1) Mamaki Plant History & General Information:
a) Scientific Name: Pipturus Albidus
b) Region of Origin: This native Hawaiian plant is found in mesic to wet forests and valleys on all the main islands except Kahoolawe and Niihau.
c) General History: When one thinks of Hawaiian plants used as medicine, Awa, kookoolau and Mamaki come immediately to mind. Mamaki is an endemic species that can only be found here in Hawaii. Practitioners of Hawaiian medicine have different preferences in the types of leaves they use. Some say that only the leaves that have red veins are useful as a medicine. Others say that only small, new leaves are any good. Still others have no preference, using whatever leaves they gather for making tea.
The main use for mamaki is as a tea. The leaves are harvested and dried and brewed into a tea. The tea by itself is used medicinally but doesn’t have the best of flavors. Often lemon grass is brewed with the mamaki to add flavor. The tea can also be flavored with honey or lemon.
The tea is used to cure a variety of ills. Its main use is to relieve sore throats or coughing. It is also used as a general tonic, ridding the drinker of any “run-down” feelings. The ripe fruits were eaten to cure thrush and to keep children healthy.
The mamaki pants were used by Hawaiians to make a coarse type of kapa (tapa) that was durable when it was dry but tore easily when wet. The wood of mature mamaki trees was made into kapa beaters.
Medicinal uses: Three major antioxidants in mamaki leaves were identified in the University of Hawaii study. They are catechins, chlorogenic acid and rutin.
- Catechins are a type of antioxidant found in the greatest abundance in the leaves of the tea plant. In smaller amounts, catechins are found in other foods such as red wine, chocolate, berries, and apples. The health benefits of tea catechins have been under close examination since the 1990s due to the strong association of tea with long life and health in many ancient cultures.
- Chlorogenic acid is a powerful antioxidant. It is commonly found in root vegetables such as carrots, radishes, turnips, and burdock.
- Rutin is a flavonoid in the polyphenol family. Rutin is commonly found in red wine, buckwheat, citrus, and tomato skin. An animal study also showed that rutin is an antioxidant effective in controlling bodyweight.
Studies of the proprietary grown Mama-Kii tea found traces of antioxidants including EGCg, as well as beta-carotene and certain minerals: calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus. Research shows that:
- Antioxidants may help maintain cell integrity and fight free radicals.
- Beta-Carotene may neutralize free radicals and increase cellular antioxidant defense.
- Calcium is understood to build strong bones.
- Magnesium contributes to bone health and healthy immune function.
- Potassium can help maintain a healthy blood pressure level in combination with a low-sodium diet.
Sunlight Requirements and care: Mamaki does well as an understory shrub or in semishaded areas. It also does fine in full sun with moderate watering. As with most plants, mamaki does better in well-drained soil. Few pests bother it, but spider mites might colonize under the leaves. Wiping them off with water should take care of it.
Gently water in the seeds but do not cover with more soil. Place the pot in partial shade and keep the mix moist. In two to three weeks the seeds will start to germinate. When they start showing their first true leaves they should be separated into smaller clumps (with five to 15 seedlings per clump). In another two weeks the seedlings will be large enough to be separated to individual pots. When the plants reach 8 inches to 1 foot tall they can be planted in the garden.
Mamaki leaves can be attacked by rose beetles as well as caterpillars and grasshoppers. These insects will make holes in the leaves but will not affect the overall health of the plant. Spittle bugs and aphids may attack the new growth of the plants but they are seldom a major problem. Fungal diseases can attack mamaki when they are young.
Location on property: Garden N