Manaaki Ngahere reveals healing properties of native plants

Lovey Walsh teaching people how to identify native plants on a Manaaki Ngahere bush walk.
PENNY WARDLE

Lovey Walsh teaching people how to identify native plants on a Manaaki Ngahere bush walk.

Many native plants hold healing properties, and two Marlborough women are unlocking their secrets for another generation.

Lovey Walsh and Patricia Hook have established Manaaki Ngahere to teach native plant identification, using their surroundings as the classroom with seasonal walks encompassing Puketea (Whites Bay), Rarangi and Ōhinemahuta (Onamalutu).

Walsh said the aim was to pass the knowledge on, not only plant identification and their medicinal properties, but also how to manufacture oils, creams and potions for treating various conditions.

"Tricia and myself are getting older and we may forget things, so we decided to teach whānau [and] anyone who is interested in native plants," Walsh said.

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Walsh and Hook take groups on several bush walks each year - one for each season - teaching how to identify plants. Walsh said they accepted people no matter what knowledge they had already.

Lovey Walsh, front, takes a native plant identification bush walk at Grovetown Lagoon.
PENNY WARDLE

Lovey Walsh, front, takes a native plant identification bush walk at Grovetown Lagoon.

"We also do a weekend stay, teaching how to use the medicinal properties of the plants and how to make the creams and oils for massage and whatever they would like.

"We're meeting with iwi as well, and will teach their whānau. We think it's good to teach the younger ones so they can teach their families and so on. Our whānau use them and we want to teach that."

Walsh said the medicinal properties in the plants could complement mainstream medical treatments.

Walsh said the bush revealed different plants with each season, and students had to do at least three identification walks through the year and a weekend-long stay to be certified. They also needed to complete each of those stages to qualify for the manufacturing course.

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Respected traditional Māori medicine practitioner Rob McGowan, of Tauranga, had encouraged the course being established in Marlborough.

"We consider Rob to be our tohunga," Walsh said.

Plants were often specific to each region, in that they grew well in one place and not in another, she said. The widely used kūmarahou with its strong and varied healing properties was more prevalent in the Far North, while popular Marlborough plants included kawakawa, koromiko and whauwhau paku, among many others.

"Kūmarahou grows here but I think it was introduced from elsewhere. It is a great energiser, especially in the afternoon. I hate the taste but I'll take it if I need to. Your body will tell you what you need and when," Walsh said.

 - The Marlborough Express

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