Uses of the Mighty Kawakawa

Known as "The Pharmacy of the Forest" Kawakawa (Macropiper Excelsum) is a significant and sacred plant. It's anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties means it's a versatile cure-all and healing plant. 

Holes in the leaves

You may have heard that the leaves with holes made by insects are the best ones, and that’s partially true.

It’s not that the leaves are better, it’s the secretions that the insects leave that improve the plant. In fact studies have shown that the ‘best’ kawakawa is from Kaikoura because of the type of blue moth specific to that particular area that’s attracted to the Kawakawa. That’s nature in its perfect cycle! 

Harvesting Kawakawa 

Picking Kawakawa leaves should be done carefully. The leaves generally grow in groups of three on small branches.  Always pick the largest (grandparent) leaf with a flare at the base, leaving the medium (parent) and smallest (child) leaves to grow. Picking the smaller leaves will result in stunted, or no further growth.

Kawakawa should not be harvested in the rain.

We use Kawakawa harvested from plants grown on our family land after karakia.


Chew a Kawakawa leaf and cover the tooth with the poultice. This will give relief for approximately one hour.

Colds, sniffles or ills?

Kawakawa was traditionally used as a treatment for colds, sniffles and bronchial ails. A simmering pot would be on the fire or stove all day for hot drinks to cure these ills. Fresh leaves were used, which are tastier and contain more nutrients than dried tea.

Tea & a bubbly cold beverage

It’s just a whole lot better than English Breakfast! Drink it hot, all day, using fresh shredded leaves. Pour near boiling water over freshly shredded kawakawa leaves (tear or mash the leaves, do not cut or chop them). Allow to steep for several minutes. The leaves can (and should) be used repeatedly, until they lose their colour.

Delicious to drink hot, however can be cooled and sipped as a cold beverage. If drinking cool it’s refreshing carbonated via a soda stream!

Fresh breath

Chew the strong peppery Kawakawa seed for fresher breath!

A tasty seasoning

The peppery taste of Kawakawa makes it an excellent goumet seasoning. Tear it up fresh in salads, or use it dried and sprinkled in your favourite dishes. If you're feeling shy, pretend it's oregano or basil.

Add a couple of whole leaves to soups or casseroles, as you would a bay leaf. 

Insect repellent 

Pop a branch of Kawakawa on the side of the bonfire or BBQ (fire restrictions permitting!) to repel sandflies and mozzies.

Kawakawa balm

Among its many healing properties Kawakawa balm soothes dry, irritated and eczema prone skin, skin rashes, wounds & cuts, aches and pains, insect bites, and bruises. It's a true all-rounder and is non sting, so it's perfect for children and any skin scrapes. 

If I need to pack light it's my go to - it's my face & body moisturiser, lip balm, insect repellent, and cleanser.

So handy, and a must have for your cupboard, first aid kit, caravan, picnic basket, and handbag!  


Posted: Sunday 22 August 2021

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