New Zealand and Botanic Materia Medica

Part  1


click her for full size imageNew Zealand and Botanic Materia Medica
Part 2
Ivor Hughes

The image is by W Dittmer, and depicts Maui and his two brothers ensnaring the Sun. Maui appears in many Polynesian legends. He was fisher of lands from beneath the sea. The tamer of fire, and a practical joker.

New Zealand Plants in Medical Literature. Cont.
The second plant of note is Pomaderris kumeraho. This plant is probably one of the better known medicinal plants in New Zealand, and it is still commonly used in rural areas. When prepared and taken as an infusion, I have found it to be an excellent expectorant.

It has also rated a mention in �Potters New Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations. Potters is a much respected publication which belongs on the library shelf of anyone seriously involved with natural medicine. The monograph appears below.


The following information was condensed from New Zealand Medicinal Plants by Booker, Cambie and Cooper.

Pomaderris kumeraho. A. Cunn.
Rhamnaceae : Buckthorn family.
Common names
: Gum diggers soap, Kumerahou, Papapa, Poverty weed.

Commenting on the known usages of Kumeraho, the authors state that the leaves were decocted and the liquid taken internally for all chest complaints. Bronchitis, Pulmonary Tuberculosis. Asthma. It was also said that it was a good blood cleanser, with a beneficial effect on the kidneys.

The Botanical image on the left was painted by Audrey Eagle and produced from 'Eagles 100 shrubs and climbers of New Zealand.

The authors further report that, Reverend Edgar Ward (1863 - 1934), who was also a qualified pharmacist; marketed a patent remedy called �Kuranui � It was apparently Made with Kumeraho, Koromiko and other unspecified herbs. The mixture was claimed to be a specific for tuberculosis and asthma. The authors also state that they have a personal communication from the Reverend Ward�s daughter. She has spoken of the many Maori that her father cured of TB, by the use of Kumeraho.

The leaves and flowers of Pomaderris Kumeraho, contains the flavonols, quercetin and kaempferol, plus ellagic acid and its O-methyl ethers.

The fresh leaves when crushed and rubbed in the hands with water will also produce a lather. This is due to the saponins, hence its folk name of Gum Diggers soap.


Kauri. Cowrie. Gum Kauri. Australian Copal.
The image on the left is of Tane Mahuta the Lord of the Forest. This magnificent presence is to be found in the Waipoua Forest Northland. A photograph cannot reveal that, which must be experienced.

So great was the demand for the timber and the gum products of Agathis australis that one author reported that between 1871 and 1882 some 47,407 imperial tons of recent and fossilised gum was removed from the soil, and further stated, that it had been estimated that it would take the forest growth of 10,000 years to replace it. The great Kauri forests of old were decimated almost to the point of extinction. They are now protected.

The following has been condensed from the US Dispensatory, 1926.
Kauri Gum
is an amber like substance, varying from a soft cream-white to an amber color, dug in large quantities from the soil of Australia and New Zealand. It is a resinous exudation from the Kauri Spruce, Agathis australis Salisb. (Dammaris australis Lamb.), of the Fam. Coniferae, but, as it first exudes, and is found on the surface of the ground, it is not esteemed.

The useful resin is a fossil deposit, found especially in New Zealand swamps, at depths of from 2 to14 feet. The production of kauri is largely carried on under governmental supervision. The resin appears in pieces ranging in size from that of a hen's egg to a man's head, of a pale greenish- yellow color and with a balsamic odor. 

Baume Caledonien.
Consists of a solution of Kauri gum in an equal weight of 90 % alcohol. It. has been used with alleged great success in the treatment of wounds and ulcers, of eczema and other skin affections, and as a substitute for collodion and the soluble sodium silicate. When applied to a well cleansed and dried wound it, leaves a slight deposit of resin as a varnish, which is not affected by friction or contact with water.

This preparation is invaluable .. 90% v/v alcohol is rectified spirit .. real spirit .. rectified Brandy .. a 1:1 extract. Take a 1 or 2 litre bottling jar that has a rubber seal and take care that no alcohol or the extract touches the seal. The alcohol must be weighed as must the gum ..  in this way the correct ratio of the preparation is maintained. Crush the Kauri Gum with a hammer and add it by the tablespoon to the alcohol .. swirling as you go. Seal, then store the product in a cool dark place for a minimum of 7 days .. swirl it daily .. at the end of 7 days examine the extract and if you have done it correctly, at the bottom of the jar will be seen a rubbery mass and possibly bits of debris ..  the coagulated mass is the gum which has been separated from the resin .. the resin is dispersed through the clear liquid .. carefully decant the extract into its final storage bottle .. discard the debris.

The commercial product known as Manila copal, according to Tschirch and Koch, is derived from Agathis Dammara. (Dammora orientalis Lamb.), a conifer. It consists chiefly of free amorphous resin acids, namely, alpha. and beta. mancophalolic acid, Cl0Hl2O2 about 80 %. and contains besides that about 12 % of a resin, C20H32O2, and about five per cent of essential oil. The latter, when fresh, forms a liquid as clear as water, very mobile, having a pleasant odor, and with an SG of 0.840; it boils at from 165 to 1700E C, and mixes in all proportions with alcohol, ether, chloroform and fatty oils.

