Gracious koromiko, your flowers come in so may hues of pink and purple from the palest lilac to the boldest magenta. One of a select few of our shrubs here in Aotearoa with brightly coloured flowers you are easily recognisable when I visit my London resident kids. I was surprised on my first visit to the UK to see many of our native plants well represented in the cities gardens. Harakeke, ti kouka, pittosporum, manuka and koromiko to name a few are seen everywhere. A legacy of Joseph Banks and his journey here on the Endeavour (1770) collecting specimens of our unique flora and fauna to take back to England. As I walk the garden today I notice your blooms dear koromiko are abundant. Having just celebrated the shortest day of the year our mornings are magically frosty yet you continue to supply nectar for our friends the humble honey bee.
Koromiko’s main claim to fame has always been it’s use as a treatment for diarrhoea. In fact so effective and available that it was compounded by many of the early pharmacists (here in Aotearoa) and dispensed by them to the European settlers. My father’s grandfather (Polish immigrants) used it to treat scours (diarrhoea) in his lambs. The leaves and the young shoots are the parts used. During WW2 it was sent to soldiers in the Middle East to use against diarrhoea and dysentry. On the other hand, eating the tips can remedy a constipation. The tips boiled and the liquid drunk also helps to restore a lost appetite. So it seems clear that koromiko can bring balance to an out of kilter digestive system. Again, drinking the liquid tea can be used to aid with the effects of simple food poisoning.
One of our recently planted koromiko thriving here at the marae.
In the past it was used as a treatment for venereal diseases internally and externally. I’ve included it in our viral salve which is a soothing balm for those super sensitive membranous tissues any herpes sufferer will attest to. The nerve pain/sensitivity can be extreme. Any of the herpes family will respond to this balm, including cold sores, shingles and chicken pox.
It is also a useful remedy for mother and baby, being used for facilitating a rapid and easy delivery. Boil the tips of the leaves and regularly drink the liquid to ease labour pains. Naturally koromiko is a an essential ingredient in our Mothers Belly Balm. As an external application koromiko can be used for nappy rash and as a weak tea for teething infants.
If unsure of plant identification or dosage talk to your local rongoā Māori practitioner before gathering or preparing tonics. Contact your local marae for more information.