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

The Virtues of Leaf, Root and Bark

The Virtues of Leaf, Root and Bark.

Here are a few of the native medical uses of our bush trees and shrubs and plants, of which I have heard from my elder Maori friends and oldsettled pakehas. They are set down to supplement the remedies mentioned in last month's Magazine.

Flax-root juice, applied either raw or after boiling the roots, was a favourite application for gunshot or bayonet wounds in the wars. Charred supplejack was used to cauterise bullet wounds, which then were stopped up with clay, and nature was left to take its course; such wounds usually healed soon. The soft leaves of the papapa, a small ground plant, after the outer surface had been rubbed off, are applied to wounds and sores, and the liquid obtained from boiling a quantity is a strong soothing and healing agent. The kawakawa or pepper tree (piper excelsum) is a useful medicine tree. A boiled infusion of its leaves is good for colds, and the juice pressed from the roasted leaves makes an excellent dressing for bad wounds and sores. So, too, is the edible pith of the black ferntree or mamaku (Cyathea medullaris); it is applied raw. The nikau palm pith is a laxative. The leaves of the tarata shrub, chewed and made into a paste, will soon cure raw places on a saddle-sore horse.

For digestive troubles there is virtue in an infusion of the piripiri or hutiwai, the stickfast plant popularly known as the “biddybid.” The bark of the forest tree pukatea (Laurelia) has a reputation as a backblocks remedy for toothache and neuralgia. The bark is steeped in hot water and the pulp applied to the aching place or held in the mouth.

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