For decades they have been used in traditional Maori medicine and now a new generation is learning about the natural power of plants.
Children at Mayfield Kindergarten, in Blenheim, have been learning about the value of herbal medicine made from plants including flax, manuka and kowhai.
The move highlights the kindergarten’s commitment to Enviroschools, a school programme that teaches children to love, care for and respect the environment.
Teacher Kathryn Richards says the children really enjoy getting a chance to do some ‘‘hands on’’ work.
Rongoa is traditional Maori medicine. It includes herbal medicine made from plants, physical techniques, spiritual healing and massage.
The grandmother of one of the children at the Mayfield kindy visited the centre last month to share her knowledge of the custom.
‘‘At Mayfield Kindergarten, tamariki and kaiako really value whanau coming in to share their special skills and knowledge,’’ Kathryn says.
‘‘The tamariki had a visit from a very special person when Nani Heather spent time sharing her knowledge of Maori medicine with the children.
‘‘With Nani Heather’s guidance, the children collected manuka leaves and flowers from the kindergarten’s own garden, and learnt how to soak them to remove the manuka oil.
‘‘They loved the chance to spend time learning with Nani Heather, and to experience something new from the world of Te Ao Maori.’’
Manuka is traditionally used in a tea made from leaves and drunk to help reduce a fever.
Flax leaves or roots are made into pulp, heated and put on skin infections such as boils while the hard part of the leaf is used to splint broken bones.
Kathryn says Enviroschools is a great way to help give the children a good idea of the environment they live in.
‘‘They love it and it gives them a good foundation to build on when they move up to school,’’ she says.