Hawaiian Medicinal Plants

KENNETH M . NAGATA  1
Assistant in Horticulture, Harold L. Lyon Arboretum

Honolulu, Hawaii. Submitted for publication 13 April 1970.
Reprinted with permission from Society for Economic Botany

 

The Hawaiian flora has long been considered to be one of the most distinctive in the world. Hawaii is probably the most isolated archipelago in the world, 2,000 miles from the nearest high islands, (Marquesas Islands), 600 miles from the nearest low island, (Johnston Island), and 2,100 miles from the nearest continent, (North America).  This isolation and subsequent floral speciation has resulted in a flora of remarkably high endemism. Fosberg (4) calculated 94.4% of the 1,729 native species and varieties of seed plants to be unique to Hawaii, and Chock (2) states that 62.5% of the 226 species and varieties of native mosses are endemic to Hawaii. Dr. Maxwell Doty in Chock (2) claims 13% of the 420 species of marine algae to be strictly Hawaiian and, while recent studies indicate no evidence of endemism in Hawaiian fungi (1, 2, 9), 38% of the 678 species of lichens are endemic (6).  While the original settlers of Hawaii undoubtedly brought many important food and medicinal plants along with them, for in-stance the coconut (Cocos nucifera), the “ti” or “ki” (Cordyline terminalis), and the sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas), they also learned to utilize the native flora. They like-wise exploited the later introductions of ‘”awa” (Piper methysticum) and guava (Psidium guajava) and the even more re-cent introduction of the pagoda flower (Clerodendrum buchananii var. fallax), onion (Allium cepa) and eucalyptus (Eucalyptus spp.).

The following is a compilation of plants which are known to have been used by the Hawaiians for medicinal purposes and includes introduced species as well as many endemics. It was derived primarily from the Kaaiakamanu and Akina publication (5) and expanded by other sources (2, 3, 7, 8). Its purpose is to present a list oriented according to the current botanical binomials (Table I). Since the Hawaiians often had different uses for different varieties of the same species (for instance in Musa), the Hawaiian names are retained. In several cases, the Latin name could not be found for the available Hawaiian name. These are numerated in Table II.

 

Literature Cited

1. Anastasiou, C. J. 1964. "Some aquatic Fungi Imperfecti from Hawaii." Pacific Sci. 18: 202-206.

2. Chock, A. K. 1968. Hawaiian Ethnobotanical Studies 1: Native Food and Beverage Plants. Econ. Bot. 22: 221-238.

3. Doty, Maxwell. Unpublished listing of Hawaiian Algae. (Professor of Botany, University of Hawaii.)

4. Fosberg, F. R. 1948. Derivation of the flora of the Hawaiian Islands in Zimmerman, E. C. Insects of Hawaii. I: 107-119. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu.

5. Kaaiakamanu, D. M. & J. K. Akina. 1922. Hawaiian herbs of medicinal value, found among the mountains and else where in the Hawaiian Islands and known to the Hawaiians to possess curative and palliative properties most effective in removing physical ailments. Territory of Hawaii Board of Health, Honolulu. 77 pp.

6. Magnusson, A. H. 1955. A catalogue of the Hawaiian lichens. Ark. Bot., Ser. 2 band 3 (10):223-402.

7. Neal, M.C. 1965. In Gardens of Hawaii. Special Publication 50, Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu. 924 pp.

8. Pukui, M. K. & S. H. Elbert. 1965. Hawaiian-English Dictionary. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu. 370 pp.

9. Sparrow, F. K. 1965. The occurrence of Physoderma in Hawaii with notes on other Hawaiian Phycomycetes. Mycopath. Mycol. Appl. 25: 119-143.

Note: The following tables have been modified from Nagata (1970) to include Flowering Plant Families (APG, 1998) and corrected mispellings of several scientific names.

Table I. Hawaiian Medicinal Plants.

Family

Name of Plant

Hawaiian Name

Part used

Medicinal use

APIACEAE

Hydrocotyle verticillata

HINAHINA

Plant

Weakness of body, lung troubles,

Peucedanum sandwicense

MAKOU

Bark

Expectant mother

APOCYNACEAE

Alyxia olivaeformis

MAILE-KUAHIWI

Vine

Sweat bath, skin blotches

Alyxia olivaeformis var.

MAILE-KALUHEA

Vine

Ulcers, sores

 

Bleekeria sandwicensis
(Ochrosia sp.)

