This paper was first presented at the Herb Federation Conference, Wellington, in 2007 by Robert McGowan.
Thank you for the privilege of asking me to give the address to begin this conference. It is a privilege and an honour. I accepted the opportunity to be here because I see the importance of the knowledge you share, and the ideals and values that inspire you. I hope that what I have to say may contribute to that.
I offer you comments and thoughts from a person who is not really a herbalist, but who knows many herbalists and the work they do. I wander mostly on my own path, drawing more on what I know and understand about traditional Maori medicine, and the knowledge gained from the other major influences in my life, my family, my Church, the many wonderful people I have been close to, the various experiences that have marked my life and shaped me into the person you see before you. Like most kiwis I am an interesting blend.
What follows then are some comments from somebody a little on the outside from the mainstream of herbal medicine in New Zealand. I hope you find there is some value in that perspective. I hope it contributes to the success of the weekend together that we now begin.
The issue of sustainability is very much one of the major concerns of current times. More and more people are becoming aware that we are using the world’s resources faster than they can be replaced naturally; at the present rate of exploitation there will be less and less left for coming generations. Unless we quickly make major changes in the way we live our children and especially our grand children and those that follow are unlikely to enjoy the standard of living that we presently take for granted. The world of the future may well be one of growing need, coupled with a growing bitterness at the realization that much of shortage that they will be experiencing will be the result of the lack of wisdom of those who have gone before.
This is not an issue only for the so called ‘greenies’. To quote our Prime Minister Helen Clarke in a recent address to open the Christchurch Sustainability Forum: “Sustainability is now the big issue challenging politicians, policy makers, business, and communities around the world. It has become the major theme of international meetings from Davos to APEC”.1
And further: “I believe that the sustainability challenge is a defining issue of the twenty first century.”
"How Nations grapple with that challenge will not only have a significant impact on the world’s environment, but it will also determine their prosperity, security and their citizen’s quality of life”.2
It is a challenge to which each and all of us must respond to. It is appropriate for us, then, as herbalists and practitioners, at the beginning of this annual conference, to consider how we might contribute towards becoming a sustainable world. What can herbal medicine in the 21st century, contribute to the challenge of sustainability, of achieving a way of living throughout the world which meets the needs of all of its people without depleting the world’s resources? Only that will ensure that the generations still to come will be adequately provided for?
Much, no doubt most will respond. For a long time herbalist and traditional healers have been wanting to make a more substantial contribution to present day health care, with largely disappointing results, at least in first world countries such as New Zealand. In underdeveloped countries it is a different story.
Research by scientists and others are providing increasing verification of the effectiveness of many herbal medicines long used by traditional healers. There is no doubt herbal medicine has much to offer to present day health care in New Zealand. Hopefully Government and mainstream health providers will increasingly recognize that, and incorporate more herbal medicines, where appropriate, into mainstream health provision. This in itself would be a contribution to sustainability, given the high cost of present day health care. The cost of pharmaceuticals and modern medical technologies has the potential to collapse the New Zealand health system. New Zealanders expect to have access to latest in designer medications and medical technology but these can only be available on a limited basis. Million dollar treatments, wonderful though they be, can mean many people have less access to basic health care. This is reflected in the long waiting list for necessary surgery and treatment that is a reality of modern health care.
However it is not for us to be too distracted with that thought; it must be admitted that herbal medicines can themselves be expensive, in fact too expensive for most ordinary people. Unless Pharmac can be persuaded to subsidize herbal medicines they will increasingly be unavailable to most New Zealander’s. Herbalists could well find their practice confined largely to the more affluent section of the community, small comfort for the ideals and values we try to represent.
How sustainable is herbal medicine?
Herbal medicine, complimentary medicine, etc., can, in many cases, offer a viable alternative to some mainstream pharmaceuticals. However that does not mean that they are necessarily more sustainable.
Many of the plants that have been so long used by healers are increasingly less available. Some are being driven almost to the point of extinction by over harvesting. With increasing pressure on arable land for horticulture and agriculture to feed the growing population of the world, wildcrafting and small scale production of herbs is no longer sufficient to meet the needs. There is little room for ‘weeds’ and wild plants in a cultivated landscape, and all the biodiversity that contributes to their health and healing powers. We live in a managed world where even the Nature itself seems forced to comply with the management schedules of company directors.
