Follow this up with, �The Coming of the
Maori� by Te Rangi Hiroa, also known as Sir Peter Buck in
In the highest traditions of Ariki1 and the
Whare Wananga2, he was a Seer. In the epilogue
of that splendid book. he reworked a Maori Prophecy.
From my memory, his words, " The Seer is never wrong,
the only thing wrong is the interpretation which is placed upon
the Seers words. The prophecy said, 'Behind the moko3
stands a paler
face', which was generally taken to mean the dying out of
the Maori race. He said that what the prophecy really meant, was
a blending of the races. Followed by, "I wish you all a happy
Sacerdotal Noble. 2. Occult University.
3. Facial tattoo.
The Maori had no natural immunity, to the
introduced diseases which all but decimated them. They made clear
distinction between sickness that had been introduced, which they
called �Mate Pakeha�, and their own ills which were called �Mate
It is most regrettable, that many of the
earlier, and sometime more modern authors when commenting on medical
matters as it touched the Maori, were less than sympathetic. They
are only distinguished by the authors own obvious prejudice. It is
my personal experience, that unless one has the trust of the Maori
informant in such matters, then one will be fed a bucket of tripe.
One needs to live with the Maori for a while in order to distinguish
between tripe and substance.
Many of the plant remedies
used by the Maori,
were in the main, used externally, either as steam baths, poultices
or crude ointments. The methods of preparation for medical purposes,
were quick and simple. Materials for use would either be chewed to a
paste first, or pounded between stones. Infusions were also made by
dropping heated stones into a calabash containing plant parts and
water. They made use of steam baths hot pools, there is some anecdotal evidence that states,
perfumes were made, that a considerable sophistication was shown in
the method of preparation'. Quite so, the method they used was
I would also mention in passing, of knowledge extant
before the arrival of the white tribes. The poisonous Karaka berries
enclosed in flax containers, then submerged in running water, which
slowly leached and washed away the toxic skin and flesh. What are we to make of
the later introduction of maize which was treated by allowing the
maize to ferment. (Kanga) The resulting porridge when eaten is said
to be a natural contraceptive. Be warned you need a blocked nose and
strong stomach. Whence came this knowledge ?
Graduates of the Whare Wananga, the nobles and
priests, were possessed of a higher form of knowledge to that of the
common peoples. A careful study of the works of Elsdon Best and Te
Rangi Hiroa will give hints of the depth and intensity of the Maori
perception of the natural world. A Shaman of any culture, will
recognise as brother, the Maori Tohunga.
Arrival of the Pakeha
of modern New Zealand, is the Treaty of Waitangi. It is
an agreement between the Maori Tribes and the British Crown. It was
signed on the 6th of February, 1840. Prior to this
agreement, the Missionaries had arrived and the Maori received a
written language. With the missionaries, also came the knowledge of
was adopted by the Maori, who
also commenced to experiment with many of the native trees and
plants. There was little or no uniform plant usage, each tribe had
its own customs and tradition, upon which they drew.
In those early days, New Zealand attracted many
people who had received a scientific training, knowledge that this
fledgling nation needed, if it were to succeed in the wider world.
Of great importance to the health of the growing nation, were the
Doctors, Pharmacists, Chemists and Botanists. They were proficient
with the European medicinal plants, and proceeded to unravel the
bewildering profusion of the endemic species. Pharmacists in
particular, generated considerable trade within New Zealand for
their simples and compounds, all made from the endemic plants. Of
particular note in the realm of pharmacy, was �Mother Mary Joseph
Aubert, a French Nun.
Mother Mary Joseph Aubert (1835-1926)
Mother Aubert was born close to the city of Lyon, France. At a
time when women students were not admitted to university, she
studied botany, chemistry and medicine, by concealing her self in a
lecture theatre gallery. She then served as a nursing sister in the
was invited to New Zealand by the
Roman Catholic Bishop, Pompallier, in 1860. In 1908, she opened the Library
of Compassion at Island Bay in Wellington. Apparently, she had
to enlist the aid of local doctors. To their shame, these medical
men insisted that in return for their aid, Mother Aubert would have
to forsake the herbs and destroy her formulae.
of Our Lady's Library of Compassion,
Island Bay, Wellington, contain a few of her surviving manuscripts.
Of particular interest is a letter in the New Zealand Department of
Health files (dated 1924), which was addressed to Dr. Valentine, the
then Director General of Health., in which, Mother Aubert claims,
that in 1876, she cured a Maori woman of what a Doctor Spencer
diagnosed as Leprosy. Doctor Spencer, an ex Mayor of Napier,
submitted a full report to the British Medical Journal, the Lancet.
Regrettably, it would appear that the report was never published.
Her renowned herbal formulae
were destroyed in
the early 1900,s. Some few bottles of her herbal tinctures still
survive. It is unfortunate that they will have now deteriorated to
such an extent, that they are beyond accurate analysis. Four of those
remedies are as follows :Natanata. Possibly containing
karamu, koromiko, miro, pukatea, rata, tanekaha, tawa. Used for
general constitution, diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach ache.