HOLEI

Meat

General debility

 

Catharanthus roseus

KIHAPAI

Bark

Purifying blood

 

Nerium indicum

'OLIWA or 'OLIANA

Bark

Weaknesses of the body, skin diseases,

cuts

ARACEAE

Alocasia macrorrhiza

'APE KE'OKE'O

Corm

Burns, love making by “kahunas” stomach ache

Colocasia esculenta

KALO; TARO

Corm

Laxative

Xanthosoma violaceum

'APE-'ELE'ELE

Entire plant

Worms

ARALIACEAE

Cheirodendron gaudichaudii

'OLAPA

Bark

Asthma

ARECACEAE

Cocos nucifera

NIU

Shoots, ashes of dry meat

Deep cuts, general debility, rubbing compound, swollen womb

Pritchardia hillebrandii

LOULU-LELO

Bud, meat of seed

General body weakness

ASTERACEAE

Adenostemma lavenia

KAMANAMANA

Leaves

Fever

Artemisia australis var. scholsiana

'AHINAHINA

Leaves, trunk, roots

Fever, asthma, lung trouble

Bidens spp.

KO'OKO'OLAU

Flowers

General debility, stimulating appetite,

asthma

Conyza spp.

ILIOHA

Plant

Sore lip, burning within chest

Wikstroemia spp.

'AKIA LAU-NUI

Plant

Asthma, used for laxative

Xanthium strumarium var. canadense

KIKANIA

Ashes of leaves

Asthma, sores, boils, ulcers

BALSAMINACEAE

Impatiens balsamina

'OLEPE

Entire plant

Ulcers

BIXACEAE

Bixa orellana

'ALAEA

Dry wood

Fainting, sore mouth, impure blood

BOMBACACEAE=
MALVACEAE

Kokia spp.

KOKI'O

Leaves, buds

Constipation, purifying blood

BORAGINACEAE

Heliotropium anomalum var. argenteum

LIMU-LIPOA-KUAHIWI

Flowers and leaves

General debility, lung trouble, sexual and other vital organs

BRASSICACEAE

Nasturtium officinale

LEKO-'ELE'ELE; LEKO-KE'OKE'O

Entire plant

Asthma, head cold, throat

BROMELIACEAE

Ananas comosus

HALA-KAHIKI

Fruit

Purifying blood

CACTACEAE

Opuntia magacantha

PA-NINI

Juice, roots

Expectant mother, constipation

CAMPANULACEAE

Clermontia arborescens

'OHA-WAI-NUI

Sap from shrub

Deep cuts, asthma, restoring milk

in dry breasts

CAPPARACEAE=
BRASSICACEAE

Capparis sandwichiana

PUA-PILO

Entire plant

Broken bones

CARICACEAE

Carica papaya

HE'I

Papaya milk

Cuts

CHENOPODIACEAE=
AMARANTHACEAE

Chenopodium oahuense;
C. album

'AHEA; 'AHEAHEA; 'AHEWA- HEWA; ALAWEO; AWEOWEO

Flower Buds

Stomach trouble, Weakness in children, fattening

COMMELINACEAE

Commelina diffusa

MAKOLOKOLO; HONOHONO

Plant

Purifying blood

CONVOLVULACEAE

Ipomoea alba

KOALI-PEHU

Entire plant

Laxative

 

Ipomoea batatas

'UALA-HUA-MOA
'UALA-KIHI
'UALA-MOHIHI
'UALA-MU-KO-I

'UALA-APO

'UALA-PIKONUI

'UALA-PI-API-A

'UALA-KAHALAORAIPU

'UALA-KALA

'UALA-LEHUA

Bulb

Vomiting
Asthma
Vomiting

Constipation
Vomiting
Fallen womb
Vomiting
Vomiting
Vomiting
Laxative
Asthma

 

Ipomoea congesta

KOALI-'AWAHIA

Entire plant

Laxative, backaches, broken bones

 

Ipomoea pes-caprae

POHUEHUE

Plant

Expectant mother

 

Ipomoea tuberosa

PILI-KAI

Plant

Laxative

 

Jacquemontia sandwicensis

PA'U-0-HI'I-AKA; KAKUA-0-

HI'I-AKA

Plant

Weakness of the body in babies

 

Stictocardia campanulata

PILI-KAI

Plant

Laxative

CUCURBITACEAE

Citrullus vulgaris

IPU-HAOLE

Entire fruit

Laxative

 

Cucurbita maxima

IPU-PU

Entire fruit

Rash

 

Lagenaria siceraria

IPU-'AWA'AWA

Leaves

Partial insanity due to lack of sleep, laxative

CYPERACEAE

Cyperus auriculatus

MAU'U PU'UKA'A

Bud, leaves, roots

Aches

 

Cyperus javanicus

'AHU-AWA

Stem with flowers

General debility

 

Cyperus laevigatus

MAKALOA

Plant

Difficulty in discharging urine

 

Scirpus validus

'AKA'AKAI-NAKU; NEKI

Root

Pain of stomach or intestines, and

for internal homorrhage

DIOSCOREACEAE

Dioscorea alata

UHI-KE'OKE'0
UHl-'ULA

Bulb
Piece of plant

Fever
Constipation

EPACRIDACEAE=
ERICACEAE

Styphelia tameiameia

PUKIAWE; MAIELE; 'A'ALI'I-MAKU

2-leaf bud

Cold, headache

EUPHORBIACEAE

Aleurites moluccana

KUKUI

Flowers, nuts, bark

General debility, asthma, sores, ulcers, swollen womb, laxative

 