To boost production it has become necessary to duplicate many of the horticultural practices which are increasingly seen to be non sustainable. We live in a world of mass production; for horticultural that means mechanical cultivation with heavy machinery that compacts the earth and squeeze the life out of , destroying the living organisms that enable it to breath and nourish growth; it may mean sometimes large volumes of chemical fertilizers and sprays are used, that can poison the soil and contaminate ground waters, massive irrigation schemes which can drain lakes and underground aquifers, and reduce once mighty rivers to polluted trickles, mechanical harvesting and processing, high tech laboratories and the usual production line processes that may differ little from the mass production of pharmaceuticals. We too can be converted to worship at the altars of modern technology and in order to provide ‘natural medicinesrsquo; for people who are largely strangers to Nature, living in concrete and glass cages, built for the view of course, who walk on asphalt and cobbled paths so that shoes are never sullied by the strands of vegetation that reach out to touch them. We provide health in bottles and pills, measured exactly, refined to precision, certainly compliant to the highest standards of modern industrial pharmacies. If not we will be condemned as charlatans. We had a narrow escape with the NZTGA.
Back to the future
No that is not a contribution to sustainability, conforming our practice to the standards of the industrial manufacturing of pharmaceuticals.
No, we need to be much bolder, more radical, much wiser if we are to offer our best contribution towards creating a sustainable future for our children. What can we, as practitioners of natural medicine, offer the world of the 21st medicine?
We need to go back to the future; we need to rediscover our roots, to find a surer pathway into the future.
Ethnobotanists and bioprospectors continue to scan the world to find and investigate the plants used by traditional healers. That has been happening for a long time, driven both by the need to discover commercially viable products, and to respond to the diseases of modern society. Diseases such as aids, various cancers, and antibiotic resistant pathogens are a continuing and perhaps growing challenge to 21st century medicine.
It is necessary research; we have yet to tap the full richness of what nature has to offer. There is an urgency in the search, as the planet’s problems become more urgent. Yet it is largely funded by those with sufficient wealth to make the necessary investment, in the hope of becoming even richer, and governed by whole systems of law, designed, not for the benefit of those who may need some new found medicine, but to protect the intellectual property rights of those who have made the investment, to ensure they enjoy the full benefit of their enterprise. The system tend to protect profits, not health.
Indigenous peoples and small countries struggle to protect their rights in the face of such competition, not in the hope of winning against much more powerful competitors, but of at least gaining some recognition of what they have to offer and some share of the benefits that others gain from the exploitation of local biodiversity. The New Zealand Government, via the Ministry for Economic Development is currently carrying out consultation about bioprospecting in New Zealand, with a view to developing policy designed to protect New Zealand rights and optimizing its benefit from the opportunities that its flora and fauna provides. 1 Not to do so would be to our disadvantage; the global market does few favours for small players such as we are.
This is no pathway to sustainability. It is merely another dimension of the over exploitation of the planet’s resources that we are striving to correct. We need to look elsewhere for our answers; we need to look outside of the market driven mentality for something more fundamental than economic analysts can provide. There is a saying about doctors being unable to heal themselves. Careful management may mitigate the problems and even delay the inevitable shortages of essential commodities that are looming. But it will not prevent the crisis. We need a more real solution.
Reaching into the future
I believe our current economic system will prove unable to find the solution to the situation it has created; that will require a fundamental mind shift, an acceptance of a very different way of belonging to the world, of surrendering long held beliefs that have been used for generations to justify our exploitation of the natural world. Those beliefs have proved to be unfounded; the time has come when we must listen again to what we were told a very long time ago. It is not a matter of creating something new. We already have the knowledge; more importantly we already have the wisdom; what we no longer have is the luxury of being able to continue to ignore it.
That sounds very dramatic. And it is; we live in dramatic times; the environmental crises we are talking about are not the work of science fiction. The future will require the ultimate greatness that the human race is capable of, if it is to survive. The future may also bring acts of desperation such has never been experienced before, as individual and nations struggle to gain and maintain control of resources.
It is here that people like us, who share in traditional knowledge and wisdom can indeed make a considerable contribution. We won’t do it by providing more earth friendly medicines, but by sharing the wisdom that has grown with the knowledge which is the basis of our practice.
I do believe we need to reconsider the foundations of the different schools of traditional medicines that we are part of, to discover and then to share some very basic ideas that need to find new currency at the present time.
