Kawakawa

Macropiper exelsum

Medicinal Uses

Kawakawa is widely used in traditional maori rongoa, it has many medicinal uses and is sometimes refered to as the 'Bush Pharmacy'.

The herb is made into a tea for both internal and external use.

The tea is commonly used for bladder problems, blood purifier, boils (also as topical), bruises, colds, diuretic, eczema (also as topical), gonorrhoea (also as topical), to stimulate the kidneys, paipai (skin affection), stomach pains, tonic, aphrodisiac and stimulant.

It is drunk to relieve toothache, it contains myrsticin, similar to the eugenol found in cloves. This is a popular dental pain releiver.

Also used for indigestion, heartburn, high blood pressure, treatment of coughs and colds, has a general tonic effect, strengthening the heart, lungs and circulation, and stimulating the kidneys.

It is also used to releive mentrual cramps, having both analgesic and anti-spasmodic effects. In addition it releives bloat and indigestion.

It is an adaptogen, helping people under mental or physical stress and fatigue with its strengthening and restorative properties. It may also assist with memory. Several medical studies has shown the relaxing effect of Kava on moderate to severe anxiety without altering the mental alertness.

Eternally, the tea is used as a wash for releif of eczema, and the leaves are used as poultice or added to the bath for rheumatism and arthritis.

Reports of Maori usage go back as far as 1860's when it was noted that an infusion of the leaves was used to cure toothache. The most prevalent method of usage being a decoction of the leaves made into a tea and then drunk to treat many different health problems, and sometimes the bark of the tree was boiled along with the leaves and used both internally and externally as well. The roots were sometimes boiled and the liquid applied with ripe fruit directly onto sore teeth. The leaves of the Maori Kava were also used in making steam baths, or heated over a fire to extract their oil, which was then applied on boils, or their juice was extracted by roasting and used as wound dressing. There is also mention of its usage as a tonic.

The pepper of kawa-kawa excited the kidneys and bowels. A decoction of the leaves is still used in the treatment of boils and for kidney troubles. Kawakawa was also used to treat gonorrhoea, and to relieve toothaches or a swollen face, by chewing the leaves. Do not over indulge, this herb may have effects that are sedative, mildy euphoriant.

When applied directly to the skin the crushed leaves can be used to heal minor cuts and wounds. To treat boils the crushed leaves are heated to tenderise the oil that they contain, then the oil is put over the affected areas. The pulp made from crushing the leaves can be administered to the skin to combat such ailments as sore joints, bruises, and minor skin diseases. When taken internally the crushed leave mixture treats colds, kidney-related disorders, and is also a cleansing agent in that it acts as blood purifiers.

Chewing on the leaves helps to alleviate toothaches. Drinking the juice purifies blood, helps alleviate digestive complaints, chest troubles, constipation, high/low blood pressure and asthma. Leaves and bark can be applied as a decoction for wounds, ulcers, skin diseases, eye inflammation, scalds, burns.

The bitter root was used for urinary complaints. Leaves and bark were used as cures for cuts, wounds, and pains in the stomach. Steam baths from the leaves and bark of kawakawa were used as stimulants for salivary glands, the kidneys, and the bowels. It was used as an aphrodisiac. The ripe fruit and the liquid from boiled roots were applied to teeth to ease toothache. A decoction of the leaves was also drunk for boils.