Thousands of years ago Maori
discovered a land they named Aotearoa. Over time they gained knowledge of the
spiritual and physical healing qualities of the abundant native plant life.
There isnt too much
nowadays thats undiscovered. But science is only now waking up to the unique
and powerful medicinal qualities of New Zealands native plant life.
So, why is the flora so
unique? The explanation lies in the geographical isolation of New Zealands
islands in the far South Pacific. Secluded for millions of years the temperate,
evergreen forests thrived, evolved and developed unusual traits, including
remarkable healing qualities.
Zealand was one of
the last places on earth to be inhabited by humans when Maori arrived from Eastern Polynesia only around 1,000 years ago. They
utilized the healing power of nature. Their knowledge of Rongoa (Maori
spiritual and physical medicine) was considered tapu (sacred) and a combination
of the spiritual and the physical.
Traditionally, these Tangata
whenua (people of the land) believed that illness was caused by the
supernatural. There was no clear distinction between the mind and the body so
the Tohunga (expert healer) was knowledgeable in anatomy and spirituality.
Tohunga utilized chants, prayer, massage, dream analysis and the use of plants in
their therapeutic practice.
Many parts of a plant were used, for
example, the Tohunga bound broken bones with the
leaves of the Harakeke (flax) plant, while its gum-like sap was used as an
anaesthetic and antiseptic for scolds, burns, aching teeth, wounds, and boils.
Rongoa herbal remedies were
also used internally. The leaves of the shrub, Kumarahou, were seeped in water
and the liquid taken for bronchitis and chest complaints.
The practices of the Tohunga
were nearly wiped out in the 20th Century by colonization,
Christianity and the Tohunga Suppression Act of 1907-62. But fortunately,
during this time, some Tohunga continued to practice in remote rural areas.
Modern Maori healthcare is
based upon the traditional ways of Rongoa; including elements of the spiritual,
physical, emotional and the family (whanau). There is a real interest and
awareness now too by scientists and natural healthcare practitioners in this
traditional knowledge and the healing power of New Zealands remarkable plant-life.