In terms of herbal medicine my own background is in rongoa Maori, traditional Maori medicine, so I will use that to illustrate what I have just said. I am certainly not an expert in rongoa Maori; I am still very much on the journey of learning, and have started too late and in too different a world to capture more than a little of the knowledge of those who were and are. However in that long journey I have been taught much that is of great value.
I have always been interested in plant medicines. Maybe that is a gift I received from my Dalmation grandmother. I still use some of the remedies that are part of my mother’s family tradition. And no doubt the canny wisdom to of the Irish on my father’s side had an influence. I have always been fascinated by the bush and felt very much at home there; from early childhood I always wanted to learn more. By the time I had finished my training as a Catholic priest, and sent to Whanganui in 1974 to work with the River people I knew quite a lot, and was ready to learn more. I particularly wanted to learn about the medicinal uses of New Zealand plants, because I had heard so many wonderful stories. I was also aware, from a very early age, of the work of Mother Aubert, the foundress of the Sisters of Compassion, and one of the icons of New Zealand herbal medicine. I spent a lot of time with the Sisters in my teenage years and was given an appreciation of the effectiveness and usefulness of rongoa Maori, especially in places where there was no access to any other form of medicine. I felt it still had a part to play in Maori communities and that an effort needed to be made to retain the knowledge of the healers. Even in the 1960&aposs it was obvious to me, a school boy, that that knowledge was being set aside in favour of ‘pakeha medicinersquo;, and that it was in danger of being lost. And even the experts were not sure that it should be retained.
I was initially disappointed by the response I received when I first started to ask the River people questions. I expected to taught about the healing properties of plants and how to use them. Instead I was given two very clear starting points.
At first those starting points seemed insignificant and a way of avoiding sharing knowledge, something that even I realized the kaumatua were very much entitled to do. (I was told by my peers at the time not to waste my time; I would be told nothing, and even if I was it would be of neither use nor value).
The starting point for learning rongoa maori: te taha wairua
The first starting point I can quote word for word, because it was told to me time and time again, by so many people in different places throughout the country, and at different times.
“The foundation of rongoa Maori is not rakau (trees, plants) but te taha wairua (spirituality)”.
That did not please me at the time; I wanted to learn about rakau. (the medicinal properties of plants). And besides I was a priest and had been trained over many years to deal with taha wairua. It took me a long time to realize what I was being told. It has since become the foundation of how I teach rongoa Maori.
We have a preoccupation with physical health. Of course we have a saying ‘healthy body means healthy mind’, and that is true; physical health is one of the key ingredients in a healthy lifestyle. But we have become obsessed with the physical illnesses and ailments that afflict all of us and each of us from time to time. We try to chase their causes and eliminate them from our life style, one by one, and renew and repair our bodies as age starts to take its toll, in the hope, it would seem, that one day we will be able to live forever.
Yet the most crippling illnesses that we are likely encounter are not those of the body. Too many modern people are afflicted by the emptiness and loneliness that is within, and that can cripple; it can drown the pleasure of living no matter how much noise we make in our lives. How many of our major causes of death begin with loneliness, emptiness, no real purpose in living except to grow old and die, no sense of belonging, out of step with the rhythms of the living world around us.
How can you tell a person not to eat too much, drink too much, work or party to the point of self destruction when they were born into a legacy of failure; children brought up believing that they would never succeed, be good enough, never come to anything; adults trapped into a life of being used and abused by others, dreamers who have seen their dreams vanish like dew in the morning, leaving only dryness. These are the afflictions too often we see in each others eyes if we are bold enough to look. Too many of us are haunted people, haunted by our disappointment, our loneliness, our powerlessness to change our lives for the better.
In traditional Maori healing the beginning is always with karakia. Symptoms can wait, so can the case history, and all the other procedures that begin the processes of present day health care. The patient, the whanau, the healers, those who are there to tautoko, support, need to be freed from the burdens they carry so they can be of real assistance to the one in their midst who has come for help and healing. Karakia is to help heal the differences and divisions between people, even if it is only for a time. How often a major obstacle to becoming well is the negativity that illness brings, the feeling that we are a burden, or are considered a nuisance, or haven’t sorted the antagonism between people who should be close to each other. Maori see these as illnesses, illnesses that cause illnesses and must be dealt with before other illnesses can be attended to.
