6 Traditional Native Plants Used in Māori Medicine

Native plants have been used in Māori medicine for a variety of ailments for hundreds of years. The medicinal use of plants for wellbeing is known as Rongoā, and includes herbal medicine, spiritual healing, and physical techniques like massage.

The herbal remedies are specifically known as Rongoā rākau and were made into drinks, lotions, or poultices, or simply applied to the skin as is.

6 Native Plants Used in Rongoā Rākau

There are over 200 plants used in Rongoā rākau to treat a wide range of conditions. Here are six of the most used native plants:

  • Kōwhai trees – the mighty Kōwhai tree is so prized that cutting one down is considered tapu, and has featured strongly in myths and legends, songs and folk law in Māori culture. The bark of the kōwhai has been used to help with broken bones, itching, dandruff and shingles.   

  • Harakeke – harakeke or flax as it is commonly called, has a gel that can help with cuts, burns and boils. The flax leaves are wrapped around wounds like bandages, the hard part of the leaf used as a splint, cuts sewn up with the flax fibre or muka, and the roots made into pulp for application to the skin.

  • Mānuka – another popular native plant, the mānuka tree gave a tea made from its leaves which was drunk for fever. Dandruff was treated by having ashes from burnt mānuka rubbed onto the scalp.

  • Kawakawa – kawakawa is the most widely used native plant. It can be used as a good luck charm to get pregnant, remove bad energy, help heal eczema, colds, and bladder issues. It has a peppery taste when eaten and can help reduce inflammation, relieve dental pain and relax tight muscles.

  • Patetē – also known as the seven-finger plant, it is said to help us obtain the seven sensory taonga of clairsentience, clairaudience, clairvoyance, clairknowing, clairgustus, clairconnectedness and claircommunication. Medicinally it was used to prevent nappy rash and help induce labour.

  • Koromiko – known as hebe, the leaves are dried and used as a cure for stomach aches, dysentery and diarrhoea. They were so effective this was sent to soldiers overseas during the second world war.

We recommend consulting with a local Māori medicinal herbalist rather than taking the DIY route. Of course, though, you can certainly have these six (and more) native plants in your garden!

Head to our Tree Gifts product page to purchase your own Kōwhai or Mānuka tree!

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