If you've considered various healthy supplements and juices originating from far-away lands, you've probably encountered a wide variety of them. Some of them are common these days, like ginseng, while others are only now becoming widespread trends. Among those are the two we're discussing today, moringa and noni. So what are they, and what's the difference between them?
Rather than give you the rundown of one then the other, we're going to break down facts into various categories and give you the comparison for each. So let's get started!
The scientific classification of these plants is superficially similar, but they aren't actually related very much at all.
- Noni: Plantae Tracheophytes Angiosperms Eudicots Asterids Gentianales Rubiaceae Morinda citrifolia, or morinda citrifolia for short.
- Moringa: Plantae Tracheophytes Angiosperms Eudicots Rosids Brassicales Moringaceae Moringa oleifera, or moringa oleifera for short.
The confusion between morinda and moringa is likely the source of some curiosity between the two:
The fact is, despite the superficially similar genus names, the two plants are very different.
Noni is a member of robiaceae. This family of plants contains over 13,500 different species, including coffee, as well as a couple of dye plants and ornamentals which produce quite pretty flowers.
Moringa is a member of the moringaceae family, which is much smaller and only contains 13 identified species, all of which are rather similar, though only the oleifera and a relative stenopetala are as widely known.
As with many herbal remedies and healthy plants, both moringa and noni have a variety of different names, ranging from classifications to regional nicknames. Some of these are used for branding purposes, while others are there to make you think you've found something new when you're looking through herbal remedies.
Moringa is also known as the drumstick tree, the horseradish tree, or the ben oil or benolive tree.
Noni is also known as great morinda, the Indian Mulberry, the beach mulberry, or the cheese fruit.
Country or Location of Origin
Despite the similar names and their use as herbal remedies and staple foods, these two plants evolved in very different locations and are widely cultivated in different places.
Moringa is primarily found and grown in the Indian subcontinent, where it is broadly used as a staple food because of how quickly it grows to a point where it can be harvested as edible food.
The trees can also grow anywhere in the USDA hardiness zones 9 and 10, with a range of different soil conditions, so long as it has plenty of sun and heat. It doesn't tolerate frost very well and can grow in wet or dry conditions. While India is the primary location for much of the moringa grown throughout the world, it can also be found as living fences in south Asia and southeast Asia, in home gardens and as food in the Philippines and Indonesia, and is found in the wild in Central America and the Caribbean
Noni was originally found in southeast Asia and Australasia, but over the centuries, it has spread throughout the pacific tropical regions.
It tends to grow in shady forests, in rocky ground, or along sandy shores, making it a staple for beach settlements. The plant itself is slower to grow than moringa and is resistant to drought. Both weaver ants and fruit bats love the tree and help protect it from parasites and insects that would infest it.
Description of the Plant
The two plants look quite different, though they're both trees.
Moringa is a fast-growing tree that can reach 30-40 feet tall, with a trunk 1.5 feet around.
It has a white-gray bark and a thick cork outer layer. It sprouts small white clusters of flowers, which begin flowering between April and June once a year. Moringa bears fruit in pods that hang down from the canopy. These pods are harvested and seeds are extracted from them.
Noni is a slower growing tree that takes around 18 months to reach maturity and begin to bear fruit.
It flowers and bears fruit constantly throughout the year. The fruit looks like a small peeled jackfruit or a pineapple with irregular lattice and no fronts. It's a "multiple fruit" similar to mulberries, jackfruit, and figs, though the fruit itself is very different from those others in terms of smell and taste.
What Parts are Harvested and Used
While both of these plants are used as an edible food staple in their respective areas, moringa is the much more widespread staple of the two.
Moringa trees can have almost every part of them harvested to eat or use as a supplement. The fruits are grown and harvested, and the seeds are either dried and ground up as a supplement or pressed for oil. Hulls can be used for water purification purposes. The leaves are the primary part of the plant that is harvested, though; they are harvested and eaten as a staple vegetable similar to lettuce or spinach, or dried and ground up for use as everything from a tea to a supplement. Because of modern production methods, harvests can take place every two weeks, making moringa an incredibly prolific staple. Moringa juice is really just the juice of the leaves, or the leaves ground and mixed in suspension with water.
Noni is much more restricted. The leaves are sometimes harvested to be dried and ground as a supplement, but far more often it is the fruit that has been harvested and used. The fruit itself is bitter and has a strong, cheese-like pungent smell, leading to its use primarily as a famine food, only eaten in harsh times when other food is not available. Seeds can be eaten when roasted, and the fruit itself can be eaten ripe, or dried and powdered for other purposes. The fruit can also be juiced.
