Site Assist Professional

Kawhia.Maori.nzSpiritual and Ancestral Home of Tainui.

Maori Natural Remedies - Plants, Shrubs and Herbs used for Medicinal Purposes by the Early Maori

WI - Chionochloa flavescens - Snow tussock

The largest form of tussock grass, whose habitat is the high country of Otago, Central Southland, and the sub-alpine areas of the MacKenzie country.

WI - Poa caespitosa - Low tussock, or silver tussock

Covers most of the vast plains between the Alps in the MacKenzie country, central Southland and the mountain areas of Otago; also the central mountain region of the North Island. The word "tussock" is applied to those tufted grasses which hold water in the decayed leaves at the base.

Recommended Books:

Te Rongoa Maori MedicineTe Rongoa Maori Medicine
Pip Williams spent his life observing and recording the use by local Maori of native plants for medical purposes. This book brings together his observations on 43 New Zealand plants and the health problems they were used to treat, colourfully interspersed with anecdotal evidence and beautifully illustrated with watercolours and engravings. Much of the information was told to the author by kuia and kaumatua over 40 years ago.


A Field Guide to the Native Edible Plants of New ZealandA Field Guide to the Native Edible Plants of New Zealand
Plant Heritage New Zealand looks at the unique characteristics of New Zealand's plants, and what makes them so special. It delves into the origins and evolution of the plants, how they have inspired songs, poems and works of art, Maori myths, stories and proverbs associated with them, and their many uses as a natural resource. Part 2 presents a selection of the plants and looks at classification, names, botanical description, traditional and modern uses, cultural heritage and significance to Maori. Tony Foster's stunning photos highlight the beauty of the plants, as well as helping with identification.

Please visit our Rongoa - Medicinal Plants Books section for more useful books.
Check out our great selection of English-Maori dictionary.

Wi grows in clumps with areas of poor, stony ground in between, in which flourish some small alpines.

The young shoots are a good herbage for sheep. Also, the taller (Chionochloa flavescens) has sheltered many a shepherd and his dog in a snowstorm.

Maori made a decoction of the grass and drank it for rheumatic pains. The ashes were used for burns.

Low tussock was a valuable aid to the very early settlers and their wives.

They cut the grass off at the base and stuffed it into sacks for mattresses. Campers cut armfuls to make their beds dry and above ground level.

Another way it was utilised was to chop the grass into short lengths and put them into a shallow pit filled with wet clay and tramped in either by men in gum boots or, sometimes, a horse was walked round in it.

The clay and tussock mixture was taken out and formed into bricks and left to dry.

These bricks made many early settlers' homes, which were warm and dry. These were the "cob" homesteads.

Some which stood for a hundred years before rats tunnelled through it.

Piripoho Nursling, Child in Arms 

Me whakatupu ki te hua o te rengarenga,

Me whakapakari ki te hua o te kawariki.

Nourish him with the pounded fern root

Strengthen him with the juice of the kawariki plant.

Some Mosses and Lichens

Angiangi Usnea barbeta Aaron's beard lichen - Kohukohu Hypnum clandestinum moss - Wae wae kou kou moss

Sphagnum moss

Angiangi was a general name applied by the Maoris to several species of moss and lichens which were soft and absorbent.

This particular lichen has sometimes a tufted appearance, and can be seen on tree trunks, telegraph poles and old apple trees.

A larger form is found in sub-alpine forest growing on logs and tree trunks, from which it hangs in festoons. This one is a dull green or yellow.

These mosses and lichens served a vital need to the Maori women in olden times that is not well enough known about today.

How did the Maori mothers keep their babies warm? And what did they use for their napkins?

For the Maori people were very clean and personal hygiene was of a high order, governed by tapu in many cases.

When a woman of status was near the end of her pregnancy she left her home with a woman relative, or attendant, and went into a small hut especially built, called a whare kohanga, or nest house, where she waited and was fed and looked after by the woman with her.

After the birth the mother and child remained in the whare kohanga for a week.

This hut was tapu and situated away from the other buildings. When the mother and baby returned to their house it was burnt, which removed the tapu from that place.

Warmth was the first need for the child and, to ensure this, the grandmother, or other relative, heated large leaves and wrapped them tightly about the body of the infant, making sure that the limbs were held straight.

«Back Intro (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (11) (12) Next»

Recommended Book:
A Field Guide to the Native Edible Plants of New Zealand
A Field Guide to the Native Edible Plants of New Zealand Plant Heritage New Zealand looks at the unique characteristics of New Zealand's plants, and what makes them so special. It delves into the origins and evolution of the plants, how they have inspired songs, poems and works of art, Maori myths, stories and proverbs associated with them, and their many uses as a natural resource. Part 2 presents a selection of the plants and looks at classification, names, botanical description, traditional and modern uses, cultural heritage and significance to Maori. Tony Foster's stunning photos highlight the beauty of the plants, as well as helping with identification. »Purchase here

Please visit our Rongoa - Medicinal Plants Books section for more useful books.
Check out our great selection of English-Maori dictionary.