What is rongoā? – Aotea Store

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What is rongoā?

Rongoā is the traditional holistic Māori healing system, which often uses the medicinal properties of New Zealand native plants. Though early Māori lacked contemporary understanding of the body’s immune system, they were able to gather a wide range of tools to fight infections and diseases through the use of rongoā. Māori drew upon a wide range of healing plants in making decoctions, splints, brews, infusions and teas to treat wounds, mental conditions, skin diseases, internal ulcerations or tumors, bleeding, constipation, headaches and migraines, blood conditions, muscle aches, bone fractures, and so on. Rongoā is the body of knowledge of how to do this.

What are some examples of rongoā in practice? As a holistic practice, rongoā includes fighting ailments and illnesses that afflict the mind, body and spirit. Rongoā could work by replenishing mauri (spark or life force), bringing things in better accordance with tapu (natural law) and healing wairua (spirit).


How can you incorporate rongoā into your life? Interestingly, rongoā is still in extensive use today. However, the native plants used in rongoā can be toxic. Furthermore, it is important that gathering of rongoā plants is carried out in a sustainable way. Rongoā training is of course very valuable for those wishing to have any insight into the safest, best practices applicable to your needs. 

What are some of the main healing plants used ins rongoā (and what were they used for)? 

  • Koromiko, which contains active phenolic glycoside, can be chewed for diarrhea and dysentery. During the Second World War, New Zealand soldiers received dried koromiko leaves to effectively combat this condition. 
  • Pūriri leaves have a medicinal quality. It has been used in an infusion for ulcers and sore throats.
  • Kawakawa leaves can be chewed to alleviate abdominal distress and tooth pain. Also can be used for cuts and wounds.
  • Harakeke has a sticky gum in it which can be applied to painful boils (a deep fungal infection of the hair follicle resulting in rough skin growth). 
  • Kōwhai contains toxic alkaloids in the tree, so requires rongoā training to use. However, the kōwhai is a very applicable plant, with bark, flowers, leaves and juice all operating medicinally. 

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(NOTES Rongoā refers to the traditional Māori medicinal practices in New Zealand. Rongoā was one of the Māori cultural practices targeted by the Tohunga Suppression Act 1907, until lifted by the Maori Welfare Act 1962.)