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Maori Herbal Remedies (continued)

Maori women finely sliced the butts of the leaves and put them in water with the inner bark of hoheria and used the liquid for burns and scalds.

The red gum extracted from the base of the leaves was rubbed on the limbs of people suffering from rheumatic and sciatic pains.

They first scored the limb with a sharp shell. This smarted at first (and no wonder!), and was followed by relief from pain.

An excellent Maori way to relieve those who suffered from rheumatism was to boil the broad base of the leaf and rub the warm liquid over the affected limbs.

Early settlers found that arthritic pains were eased by this method.

The water from flax flowers and flower buds when boiled contain dyes of the following shades: fawn, brown, tan, khaki and apricot.

The thick, fleshy bases of the leaves were boiled and the liquid drunk for constipation.

The root, really a rhizome, is a valuable purgative and anthelmintic. The juice of the pounded root was drunk. Used externally this cured ringworm and was used on babies' skins for chafing.

Recommended Books:

Te Rongoa Maori MedicineTe Rongoa Maori Medicine
Pip Williams spent his life observing and recording the use by local Maori of native plants for medical purposes. This book brings together his observations on 43 New Zealand plants and the health problems they were used to treat, colourfully interspersed with anecdotal evidence and beautifully illustrated with watercolours and engravings. Much of the information was told to the author by kuia and kaumatua over 40 years ago.


A Field Guide to the Native Edible Plants of New ZealandA Field Guide to the Native Edible Plants of New Zealand
Plant Heritage New Zealand looks at the unique characteristics of New Zealand's plants, and what makes them so special. It delves into the origins and evolution of the plants, how they have inspired songs, poems and works of art, Maori myths, stories and proverbs associated with them, and their many uses as a natural resource. Part 2 presents a selection of the plants and looks at classification, names, botanical description, traditional and modern uses, cultural heritage and significance to Maori. Tony Foster's stunning photos highlight the beauty of the plants, as well as helping with identification.

Please visit our Rongoa - Medicinal Plants Books section for more useful books.
Check out our great selection of English-Maori dictionary.

For an aperient the roots were washed, cut in pieces, and boiled in water for half-an-hour. The liquid was taken a tablespoonful at a time by an adult.

Many Maoris today still use this aperient. This liquid, if rubbed on unbroken chilblains when warm, was a sure cure for them.

The butts of the leaves, together with roots, were boiled together for several hours and found to be excellent for lacerations and amputations.

Raw roots or boiled ones were the favourite Maori remedy for gunshot or bayonet wounds during the Maori Land wars.

For a mouthwash and laxative they sometimes skinned the roots; then boiled them and used the juice.

Roots of flax have been used as a substitute for sarsaparilla, which is a diuretic and tonic.

The roots were scraped, washed well, boiled and the resulting liquid was strained and bottled. It is a good substitute for castor oil .

The Murimotu Maoris boil the stem just above the roots in a pannikin with a little water.

Half-an-ounce of the liquid is given to an adult as a purgative. Roots were roasted in a wood fire; then beaten to a pulp and, while hot, placed on an abscess.

This poultice was also used for swollen joints. It appears that for internal use the roots were boiled, and for external use roasted.

One thing that is well established is that the gum, or jelly, of Phormium tenax has definite healing qualities and does contain antiseptic properties.

This karakia was intoned by the tohunga while the women tied a fractured leg in a splint of totara bark bound with flax. It was addressed to Tiki, the procreator of mortal man.

o thou Tiki, give me a girdle

As a bandage for this limb.

Come then, bind it up.

Tie around it thy cords and make it right.

o thou flesh, be thou straight,

And ye sinews, be ye right,

And ye bones, join ye, join ye!

HIOI - Mentha cunninghamii - Maori mint This fragrant herb is a slender prostrate plant, with rounded and oblong leaves half-an-inch in length.

They are sometimes hairy, and the stems often matted. It grows in both Islands in dry areas, and flowers from December to February.

It is of the same family as the European mint, and though an endemic species, it has the same medicinal value. The Maoris gave it as a hot drink to induce perspiration.

HOROPITO - Pseudowintera axillaris, Pseudowintera colorata - Pepper trees

Two closely allied aromatic shrubs. The first has leaves one to seven inches long, blunt-ended and green underneath.

In the second (P. colorata) the leaves are one to four inches in length with red and purple splashes, and a blue-tinted underside. Both varieties have a bitter taste. They grow best in shade in the bush, and like a moist soil.

Both have the same medicinal properties. The bark is aromatic, stimulating and astringent, and was considered to be as good as the "Winter's Bark" used in Victorian times.

It was also used as a substitute for quinine (Taylor). The many herbal uses of these shrubs were known and used by early settlers, who were taught their use by the Maori people.

They bruised the leaves, soaked them in water and used the decoction to bathe their skins for paipai, a Maori skin rash; also for venereal disease.

The sap was known as a healing aid for gonorrhoea and skin eruptions, as it is aromatic and stimulating. For stomach ache they drank a decoction of boiled leaves.

Early settlers called this plant "Maori Pain Killer" (Goldie). They also knew it as "Bushman's Pain Killer".

The Maoris chewed the peppery leaves for a toothache, and women rubbed them on their breasts when weaning their infants (Adams).

The Maori stripped the bark from the side of the bush facing the sun. They then cut away the inner bark, broke it into pieces which they steeped in hot water.

This was applied while warm to burns. (The settlers mixed this with olive oil.) Treated in this way, burns were said to heal and leave no scars.

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