Then it is time to focus on the needs of the turoro, the patient. But again it is not necessarily the physical symptoms that are the primary focus. An illness is seen in the context of a person’s whole life, and often it is factors within a person’s life that have had an influence or effect on the physical illnesses that has developed. For most traditional people there is always a non physical element in ill health. Often they express that in terms that are not well understood by those who have been brought up in the mainstream of contemporary Western societies but their beliefs and practices can be manifestations of very fundamental realities. We can often miss that because we are distracted by our own perceptions and our own cultural conditioning. We can see other cultures as different, and somehow we are inclined to think that they must be wrong to the extent of their difference from what we consider to be the norm.
Part of the diagnosis, in terms of dealing with an illness, is to try to identify factors or causes in a person’s life that have resulted in their current situation. It is interesting that for practitioners of traditional Maori medicine, alienation from one’s cultural roots, its values and beliefs, and the practices that give express to them, is often considered to be the telling factor in a person’s deterioration into ill health. Culture is much more than a way of marking events of significance in a people’s life, births, deaths, marriages, victories and losses; it is the basis of our attitudes, values, beliefs, arts, sciences, modes or perception, habits of thought, activities’. It provides the keel in one’s life, the rudder to steer us through fine weather and foul. To lose touch with that foundation is to find oneself exposed and defenseless, left only with one’s instinct to survive.
We need to ask ourselves whether the emphasis, in our current New Zealand lifestyle, on the material, the world of possessions we feel we need to surround ourselves with, is an expression of our instinct to survive. We have, to a greater or lesser extent, lost touch with our cultural foundations and are driven to find compensation by surrounding ourselves with material goods, like participants in a primitive cargo cult, even though inevitably we know it will lead to our eventual destruction. How else do we explain the madness that is 21st century consumerism? And how else do we explain the burgeoning health problems that overcrowd our health system. It is not more funding that is needed, or better Government policies. We need to re-engage with our cultural roots, and the values and beliefs that once guided us.
Traditional Maori healers have not forgotten that lesson, but even they struggle to heed it. We live in a world of extraordinary change. Our ability to survive depends on our ability to continually to adapt to constant change. And like anybody on an urgent journey, we discard things that are too heavy to carry, or don’t seem useful at the time, with the hope that we can come back and get them at some stage. There is much we have discarded that time is proving we now need to retrieve. Maori communities more than most in New Zealand have had to contend with that change on a more drastic level. The insistence by traditional Maori healers on the importance of taha wairua in healing is a lesson we need to heed.
Can that not be something in which we, with our interest and involvement in herbal medicine, take the lead. It terms of sustainable health care we need to consider more than the many illnesses that affect modern people. We are not only healing illnesses, but people who have illnesses, and it is in dealing with the people side of things first we may be better able to attend to their illnesses.
The second stating point; getting to know the plants
I can also quote word for word the second starting point I was given, because like the first, it has been repeated to me so often by so many people, for such a long time.
“We don’t need to tell you anything about the plants; all you have to do is go into the bush and get to know them, and they will tell you everything you need to know”.
I was both flabbergasted and frustrated when that was first said to me. It sounded like the best excuse I had ever heard to tell me nothing. It was bad enough being accused of talking to plants, a sure sign of madness, but to believe they could talk back”.!
That was the obvious reaction of a young person. But again it has proved to be very true. Many of the old healers had an extraordinary knowledge of the bush, the fruit of a lifetime living in the bush and watching it closely. It wasn’t a hobby, or a study, it was a way of life; it was necessary to survival. Even up to quite recently, and in parts of Tuhoe, even to the present day, an intimate knowledge of the ngahere was a basic life skill. One needed to be able to read the ngahere with the same ease and accuracy that a people today can read printed material. It is worth noting that one of the main reason why kaumatua have refused to pass on their knowledge about rongoa is that their children and mokopuna and others who had come to them to learn were increasingly strangers to the forest and its ways; they had acquired a different set of skills, matched to a new lifestyle. Teaching such people was considered dangerous; there was too much of a risk that they might poison somebody by making mistakes identifying the right plants to use.
To learn rongoa Maori one must indeed get to know the plants. It is much more than learning to identify the different species that make up a forest. That is important but it is only a beginning. Experience shows, and this is increasingly being endorsed by researchers, that the medicinal properties of plants can vary from place to place, from season to season, and even at different times in the same day. There are tikanga to learn and adhere to. There are right ways and wrong ways of harvesting, of preparing rongoa and much more. By staying in the bush and watching the plants change with the seasons, seeing how they react to the extremes that from time to time occur, where they like to grow and what they like to grow with, observing their particular role in the forest, and how that may vary from place to place; all this and much more builds up in a person’s mind an understanding of what might be the healing properties in each tree, and how it might best be used.
