New course teaches old knowledge
A plant’s healing power is the focus of a new rongoa¯ Ma¯ ori medicine course in the Waita¯kere Ranges, Auckland.
The sold-out six-week course is a first for Joanne Hakaraia, who is also co-founder of Sisters Indigenous, a natural product company focused on promoting traditional medicinal knowledge.
‘‘In the old days we used to hold quite tightly to the knowledge of the forest, worried what would happen if large companies found out about these natural resources,’’ said Hakaraia.
However, she said the knowledge has already gone global.
‘‘Now it’s about restoring the mana of the plants.’’
Hakaraia was part of a growing movement to promote rongoa¯ as a natural alternative to western medicine.
The first six-week course, starting in late September, has already reached capacity.
Rongoa¯ has received increased attention after research by Dr Glenis Mark found ta¯ ngata whenua wanted to have the option of complimentary healing.
However, the study found many patients feared ridicule from western medical practitioners if they admitted to seeing both a doctor and a traditional healer. Hakaraia said holistic care worked best when everyone was talking.
‘‘There are people who are on high levels of medicines and are interested in going natural but it only works if everyone is open.’’
Hakaraia said her hands-on course would connect students to the spiritual nature of the Waita¯ kere Ranges.
There have been calls for rongoa¯ Ma¯ori to be formalised within the public health system, and the Ministry of Health reviewed the practices in 2014.
In the last 10 years, Primary Health Organisations across the country have begun to fund rongoa¯ services as part of their public health programmes, with 19 providers currently receiving government funding. However, some within the western medical establishment remain skeptical.
New Zealand Medical Association chief executive Lesley Clarke said that while rongoa¯ was not an area of specific focus, the organisation put it in the same category as other complementary medicines.
‘‘It is our view that it is in the consumer or patient’s best interests that there is credible evidence of effectiveness and safety of any product where a health benefit is claimed.’’