The Adaptogens And Plant Chemicals In The Kawakawa Plant

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Kawakawa is a super ubiquitous NZ native found in not only rural areas but funnily enough built up metropolitan areas like the western motorway!

Kawakawa has green leaves and its stems have knobbly joints. And their leaves are in the shape of hearts. Sometimes, the leaves are covered in holes from the nibbling of the looper moth caterpillar.

Getting down to the science, phytochemical (plant chemical) analysis of kawakawa has found that the plant contains two active chemical compounds, diayangambin and myristicin. The process by which these chemicals were identified in the plant was reverse-phase liquid chromatography.

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These chemicals have epic and very interesting properties. Myristicin is psychoactive and anti-inflammatory, which means that it removes toxic inflammatory chemicals such as nitric oxides in human cells; making it perfect to treat eczema, insect bites and swelling.

Diayangambin is an immunosuppressant. This means it is a useful treatment for anti-immune disorders, where the body's immune system attacks the body's own useful, living tissue. Two common anti-immune disorders that kawakawa has been proven to treat are rheumatism and psoriasis.

And lastly (but not least’ly!) there are also bio-active alkaloids including piperchabamide and these have gastroprotective properties; pretty much that when made as a tea Kawakawa can help digestion.

So a fairly innocuous little gem we have in Aotearoa, a super healing plant quite close to māori folklore and rongoā that’s nice to see becoming more well known in the wider community!

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Simon Stanley-Harris