Nen (Morinda citrifolia - Rubiaceae)

Description: The English name for this useful, upright-growing shrub or small tree is "Indian mulberry." Reaching heights up to 8-10 m (25-33 ft), Nen produces heavy, hard, yellowish wood. The flowers are small and white, and its greenish to yellow fruit is spherical, multi-segmented, and 3-10 cm (1-4 in) long.

Distribution: Nen is widespread throughout the tropical Pacific. It is either a native plant or was purposely introduced in the Marshall Islands by early Micronesians because of its many uses.

Uses: This small tree is an important source of wood, pig food, and human food in times of famine for many Pacific Island societies, including those of the Marshall Islands. Nen leaves and fruit also have a variety of uses in traditional medicine. For example, flowers and leaves of this plant are used to relieve stomach pain. Young leaves and sap have been used to treat gonorrhea. Those suffering from boils pound the fruit with half an inch of a green coconut root, then squeeze it into coconut juice and drink the mixture. Diabetes patients are also given a drink made from nen. A sachet containing nen and coconut cream is squeezed over a baby's body, including armpits, private parts, and tongue, to prevent unpleasant body odor in later life. Nen juice is now commercially made and sold in the Marshall Islands as well as exported.


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