Māori Plant Use

   Skip Navigation Links
Copyright © 2021

Plant Use Details 

Coprosma robusta. Karamū. Main reference.
FAMILY: Rubiaceae Coffee family
BOTANICAL NAME: Coprosma robusta
MĀORI NAME: KARAMŪ, kākaramū, kākarangū, kāramuramu (Best 1908; 1899); karangū (Taylor 1870)
NOTES: Solander in 1769 recorded karamū as ''Charamugh''
MEDICINAL: Leaves - used in vapour bath (Taylor 1848 and 1870).
Young shoots boiled, liquid drunk for bladder stoppage or inflammation (Poverty Bay Federation of Women's Institutes Cookery Calendar; mid 1930s?).
Scrape off the outside bark of the kākarangū. Put the inner bark into a mug. Cover with water. Boil for about 15 minutes. Used for stomache ache or to stop vomiting. Adults take half a teacupful, babies a teaspoonful. (P. Smith 1940)
Leaves - boiled, drunk for kidney troubles by North Auckland Māori (Adams 1945).
Used as a remedy for kohe or tarai (consumption) - infusion of bark drunk and bathed in. Bath made of fresh kelp sewn together (Mrs Te Au to Beattie, MS E582/E/11, Hocken).

Related pharmacology in Brooker, Cambie and Cooper 1987. (Brooker et al state that a decoction of the leaves was taken as a febrifuge. Colenso 1844 is given as a reference but I was unable to find this use recorded - Ed.)
See Riley 1994 for information on medicinal uses of related plants elsewhere in the world.
FOOD: Berries eaten (Taylor 1870; Colenso 1869a , 1869b, 1881).
Karamū leaves used as a substitute for china tea (Armstrong, in Aston 1923a).
Leaves sometimes put on the stones in a hangi before the small kūmara to colour and preserve them. Out of this 'kao' is made and dried in the sun. (P. Smith 1940).
Leaves used to line hangi. Along with kawakawa and korokio gave an appreciated flavour to karaka kernels (Best 1942).
FIBRE: Tū-hou, maro-tūhou, maro-taua ; a rough maro of leaves of the karamuramu, or other shrubs. Worn by priests during ceremonies of various kinds (Best 1899).
DYES: 'Curious old-gold colour ', made from bark (Hamilton 1899)

Coprosma species as a source of dyes in Aston 1918a, 1918d.
CHEMISTRY: Leaves, bark, heartwood compounds listed in Cambie 1976, with references.

Leaves used during baptism ceremony (Taylor 1855; Servant 1973).
Branches of green karamū held by tohunga in cleansing ceremony (tohi or tua) for infants (Makereti 1938)
Branches used in ceremonies (Best 1908, 1942)