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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 3 (June 1, 1936)

Bush Remedies and Maori Medicinal Lore

Bush Remedies and Maori Medicinal Lore.

A correspondent wishes to know something about Maori medicinal knowledge and the herbal remedies used in curing diseases. He had been told that only the tohungas knew the remedies, and that such knowledge could not now be obtained.

This statement is, of course, not correct, for there are native communities that depend entirely on bush remedies, and the uses of leaves, roots and bark of indigenous trees are perfectly well-known to many of the elder people. The tohunga proper was an expert in mental treatment; he relied chiefly on the powers of suggestion; he was more of a faithhealer than a doctor. He is not yet an extinct bird by any means. I have known many tohungas. They were all men of strong mentality, and I could well believe that their laying on of hands and their personal mona had a magnetic and magical influence on their patients. But for the ordinary physical ills of life, there are wise women as well as men in every community who can effect cures with simple remedies. One or two of these bush medicines are known to chemists, such as a decoction of koromiko (veronica) leaves for dysentery and an infusion of the kumarahou leaves as a relief for asthma. There is a great field for enquiry here.