Marupa. Possibly containing houhere, kareao,
kawakawa, manuka, pinatoro, rata, tarata, tawa. Used for all
Paramo. Possibly containing harakeke, kareao,
kawakawa, manuka. Used for kidney and liver problems, blood
cleanser, vermifuge, laxative
Karana. Possibly containing horopito or
kohekohe, kareao, kowhai, pinatoro, pohutukawa, titoki. Used to
treat chronic stomach illness, anaemia, diarrhoea, debility, fever.
Since that time, the investigation and
incorporation of plants, into a NZ Herbal Materia Medica has
proceeded along two parallel roads. The first road is the �Eclectic
Empiric� road. Which has served us well since the beginning of time.
The second road, but not the least, is
the road of Science. In that respect, I have no hesitation in
recommending NZ Medicinal Plants, a book written by Scientists. It
is scholarly but highly readable. A masterly blend of tradition and
science, and well illustrated. It contains 534 citations, a glossary
and a good index to the plants.
Also of note:
and Anti-fungals from New Zealand Plants.
Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand,
Volume 16, Number 2, 1986, pp 169-181
Antibiotic compounds from New Zealand plants. Ill: a
survey of some New Zealand plants for antibiotic substances.
Victoria L. Calder, A.L.J. Cole and
Extracts from the leaves of over two hundred New Zealand
native plants have been assayed for antibiotic activity against a
range of bacteria, yeasts and fungi.
New Zealand Plants in Medical Literature.
In the first half
of the 20th century, the usage of medicinal plants in the
developed nations, was all but eclipsed by the rise of the
pharmaceutical industry. This development cast a blight over the
interest that was being shown in New Zealand Plants. Fortunately,
that trend has now been reversed.
There are 3 plants of note, firstly Koromiko.
The abstracted monograph is reproduced from �New Zealand Medicinal
Plants by Booker,
Cambie and Cooper.
From a painting by Fanny Osbourne. The original is held by Auckland Museum.
Hebe salicifolia (Forst.f.) Penn. and similar
Common names : Koromiko, kokomuka
In the 1895 edition of the Extra Pharmacopoeia, the name
'koromiko' is identified as Veronica salicifolia and V. parviflora.
In notes supplied by Miss Miller359, to the DSIR, it is identified
as V. salicifelia and V. speciosa. Colenso,150 Williams,517 and
Cheeseman139 list the name koromiko' for V. salicifolia and other
All of these
authors regarded the species known
as V. salicifolia, as a population of many forms, growing in both
the North and South Islands.
The New Zealand species of Veronica are now
placed in a separate genus, Hebe. Allan in 1961, applied the name
Hebe salicifolia, to the large-leaved shrub, found in the South
Island and Stewart Island, and collected, probably in Dusky Sound,
by Forster on Cook's second voyage. Most of the North Island plants,
formerly known as V. salicifolia, are now grouped in Hebe stricta (Benth.)
L. B. Moore.
The plant was used in vapour baths
in early times. An infusion of the leaves was a powerful astringent
for dysentery and other complaints. The decoction was also taken for
ulcers and for venereal disease. Bruised leaves were applied as
poultices for ulcers, especially for venereal disease.
A weak infusion
was a tonic, and a small portion
of the leaf, if chewed, soon produced .a keen sense of hunger.
Koromiko has long been valued for its beneficial effects in cases of
diarrhoea and dysentery, and in 1889, Kirk predicted that it would
take its place in the pharmacopoeia, as a recognised remedy for
diseases of this class. In 1895, it was indeed listed in the Extra
Pharmacopoeia as an import from New Zealand, used there and in
China, as a remedy for chronic dysentery and diarrhoea.
Tincture, 1 in 5 of proof spirits.
Dose � to
1 drachm. It was deleted from later editions.
The leaves were used for sores and headaches and as
a pack for sore skin in infants. The liquid from boiling the leaves
was used as a mouthwash and gargle. Bushmen troubled with English
cholera frequently treated the disease by chewing fresh leaves of
the plant and swallowing the juice, but usually the drug was taken
in the form of an infusion.
It was kept in stock
by the leading druggists in
the colony. The leaves were chewed as a remedy for diarrhoea; An
infusion or spirituous decoction was useful in dealing with epidemic
infantile diarrhoea. The plant was used by both settlers and Maori.
Fresh young leaves were pounded and boiled with water, and the
filtered a decoction was effective, but an infusion of
dried leaves was not.
The sap was used
for a children's skin disease
called 'hawaniwani'. Top shoots and young leaves, either boiled
green, dried and later boiled, or eaten raw, were a remedy for
dysentery and summer sickness. They were also used for kidney and
During the Second World War, the leaves were
found effective for dysentery by the New Zealand troops in North
Africa. Several authors state that Sir Peter Buck first used it
during the First World War, but he had no knowledge of its use at
that time(1etter to DSIR). Koromiko was used as a blood purifier by
the Rev. Edgar Ward.