that claim the product can treat or cure diseases. For example "shrinks tumors" or "cures impotency." Claims of a scientific breakthrough, miraculous cure or secret ingredients are also warning signs that the herbal or dietary supplement may be too good to be true. Always do your homework, and always consult your physician before trying any health product.

One last note: Noni juice tastes awful. It's bitter and reminiscent of vinegar. Also, it can be pretty expensive. Given that, plus the dubiousness of the health claims associated with it, you'd be better off steering clear.

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Article Sources
  • Gupta RK et al. Do the health claims made for Morinda citrifolia (Noni) harmonize with current scientific knowledge and evaluation of its biological effects. Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention. 2013;14(8):4495-9.
  • National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health. Noni fact sheet.
  • National Library of Medicine. Noni fact sheet.