The Noni Man

He slid open the large metal door and invited me in. He was wearing a bright aloha shirt and a red ball cap with “The Noni Man” embroidered across it in large gold letters.

His name—Herbert Moniz (but as is the custom here in Hawai‘i, everyone calls him “Uncle Herb”). He had come highly recommended as the go-to person when it comes to Hawaiian plants and herbs.

Somehow, Uncle Herb did not strike me as someone who would be passionate about health or healing. This first impression was influenced more by the location than the man—I was meeting him at a warehouse down by the docks. The expansive interior was filled with a myriad of equipment, numerous totes filled with a liquid of some kind, and an odor the likes of which I had never encountered before. (I learned later that the odor was from the noni fruit soaking in the totes.)

The warehouse, the equipment, and the general feel of the place triggered a flashback of sorts, and I found myself thinking about Breaking Bad and Walter White and cyan blue meth—which made it that much harder to believe that anything healthy was going on.

Then he began his story. “I first got started with noni back in 1985,” he said. “My wife”—he paused and looked at his wife, who was sitting in the cab of their pickup truck (parked inside the warehouse I might add)—“she got cancer and was taking the whole treatment of radiation and chemo. Then one of her relatives gave her noni. She threw away everything and used only noni and it got rid of her cancer.”

He didn’t call it a miracle like people often do. Just said it as if it would happen to anybody. Take noni. Get rid of Cancer. It’s just the way it works.

“Another one I can tell you about is a lady with diabetes and pancreatic cancer where the physician gave um three months to go.”

“Just three months?”

“Yes. They had done surgery and it never worked. So, she asked me what I had and I told her ‘Yes, we have a good product for you. We have noni juice and noni capsules and it’s gonna work for you. But you must follow our way of doing, you must go through the system.’”

“Did she follow your suggestions? What was her outcome?”

“Within three weeks, she was amazed how her problems had diminished. It worked very, very well. Even the physician was amazed at the outcome. They are all happy.”

I was no longer thinking about Breaking Bad and Walter White. Now I was seeing James Bell and Dr. Walter Wallace from Pure Genius. My spine tingled.

“Those are very typical results,” injected Tony Philips.

Tony is a daily user of noni supplements and works with Uncle. “My older sister had been battling high blood pressure for years when I suggested she try noni. Now the capsules were more than she could swallow, so she took them apart, dumped the powder into some lukewarm water, gave it a swirl and drank it.

“Six months after starting to take noni the doctor said her blood pressure was normal, and she no longer had problems with her eyes.

“Now if you come by our house at 5:30 in the morning you will find my sister out digging in the weeds like she used to do all the time years ago. It’s like she’s ten years younger!”

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About that time, Uncle Herb realized he had work to do and excused himself. He is not one to sit still for very long.

As I watched him grab a twenty-foot ladder, place it up against one of the large vats, climb it (with a hose in one hand), open the top of the vat, and then call out for someone to turn on the water, I glanced over at Tony and asked, “So just how old is Uncle Herb?”

Tony looked at me, smiled, and answered, “Eighty-one.”

Eighty-one . . . all I could manage was a simple “Wow!” And immediately asked if I could come back and learn more about Uncle Herb, noni, and the Hawai‘i NoniPower Cooperative.

In unison, they both said “Yes.”

Uncle Herb may not have discovered the fountain of youth, but surely, he has come upon something similar. And I cannot wait to come back and learn more. But for now, I leave Uncle Herb at the top of the ladder, hose in hand, wearing a brightly colored aloha shirt, with a red cap on his head, still finding it hard to believe his age. I can only hope to be as physically and mentally sharp as Uncle Herb at eighty-one. I have a lot to learn from this man and am looking forward to our next meeting.

As I exited through the sliding metal door, a thought came to me: I had just had the honor of meeting a modern-day healer. A man who is taking the best of modern science and mixing it with a more traditional knowledge of plants and herbs and creating powerful, all natural, supplements. Supplements that are improving people’s lives today.

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/ Talk Story