Kawakawa – cough improver, tooth-ache reliever and headache buster

Dean Fountain

Clarity... begins at home.

Pharmacy and supermarket shelves are packed with a myriad of herbal remedies for common ailments, especially with winter on its way. 

On closer inspection these products are mostly derived from non indigenous plants, which have a long history of medicinal use in Europe. 

We need to embrace of NZ native plants.

For instance, Murdoch Riley’s book “Maori Healing and Herbal” has pages of medicinal information, reflecting the depth of Maori knowledge developed over centuries of observation and use.

These plant remedies are still widely used today, by both Maori and pakeha (non Maori) the ritual and spiritual aspects are still relevant in Maori communities.

But we don't use them??? I think knowing about their special properties enriches our experience of native plants, and provides another reason to keep biodiversity in Aotearoa.

Kawakawa (Macropiper excelsum, or pepper tree)

Kawakawa is an easily recognized shrub, with aromatic, heart-shaped leaves, that grows widely in coastal regions. 

Kawakawa gives us a clue as to why the first arrivals here from Polynesia called it that. The leaves are like its relative, kava (Piper methysticum), used widely in the South Pacific, Kava has a narcotic effect.

Kawakawa leaves are highly valued for relieving bronchial complaints. Boil a handful of the fresh, young leaves in a small saucepan of water for 15-20 minutes, then drink half a cup of the liquid to relieve chesty coughs.

To make a distinguished tea, for use as a general tonic, it’s best to dry the leaves first, then use a small quantity in a teapot. It’s very good for relieving indigestion.

The fruits and leaves were chewed for toothache – swallow the saliva and keep the leaf matter in your mouth for some time. (The active ingredient is myristicin, which is related to eugenol, a dental analgesic)

Kawakawa leaves were commonly used in hot baths for rheumatic and arthritic pains.

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Recipe: Salad with horopito dressing; horopito and NZ spinach risotto

Dean Fountain

horopito and spinach risotto

To keep with the indigenous theme, you can use New Zealand spinach in your risotto. 

  1. A good dose of  olive oil on medium heat, soften a finely sliced onion and a few cloves of garlic.
  2. Add two handfuls of arborio rice per serving and a pinch or three of dried horopito per serving. Continue stirring.
  3. If you like add wine here, otherwise slowly... begin adding ladles of vegetable stock, one at a time, stirring until the liquid is absorbed.
  4. Meanwhile, wash and chop the spinach.  Cook it with a little butter and a small amount of water (i use the microwave!)
  5. Alternatively– blend the NZ spinach with a stick blender into a paste. This will make your risotto a wonderful green shade, rather than white with bits of green.
  6. When rice is cooked, blend in spinach, salt to flavour, add a knob of butter (optional).
  7. Grate parmiggiano generously over the dish.

2. Salad with horopito dressing

I used horopito leaves (you can pick your own if its in the garden and use fresh leaves) with a full flavour along with strawberries and tomatoes.

For the dressing I shook together a dollop of extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and two pinches of horopito.


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Recipe - Sweet Horopito Sauce - Johanna Knox

Dean Fountain
Make sure to check out : A Forager's Treasury: A New Zealand guide to finding and using wild plants by Johanna Knox

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Facts about Horopito medicinal properties

Dean Fountain

Horopito was historically bruised leaves where soaked in water and the decoction used to treat a Maori skin rash known as paipai.

The sap was known as a healing aid for gonorrhoea and skin eruptions.

For stomach ache a decoction of the boiled leaves was drunk.

Early settlers called this plant “Maori Pain Killer.

Known as “Bushman’s Pain Killer”. The leaves were chewed for toothache, and women rubbed them on their breasts when weaning their infants.

The inner bark, steeped in hot water, and applied to burns while still warm was reputed to leave no scars.

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Hearty Lamb & Horopito Goulash by Nicola Galloway

Dean Fountain

For other great recipes, you can purchase Nicola Galloways latest book or go to her website to purchase the 2019 calendar.  www.homegrown-kitchen.co.nz

Nicola Galloway Horopito Recipe

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Tall Poppies and Horopito in NZ

Dean Fountain
By Jodyanne Kirkwood & Tarja Viitanen from Otago University.

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Recipe: Roast kumara halves with crispy bacon & horopito mayo

Dean Fountain

Recipe supplied by DELANEY MES from Stuff.co.nz article.



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Uses for horopito in the home

Dean Fountain
Article taken from Stuff.co.nz

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