It is still possible to find small bags of fossilized resin some of which is sold in curio shops and brings a price commensurate with its scarcity. The more recent resins may be collected as congealed tears at the base of kauri trees and if correctly cleaned by making them liquid,  then straining them to remove bits of bark and earth and even the odd insect then one may make a perfectly useful preparation that does the task.

New Zealand Bush Medicine


Common Name

Botanical Name

Part Used

Aka or Aka kura Metrosideros fulgens Sap from the stem.
Akatea. Metrosideros albiflora Sap from inner bark
Angiangi Lembophyllum clandestinum Bruised moss
Harakeke Phormium tenax Root and leaf base gum
Horopito Pseudowintera axillaris Leaves.
Kahikatea Dacrycarpus dacrydioides Leaves
Kanuka Kunzea ericoides Leaves
Kareao Ripogonum scandens Root
Karamu Copromosa robusta Leaves, shoots, inner bark

Kauri Agathis australis Gum
Koromiko Hebe salicifolia Leaves and shoots
Kumerahou Pomaderris kumeraho Leaves
Kawakawa Macropiper excelsum Leaves
Kowhai Sophora microphylla Bark
Mingimingi Cyathodes juniperina Leaves
Nikau Rhopalostylis sapida Pith and sap
Patete Schefflera digitata Leaves and sap
Pohutakawa Metrosideros excelsa Inner bark
Ramarama Lophomyrtus bullata leaves
Rangiora Brachyglottis repanda Gum and leaves
Rata Metrosideros robusta Bark

Rewarewa Knightia excelsa Inner bark
Rimu Dacrydium cupressinum Leaves and sap
Tarata Pittosporum eugenioides Bark, gum and leaves
Tataramoa Rubus cissoides leaves
Tawa Beilschmiedia tawa Bark

Tawapou Planchonella novo zelandia Oil from boiled berries
Ti Kauka Cordyline australis leaves, shoots and stems
Toatoa Haloragis erecta Juice and leaves
Toetoe Cortaderia fulvida and spp. Plumes and resin
Totara Podocarpus totara Bark and berries

Tutu Coriaria arborea Leaves
Tutumako Euphrasia cuneata Herb
Tutunawhai Polygonum decipiens Herb
Waiuatua Euphorbia glauca Herb
Waoriki Ranunculus amphitrichus herb and juice
Wharangi Melicope ternata Gum
Wharariki Phormium cookianum Leaves

Therapeutic Action of Selected NZ Plants

Abortifacient Harakeke - Karaeo - Tataramoa.
Alterative Karaeo - Karamu - Kawakawa - Kumerahou - Patete.
Analgesic Akatea - Horopito - Nikau - Pukatea.
Anthelmintic Harakeke.
Antiperiodic Koromiko.
Antiseptic Aka - Mingimingi - Patete - Ramarama - Toatoa.
Antitussive Aka - Kumerahou - Tataramoa.
Astringent Kanuka - Koromiko - Rata - Totara.
Calmative Manuka - Nikau.
Carminative Karamu - Kawakawa - Tataramoa.
Depurative Kawakawa - Kumerahou.
Diuretic Kanuka - Kawakawa - Koromiko - Kumerahou.
Emmenagogue Akatea - Mingimingi.
Emollient Harakeke - Kauri - Rangiora - Rewarewa.
Expectorant Kumerahou - Tatatamoa.

Febrifuge Horopito - Kanuka - Totara.
Galactagogue Ti Kauka.
Haemostatic Angiangi - Pohutakawa - Tataramoa.
Laxative Nikau - Tataramoa.
Narcotic Kawakawa - Pukatea.
Pectoral Kumerahou - Mingimingi
Resolvent Ramarama.
Sedative Nikau
Stimulant Horopito
Stomachic Harakeke - Karamu - Koromiko
Vulnerary Kauri - Rata - Rimu - Toatoa.

To the memory of the old Pakeha bushmen, loggers, gum diggers and gold fossickers. Not for them the genteel ways of position and privilege. For it was upon the sweat of their brow and the strength of their backs that much of the wealth of New Zealand was built.

Rough and oft times unlettered, hard drinking, loud cussing men. Yet amongst them, those versed in language, music and philosophy. One in particular, Bill Lord of Waiheke Island. His stories of the old days in the hinterlands of the Bay of Plenty held my children in thrall. He could look at a Constellation and say � ah yes in the Autumn it will rise there � and in the Spring over there�. Dear old Bill, what an education you were.


Other New Zealand monographs which may be of interest .. The Lichens of NZ .. New Zealand Tea Tree.

A little more on Bill Lord is to be found here .. The Tale of Two Williams.

Did you find what you were looking for? If not please use the site search box at the top right hand of this page or else peruse the library for other New Zealand related Monographs and articles.

New Zealand and Botanic Materia Medica Part 1