Kawakawa | Piper Excelsum

Botanical Name: Piper excelsum

Common Names: Kawakawa, New Zealand Peppertree

Botanical Family: Piperaceae

Parts Used: Leaves & fruit



Kawakawa is a small evergreen shrub-like tree, that can grow up to six meters high. In its natural state, Kawakawa is densely branched, aromatic, with natural large heart shaped emerald green & fleshy leaves. The zigzag branches are swollen & jointed at the nodes, similar to the bamboo stem.

The leaves are approximately 5-10cm long and are often holed, chewed by the native NZ looper moth. The fruit is a yellow/orange, conical berry, each of which contains a single seed.

Kawakawa is commonly found in semi-shaded areas of native bush, usually in coastal and lake regions in the North Island, the top of the South Island & The Chatham Islands.


Active Constituents:

Volatile Oil – 45-70% in essential oils & 1.6-2.5% in the dry herb (mostly myristicin)

Mixed cadinenes – 12.2 % essential oils – 0.43%  in dry herb

The presence of other pharmacological active compounds such as flavonoids and alkaloids seems likely, based upon analysis of related species.


Primary Actions:

  • Anti-dyspeptic
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Analgesic
  • Alternative/Depurative
  • Diaphoretic & Circulatory stimulant
  • Myristicin is reported to have anti-tumor activity
  • Natural immune support


Indications – external use:

  • Skin conditions such eczema, skin rashes
  • Boils, sores, abscesses & skin infections
  • Cuts, wounds & abrasions
  • Insect bites, sand-flies, mosquitoes & bug bites
  • Poor circulation, varicose veins, chilblains & raynauds
  • Bruises & swellings
  • Fungal, warts & ringworm,scalds and sun burn
  • Aches & pains, rheumatism, neuralgia, arthritis
  • Acts as a mild insect repellent
  • Circulatory insufficiency including chilblains
  • Toothache
  • Anti-inflammatory activity. Neuralgia, rheumatic & arthritic pains and bruises.



  • Stomach pains, indigestion, bloated-ness due to over eating or allergy food types (ie:wheat products)
  • Digestive aid & carminative effects.
  • Skin conditions, such as eczema boils & rashes – internal & external
  • Circulatory insufficiency, chilblains, arterial & Raynard’s disease.
  • Colds, coughs, bronchitis, worm infestations.
  • Gonorrhea & syphilis – internal & external
  • Debility, general fatigue, lack of energy.
  • New reports on weight balancing effects



No precautions or contraindications have noted by Rasmussen (2001)



No toxic effects found on Piper excelsum leaf


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