What the Juice Might Treat
Narrowing down our focus somewhat, let's talk specifically about moringa and noni juices. Moringa juice is typically a juice drink made with a variety of fruit juices, though in rare cases it can be just moringa and water. Noni juice is more often just the juice of the noni fruit, though it's relatively rare to find outside of the southeast Asia areas where it's native. It hasn't really grown a huge foothold in America, for example, due to some controversy that we'll cover in a moment.
Moringa juice is a relatively healthy plant, primarily because it's simply a nutritious vegetable. You get a significant amount of vitamins and minerals from the leaves, and since the leaves are concentrated in the juice, it has a lot more than you might expect packed into it. This is why it's generally a good option as a nutritional plant and staple in India. The juice, when fortified with other fruit juices, ends up packed with antioxidants and other vitamins.
Moringa juice has been used as a traditional medicine for centuries, and during that time it has been used to treat a wide variety of diseases, from inflammation and diabetes to asthma and arthritis. Moringa has even shown some very slight anti-cancer properties in limited tests, though these have yet to be verified or intensively studied. We wrote about moringa juice's benefits more extensively here, and you can read more about it on PubMed here.
Noni juice is also a relatively nutritious plant, though not quite as good. A single serving of the juice has 47 calories and a small number of carbs. It is high in vitamin C, as well as a few other vitamins and minerals. Overall, moringa juice is the more nutritious of the two, though they both have high levels of antioxidants.
Among the potential health benefits of noni juice are:
- The potential to reduce cellular damage caused by smoking. It's not a "cure" for smoking damage, but it might help minimize the damage caused by the free radicals from tobacco smoke. This is one of the main benefits of antioxidants.
- It might help boost heart health. Noni juice has been observed to help reduce cholesterol levels and inflammation in the cardiovascular system, particularly in smokers.
- It might help boost endurance during physical activity. Folklore among pacific islanders states that noni fruit (and thus the juice) strengthens the body during long day trips where physical activity is high.
- It might help with some arthritis pain. Pain relief is one of the more well-documented benefits of taking noni juice and has been studied more thoroughly than the other benefits.
- Might have anti-cancer properties. Very small studies in mice have shown that noni juice might help prevent carcinogenesis, though it does not do anything to shrink existing tumors or prevent the spread of existing cancer. There may be some preventative benefits, but very little research has been performed.
The health benefits of noni juice may vary, as well, based on the brand and type of juice you're getting. Some such juices are very little noni in an otherwise sugar-water mixture, while others are mostly noni juice or entirely juice concentrate. Make sure you know what you're getting before you invest too heavily in the health benefits of what might be the equivalent of soda.
Potential Side Effects
No herbal remedy is completely free of side effects, and these two juices are no different. Though, of course, it depends entirely on the concentration of the supplement you get. Most of these side effects are listed from WebMB, listed here and here.
Light juices are often more fruit juice than supplements, and this means both the health benefits and the side effects are comparatively minimal. You want higher concentrations of the active ingredient to get the benefits out of it, but this brings a higher risk of side effects.
Side effects for lighter fruit juices are primarily limited to allergies and sugar. High-sugar beverages can make diabetes and blood sugar issues flare-up, and can have the usual issues with tooth decay and related side effects.
We've mentioned the side effects of moringa juice in the article about its benefits, but we'll recap here as well. Primarily, it doesn't have much in the way of drawbacks except as a possible risk of miscarriage. The bark of moringa can cause uterine contractions, and while the juice doesn't involve the bark, it's best to be on the safe side whenever possible.
Moringa can also interfere with blood sugar regulation and as such can interact poorly with diabetes medications. As always, consult a doctor if you have any health issues or are on any ongoing medications to watch out for interactions.
Noni, meanwhile, is potentially a lot more dangerous. Numerous studies have found that the juice and the concentrate of noni as a supplement may be toxic to the liver. This liver damage can lead to long-term health consequences, so you should make sure you don't have any liver issues before you take noni. You should also make sure not to take too much noni, to avoid causing liver issues.
Noni also contains a lot of potassium. This means it can be dangerous to the kidney, especially among people with kidney disease. Since the kidney is used to filter out and process potassium, this puts extra stress on the organ, which can exacerbate the damage.
The other main issue with noni juice is that the people who make and market it are responsible for a lot of false messaging about its benefits. It has been slapped down by the food and drug administration several times for making false claims with no evidence to back up the health benefits. That's not to say that there are no health benefits, of course, just that these companies were making claims they couldn't back up.
Should you take moringa juice, noni juice, or both? That's up to you. We love moringa juice, and our moringa juice has noni powder in it, so you get the best of both worlds.