But that is only the beginning. It is only by spending time in the ngahere can one come to appreciate where we belong in the family of Tane. We belong, but as junior children in a very big family. We can never own a forest, but it can own us. We are part of its strength its beauty, and can share in those gifts. And we do belong.
This contrasts with a view that sees humans as intruders into the forest, outsiders who don’t belong, who are best keep away, except for those special people who have superior level of knowledge and understanding of the forest world. There is a philosophy that has a major influence of conservation thinking and planning. It sees an alienation between man and the natural world, an apartness and superiority which has justified the exploitation of the planet’s resources for the benefit of mankind, particularly of those individuals and that elite that have the resources to do so, without the need to seriously consider the impact and consequences on the interconnected world to which we in fact belong. That is a rather crude and simplistic description, but the consequences of such an attitude is the situation in which the planet, and all its inhabitants, now finds itself in; it has reached the point where we must urgently learn to live sustainable, or very soon discover that we are no longer welcome on Mother Earth.
That is not the view of most traditional peoples. They see us as intrinsically connected to the natural world. To Maori the ability of plants to heal very much is a consequence of our connection to them, through whakapapa, through descent from a common parent, Tane. To be able to share in the gifts of the world of Tane one must get to know that extended family, and our connections within it.
It is worth noting that the plants most used for medicine are to be found in the regenerating fringe of the forest. The plants that heal the land can also heal us, who belong to the land. That in itself is an indication of what there healing properties might be.
The advice given to people wishing to learn rongoa Maori, in particular wai rakau, the traditional uses of the trees and plants as medicine, is to spend as much time as possible in the forest. People, wise people with much knowledge may help us, but the first teacher, real teacher is Tane himself. It is in his wananga that we must immerse ourselves. By doing this we may better understand what the old people might like to share with us, and in our own way be better able to adapt their knowledge to the needs of our ever changing world, a world very different from that in which the people we look to as our teachers and guides first began their journey of learning. Like any living knowledge, rongoa Maori is constantly re-expressing itself to meet the changing needs of the world it serves.
The changing forest
But it is a very different forest today to that from which rongoa Maori was first derived. The healing trees have largely vanished from the landscape. They have been eaten out by introduced animals, farm animals, animals introduced for sport and recreation, and the inevitable pests that follow wherever people migrate. The regenerating margins, once rich in rongoa, are now more often than not dominated by a host of exotic weed species; the waters that once healed are too polluted to use. It is sad to hear kaumatua advising their people, bringing babies to be baptized or sick to be healed in traditional healing springs, to be careful to make sure that no water splashes into the faces and eyes. The healing waters, te wai ora, have become too polluted to be safe for such rituals. Little gullies with bush remnants are home to truckloads of household and farm rubbish; the local landfill is too expensive or too much of a bother; it is easy to find a free dump, just out of sight, on somebody else’s land. Where do we find our healing plants? Where is there are safe place we can go to look for the gifts they may bring?
Is it any wonder that traditional healers are losing heart and their knowledge passing with them. So much is symptomatic of a society in decline, a nation that has polluted its own nest, and yet still claims the rights to do so.
We can go to the bush for something else now. We can go there to hear the land crying, sighing wind through balding trees, deprived of the song of the birds that once lived there. How can we claim to be so environmentally friendly when we have takahi-ed, tarnished, such a beautiful land.
We are so obsessed with our own troubles, our own ill-health, the sicknesses that plague us; we commit our lives to healing each other, where even in New Zealand, mother Earth is becoming too unwell to sustain us.
Our first patient must be the land itself; if we can heal the land we will have healed ourselves.
The third starting point: medicines of the land
This is something that was not part of that original direction given to me by kaumatua from the Whanganui River; it is a very fundamental principle of herbal medicine, and very much endorsed by traditional Maori healers:
“To find your healing you must look to what the land provides”.
For us in New Zealand it means obviously, use what New Zealand, Aotearoa me te Waipounamu, provides. We don’t need to look to another country for our healing plants; look around, everything we need is within reach.
