Mamaku, the largest and tallest of the tree ferns, is one of the wonders of New Zealand’s native bush. Not only is it majestic in stature but it is making its presence known in the field of skin cell renewal.
Our knowledge of its healing properties can be likened to the unfolding of the tree’s fronds, which can extend up to 10 meters across the top of the tree.
While Maori have known and utilised its healing properties as recorded from the early 1800’s, and up and till now, little has been documented on the Mamaku, now modern research into its healing properties continues to reveal more of its hidden potential.
Each individual plant in nature has its own unique signature and Mamaku’s being its potential for regeneration.
The unfolding spiral of the frond can be likened to the nautilus shell, perfectly proportioned, depicting continuous growth, in an ever repeating pattern.
This appears throughout nature in a myriad of forms such as spiral galaxies, the cochlea of the human ear, and in the arrangement of petals, leaves and ferns among plants and herbs.
The Koru fronds of the Mamaku are a symbol of new life and new beginnings mirroring the plant’s capacity to regenerate and renew life. In its natural environment ferns such as Mamaku play a key role in regenerating and replenishing the native bush, returning essential nutrients to the soil, thus laying a foundation for new growth. The umbrella like canopy is one of nature’s ways of protecting the emerging new growth below, thus retaining precious moisture.
Looking at the traditional healing uses, Mamaku was utilised mainly for its powerful wound healing properties (as listed below)
- Drawing properties (poultice) for wounds, ulcers and sores
- Soothing eye wash
- Abscesses and boils
- rheumatism /swelling of the feet
- Attacks of diarrhea
The young fronds (pikopiko) were also boiled and the juice used to help with diabetes *King (Maori Healing and Herbal, by Murdoch Riley)
They can be eaten raw, or cooked being of a pleasant taste similar to apple/cucumber, it is also high in nutritious minerals and vitamins A, B and C.
Equally important, Mamaku also contains 95 per cent water in the form of mucilage (gel). In Medicines of the Maori by Christina Macdonald writes, “Bush men used it for their cuts and sores; it also cured saddle sore on horses, and was effective for poisoned hands, swollen feet and sore eyes. The young fronds were used for poulticing inflamed breasts.
So what does Mamaku offer us in a modern context?
Looking to the symbolism and the signature of Mamaku, we now have a deeper understanding of its healing potential.
Millions of dollars are being spent on research into Mamaku’s properties, and it is no surprise what has been revealed.
Several offshore companies are using Mamaku extract in face creams, one French company (Lucus meyer cosmetics S.A.) claims up to 48% increase in cell division, while another (Sothys of Paris) say Mamaku extract has been proven to reinforce, stimulate and regenerate the skin. While this has naturally generated huge interest among dermatologists and the cosmetic industry, the potential to remove various impurities from the skin’s surface has wider implications.
I feel that Mamaku extract has the potential and scope for treating more complex and serious skin problems, no doubt over time, more valuable feedback on results will validate this. Up to date, anecdotal feedback has so far been positive in the context of improvement and elimination in a range of skin conditions.
To me the research has simply backed up what nature portrays in the plant’s signature, that being its amazing capacity for healing and regeneration. Applying those properties to the skin for example, we now have a better understanding of Mamaku’s role in cell division and repairing, speedy cell turnover in the key cells of the dermis.
Overall, Mamaku has huge potential in both the areas of skin health and skin renewal, other areas include intestinal health, burns and the treatment of ulcers.
I look forward to working with Mamaku in the near future.
Maori Healing and Herbal, Medicines of the Maori
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