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Botanical Name :Kunzea ericoides
Species: K. ericoides
Common Names:Kanuka, White tea-tree or Burgan
It is widespread particularly in coastal scrub and colonizing land recovering after a fire or reverting to a natural state after being used for agriculture. However it has been recorded growing to altitudes of 2000 metres above sea level. With its small but abundant flowers it can colour a whole hillside white, almost giving the appearance of snow cover. The wood is very hard and although not durable in the ground it is used for wharf piles and tool handles. It is particularly popular as firewood, burning with a great heat.
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In New Zealand, Kanuka can grow up to 30 metres high with a trunk up to one metre across. K?k?riki parakeets (Cyanoramphus) use leaves and bark of kanuka and the related M?nuka tea trees to rid themselves of parasites. Apart from ingesting the material, they also chew it, mix it with preen gland oil and apply it to their feathers. Manuka and K?nuka are superficially similar species and they are often confused with one another -the easiest way to tell the difference between them is to feel the foliage, K?nuka leaves being soft, while Manuka leaves are prickly. K. ericoides may occur in the understory of certain rimu/nothofagus forests in the South Island. Typical associate understory species may include Crown Fern, Blechnum discolor and Cyathodes fasciculata.
Kanuka flowers have a musty, heady scent and smother the tree like a white blanket through summer. They are smaller than the similar manuka, and carried in greater abundance.
Kanuka is also taller than manuka, growing to 10m+. It is a tough coloniser of poor soils and tolerates harsh conditions; excellent for native revegetation projects or shelter planting.
The Maori people were very adept at using native trees and plants for food and for curing many illnesses that inflicted the people. Originally knowledge of medicinal plants was held exclusively by the tohunga (Maori Doctor) but the Maori could soon realise by the plants that he ordered them to use what special value a plant had for a certain disease. This knowledge was kept alive and passed down by the older women of the tribes who continued to use their old remedies today.
Both manuka and kanuka were used extensively by the Maori and later by the early European settlers as a medicinal plant -alone and in combination with other native plants.
Captain Cook gave manuka the name of “tea tree” and wrote of it… “the leaves were used by many of us as a tea which has a very agreeable bitter taste and flavour when they are recent but loses some of both when they are dried. When the infusion was made strong it proved emetic (induces vomiting) to some in the same manner as ‘green tree”‘. Early settlers gave it the name “tea tree” as they too made a drink of it.
Kunzea Ericoides (kanuka) was also used by Maori people with both plants having similar virtues. The leaves and bark were used in a variety of ways to cure their ailments and illnesses.
A decotion of leaves was drunk for urinary comlaints and as a febrifuge (reduces fever). The leaves were boiled in water and inhaled for head colds. Leaves and bark were boiled together and the warm liquid was rubbed on stiff backs and rheumatic joints. The leaves and young branches were put into many vapour baths. Polack wrote. – – “an infusion of the leaves of this herb is regarded as peculiarly serviceable to persons in a reduced state, whose previous mortalities will not admit of the strictest investigation. It is very astringent ·’. And this from James Neill. – “It is a well known diuretic when drunk in quantity; and I remember hearing of a doctor in Dunedin in the early days, who told a patient who had dropsy to go into the bush, gather a handful of manuka leaves, put them in a quart jug and fill up with boiling water and drink it often. she did this and was cured”.
Young shoots were chewed and swallowed for dysentry.An infusion of the inner bark was taken internally as a sedative and promoted sleep. It was also given as a sedative to an excited person or one in pain. Externally, this was rubbed on the skin to ease pain and was said to help heal fractures. The crushed bark was steeped in boiling water and the water used for inflamations, particularly for women with congestion of the breasts. A decoction of the barks of kanuka and kowhai, mixed with wood ash and dried, was rubbed Into the skin for various skin diseases. For constipation, pieces of the bark were bailed until the waler darkened in colour and the liquid drunk. The inner bark was boiled and the water used as a gargle, mouthwash and for bathing sore eyes.
The emollient whlte gum, called pia manuka, was given to nursing babies and also used to treat scalds and burns- It was also chewed to ease a bad cough and given to children to relieve constipation. Fresh sap was drawn from a length of the trunk and taken as a breath and blood purifier – (Adams)
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
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