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About Kawakawa

Botanical Name: Macropiper 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. It is densely branched, aromatic ,with 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 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.


The Kawakawa tree is significant and sacred to Maori.

It is significant for its many and varied traditional herbal curing properties and is sacred for its use from conception, then through one’s life, through to one passing on into the spiritual realm.

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

Indications – external use:

  • Skin conditions such eczema, boils, cuts, abscesses & wounds. 
  • Circulatory insufficiency including chilblains 
  • A popular treatment, for numerous skin conditions, including skin lesions. 
  • Anti-inflammatory activity. Neuralgia, rheumatic & arthritic pains and bruises.
  • Insect repellent. 
  • Toothache


  • 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 Macropiper excelsum leaf

N.B: If you have any concerns at all, about your health and the use of kawakawa;  it is recommended you seek professional advise.