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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 5 (August 1, 1934)

Some Bush Medicine Lore

Some Bush Medicine Lore.

There are medicinal virtues in many of our native trees and shrubs, uses imperfectly known to the pakeha as yet, but well appreciated by the Maoris who know the bush. These healing virtues of the indigenous vegetation are one of the many reasons why New Zealanders should strive for the preservation of the forests and the cultivation of the beautiful and useful plants. Imperfectly known to the pakeha; still, many backblocks men and women long ago discovered the goodness in emergency of such bush remedies as decoctions of koromiko leaves for dysentry, the boiled juice of flax-roots for medicine and the curing of cuts, the bark of the pukatea tree for toothache. There is a wide field for chemical research in investigating the Maori bush pharmacopeia.

Some plants have their uses for the brewing of tonics and stomachics, such as the kohekohe. Others are greatly efficacious as dressings for wounds and skin troubles; the kohukohu moss that hangs from forest trees is one of these. Besides the pukatea tree, the ngaio, so plentiful about Wellington and South Island Coasts, can be turned to account as a relief for toothache; another is the kawakawa, which is also a remedy for colds. So, too, I am told, is the kumarahou plant, so plentiful on the North Auckland hills, once covered with kauri forest. The inner bark of the rata vine, boiled, is said to be an excellent cure for open wounds. The pith of the korau, or mamaku, fern-tree is a good dressing for sores and chafings; it is applied raw. The leaves of the tarata, and several other small aromatic shrubs, chewed and made into a kind of paste, have often proved good medicine for application to saddle-sore horses. The small globules on some kinds of seaweed are sometimes chewed by the Maoris and used as a gargle or spray for sore throats. The secret of this seaweed remedy seems to be that the globules contain iodine.

Our New Zealand Board of Scientic Research might very profitably devote some attention to this apparently limitless branch of our country's natural resources, and begin by enlisting the help of the old men and women —especially the women—of the ancient bush-wise people, particularly in such places as Taranaki and the Urewera Country.