I find this aspect of the way most herbalists I know in New Zealand work quite extraordinary; they seem to utilize herbal medicines from e very corner of the globe, and quickly embrace yet another wonder herb whenever it becomes available. Nor is this confined to New Zealand practice; some years ago I was at a conference in Australia; in the course of four days of very impressive presentations there was only one which focused on Australian native species. Yet the tangata whenua of Australia have a very rich and long standing tradition in the use of their own plants. It seems that New Zealander and Australian herbalists are very loyal to their colonial roots; this new land has nothing to offer that is better than what we have brought with us from home. And even though the reach of modern herbal practice has spread the emphasis is still very much on the distant and exotic. Is it time we starting looking at herb miles? We talk about natural medicines but how natural is it to fly in our herbs from so far away, when we have yet to really explore what this land has to offer.
There is of course a matter of Wai 262, the Flora and Fauna Claim currently being considered by the Waitangi Tribunal. After years of hearings and delays the hearings have finally finished, the Government has delivered its response, and the Tribunal is in the process of preparing its report to Government and the claimants.
The claim arose out of concerns that overseas companies were claiming ownership rights over some New Zealand indigenous species. There was also the concern that successive New Zealand Governments had signed international protocols such as the GATT agreement which gave individuals and companies of signatory countries some rights of access to taonga, among them New Zealand flora and fauna, which were guaranteed to Maori, as set out in Article 2 of the Treaty, unless Maori themselves had decided to relinquish ownership.
The implications to manufacturers of products utilizing New Zealand flora are obvious. The major concern was the exploitation of New Zealand species for profit, without reference to Maori, and in a way that excluded Maori from having some share in the benefits.
But there is a more fundamental issue; commercial harvesting and manufacturing can affect the mauri of the plant. To Maori the mauri is the source of its ability to heal. They consider that in order to protect and benefit from its healing powers that mauri must be respected and cared for. They see themselves as kaitiaki, guardians, and protectors of that mauri. Kaitiakitanga is about care, not use. Kaitiakitanga sets the boundaries to ensure that the mauri of the plant continues to thrive.
Plenty of people want to share in access to New Zealand plants for medicine, but not so many want to share in the responsibility of caring for them. They see New Zealand flora as a resource to be developed and exploited, not as a treasure, a taonga, to be cared for and shared.
Healing or staying healthy
One final starting point as we prepare our contribution towards a sustainable future. The modern lifestyle is like living in a permanent polar summer; the sun never goes down, and there is never a winter. We don’t slow down when winter approaches as we should, and prepare for the rest we have earned for what we have achieved in the growing, ripening and harvesting seasons. We just turn on the lights, turn up the heaters, and carry on as if it were still the long days of mid summer. We drive ourselves, we push ourselves, and when we do get a break too many look for an opportunity to party, twelve months of the year. When our bodies start to protest, to breakdown, we look for supplements to boost our flagging production, and healing to repair us on the run.
How can we expect to look after our planet when we treat ourselves with so little feeling or respect? Maybe our abuse of the planet is a reflection of our abuse of ourselves. We need to follow the rhythms of the seasons; there is a time for everything, the Bible tells us.
We could spend days sharing our knowledge about the healing power of the herbs we treasure, and profit greatly from that. We need to do that; that is what has brought us together for this weekend. But we need the wisdom of the past to temper our enthusiasm and urgency for the future. We must remind ourselves of that. The first purpose of herbs is to keep us healthy and well; they are not meant to be something we turn to mostly when we have become unwell. We promote them because they help us to stay healthy, not because they are a more natural and still effective alternative for what mainstream medicine may have to offer.
To do this well we must let them teach us; we must follow them through their seasons, and when they rest, we will find time to renew the connections that make us who we are, and to share the knowledge that has been passed down to us. Winter is a time of storytelling, sharing dreams and rediscovering the vision of what this world could become.
We are people who share much traditional knowledge. We must remember that the role of such people in traditional societies is to add wisdom to the knowledge that has been gathered. I think our world needs that wisdom even more than it needs our knowledge of herbs. Listen to what the plants are saying; listen to the quiet voice within us; they both will speak to us if we learn to be silent.
© Robert McGowan
Reproduced with permission
Robert McGowan has published a book “Rongoa Maori, a practical guide to traditional Maori Medicine”. Copies of his book (costing $15.00 incl. GST, packing and postage) may be obtained from:
213 Waitao Road