Shortage of traditional medical plants

By Mere McLean
  • Waikato/Bay of Plenty

Traditional healer Rita Tupe would like to see more support for practitioners and marae when it comes to harvesting and maintaining native flora for medicinal plants. 

With over 20 years of traditional healing experience, Rita Tupe's resources are reliant on native plants. An abundant source in her own backyard, that source is now under threat.

“Species of trees have been introduced like Blue Gum. That are not native and it degrades our traditions plants,” says Tupe.

Kawakawa leaves are now widely known for their medicinal properties.

She says using it widely is one thing, but protecting the plant is just as important, “If we returned to the time of our ancestors, the leaves, they were the guardians of the forest. However, we have forgotten how to take care of the trees in our forests.”

Herbalist Rob McGowan supports Tupe's concerns, and says a lack of access to the plants is another issue, “Most people live in town and how do people get access to it and secondly the bush has been knocked around.” 

Tupe and McGowan aim to work together to restock the plants by establishing reserves dedicated to growing specific medicinal plants.