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Medicinal Plants Used by the Maori: Most Common Plants

Native tribe to New Zealand, the Maori, rely heavily on plants native to New Zealand to heal their mind and body. Here we take a look at some of these plants, their uses, and how they are prepared.


The Maori used both the white and red Manuka tree but typically used the white Manuka tree more often. The reason why they preferred the white over the red is unknown.

​Mannitol is a compound found in the manuka tree. Mannitol is a diuretic which the Maori use to treat kidney and urinary problems.   


Compounds isolated from the leaves into the kawakawa plant. 

Compounds isolated from the fruits of the kawakawa plant. 


Flax leaves play a big role in spiritual healing. Strips of flax were bound to a patients body to drive evil spirits out of the body if the tohunga believed evil presence had situated themselves in a patients body. If a blade of flax was pulled from a clump of flax blades and made a screeching sound, this was considered to be a good omen and signified that the patient would recover.

Anthraquinones are considered to be purgatives, or having emetic properties, which aid in constipation relief or induces vomiting. They also have antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidant, antiviral, and insecticidal properties. 


Tannin, like in kawakawa, is also found in koromiko. 

Northern Rata

Rata begins as a vine and grows up a pre-existing tree, eventually choking out the tree. At the point that rata has choked out the old tree, it has developed a trunk strong enough to support to a tree.

Above is a monotannin, many of these combined create tannins which is the main compound found in rata. Tannins are found to have antiseptic and anesthetic properties. 


Podocarpic acid is found in Kahihatea and is known to be a source of estrogen.