Plant Medicine: The Healing Magic of Kawakawa

By Hannah Schenker

You may have already heard about the incredible healing properties of this native plant to Aotearoa – kawakawa (Piper excelsum). Anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, drawing, soothing, blood purifying – this is the go-to plant if you or your child has any scrapes, burns, rashes, itches, and even teething pain – as it can be made into a healing balm for external use. But it’s important to source your kawakawa balm from someone experienced in rongoā (Māori plant medicine), who knows just how to extract as much of its healing properties as possible and respect the earth in the process.

Māori have used the Kawakawa plant for generations as part of rongoā. It is found in coastal and lowland forests throughout the North Island and the northern half of the South Island. Thanks to practitioners of rongoā, the healing powers of this plant are becoming more widely accessible. Justine Rangihaeata of Kawakawa Spa creates her own kawakawa balm, as part of a wider set of healing modalities that she practices. Healing is a part of Justine’s whakapapa: as a child she was surrounded by traditional forms of healing with the sacred waters of her hapu puna wai (natural spring waters). Her approach to rongoā and mirimiri has been nurtured by her innate intuition which has connected her to many teachers throughout her journey.

So…How does Kawakawa work?

Kawakawa is a drawer and pulls out any infection from under the skin (including splinters). With its natural antiseptic properties, it will also destroy any infection, providing a clean area that is ready to repair itself. The added compound for this process is created by the leaf itself which, when being eaten by bugs, creates a compound to repair itself – you may have seen the tell-tale holes in the heart-shaped leaves. This incredible self-repairing is what is also captured in the extraction process.

Kawakawa is a blood purifier, so when applied topically it will then absorb through the skin and end up in the bloodstream. If there is a burn, itch or form of discomfort, the kawakawa will work in the bloodstream to ease and relieve the symptoms almost immediately. Little ones who are learning to explore in this big world often have falls and bumps – apply some kawakawa and you will see the bump and bruise disappear completely within a couple of hours at most.

See next page for more on Kawakawa Balm…

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