Macropiper excelsum – Maori Kava (plant)
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Macropiper excelsum is native to New Zealand. There are three subspecies of Macropiper excelsum. Subspecies psittacorum is found on Lord Howe Island, Norfolk Island and Kermadec Island; subspecies peltatum found on the islands offshore the north coast of New Zealand’s North Island; and subspecies excelsum, which is found on the north and south islands of New Zealand and on the Chatham Islands. This subspecies from the New Zealand mainland is the variety used by the Maori in their medicines and rituals taken from here.
The Maoris made extensive use of their Kava for treating many problems and injuries. A review of its medicinal uses by BROOKER et al. (1981): Leaves as tea: bladder problems, blood purifier, boils (also as topical), bruises, colds, diuretic, eczema (also as topical), gonorrhoea (also as topical), to stimulate the kidneys, paipai (skin infection), stomach pains, tonic, toothache (also chewed); as topical: rheumatic pain, swollen face. The fruit is used as diuretic, and in the toothache as tea or chewed; the roots in the toothache as tea or chewed; the whole plant as aphrodisiac and stimulant (from www.entheology.org).
The main constituents of the leaves have been found to be the essential oils myristicin and elemicin.
Care and Cultivation
Likes rich, deep and moist soil in part shade. Drainage should be sharp. Thrives in cooler temperate situations, though I am finding they do well in subtropical coastal QLD. Fertilise moderately over the growing season.
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