Antidesma pulvinatum

HA'A

Leaves

Vomiting, ulcers, scrofulous sores

 

Euphorbia multiformis

'AKOKO

Bud, leaf

General debility

 

Ricinus communis

KOLI

Leaves

Fever

FABACEAE

Acacia koa

KOA

Leaves

Bedridden persons

 

Acacia koaia

KOAI'A

Leaves

Diseased skin

 

Caesalpinia crista

KALALAIOA

Meat of bean

Laxative, purifying blood, congestion

 

Canavalia cathartica

MAUNA-LOA

Leaves, roots, seeds

Cuts, purifying blood, worms, skin

diseases

 

Canavalia galeata

'AWIKIWIKI

Entire plant

Itch, ringworm and kindred skin

diseases

 

Erythrina sandwicensis

WILIWILI

Flower

Venereal diseases

 

Indigofera suffruticosa

'INIKO

Entire plant

Rheumatic pain, backache, womb

 

Mucuna gigantea

KA'E'E

Meat of seed

Laxative

 

Sesbania grandiflora

'OHAI-KE'OKE'O

Bark

Fever

 

Sida fallax

'ILIMA; 'ILIMA-KU-KULA
'ILIMA-MAKANA'A

Flowers
Entire plant

General debility, womb, asthma

 

Sophora chrysophylla

MAMANE

Flowers

Astringent

 

Vigna marina

'OKOLE-MAKILI; NANEA; MOHIHIHI

Buds, leaves, flowers

General weakness, asthma, boils

 

Vitex trifolia var. simplicifolia

POHINAHINA; KOLOKOLO- KAHAKAI

Seeds, tea from

leaves and wood

Pains in back, swollen feet, rheumatism, bath

GESNERIACEAE

Cyrtandra spp.

HA'I-WALE; KANAWAO-KE'OKE'O

Fruit

Weak physical condition

GOODENIACEAE

Scaevola spp.

NAUPAKA

Bark of roots

Cuts, skin diseases

LAURACEAE

Cassytha filiformis

KAUNA'OA-UKA

Entire plant

Congestion


LILIACEAE

Allium cepa common variety

'AKA'AKAl

Bulb

Tuberculosis, colds, venereal diseases

 


Allium cepa var.

'AKA'AKAI-KIKANIA

Bulb

Ear trouble

 


Allium cepa-wild var.

'AKA'AKAI-MAHINA

Bulb

Sore throat

 

Cordyline terminalis

KI; TI

Flower

Growth in nostrils, asthma, dry

fever, run-down condition

 

Dracaena aurea

HALA-PEPE

Bud, bark

Chills, fever, lung trouble, asthma


MALVACEAE


Abutilon molle


MA’O

Flowers,
bark of roots

Stomach ache

 

Hibiscus tiliaceus

'AWAPUHI-KE'OKE'O

Buds

Laxative, congested chest, childbirth,

 

Hibiscus youngianus

HINAHINA-KU-KAHAKAI;

Flower

dry throat

MORACEAE

Artocarpus communis

'ULU

Sap from tree

Cuts, scratches, scaly or cracked skin, ulcers

MUSACEAE

Musa spp.

MAI'A-LELE

MAI'A-MAOLI

MAI'A-IHO-LENA

MAI'A-KOA'E

MAI'A-HA'A
MAI'A-MANAI-ULA

MAI'A-POPO-'ULU

MAI'A-POPO-'ULU-ILI'LAHl

Bud, flower
Fruit

Roots, shoot

Fruit
Bud
Fruit
Roots, shoot
Fruit

Body weakness
Stomach cramps
Stomach disorders
Constipation
Internal disorders
Asthma
Asthma or chest ailments
Worms

Musa spp.

MAI'A-PUAPUA-NUI

Bud

General weakness of body

MYRTACEAE

Eucalyptus spp.

NUHOLANI

Leaves

Sweat bath, sores, sprains, backaches,

rheumatic pains, cuts

 

Eugenia malaccensis

'OHI'A-'AI

Bark

Sores of the mouth, general debility

 

Eugenia spp.

'OHI'A

Leaves, buds, bark, and roots

Cuts, general debility, bad breath,

and sores about the mouth

 

Metrosideros polymorpha

'OHI'A-APANE; 'OHI'A-LEHUA

Flowers

Aiding in childbirth

 

Metrosideros spp.

'AHIHI; 'AHIHI-KU-MA-KUA

Leaf

Colds

 

Psidium guajava

KUAWA

Buds

Deep cuts, sprains, diarrhea

NYCTAGINACEAE

Boerhavia diffusa

ALENA

Roots

Diuretic

Mirabilis jalapa

NANI-AKIAHI

Leaves

Rash, sores

ONAGRACEAE

Jussiaea suffruticosa var. ligustraefolia

KAMOLE-LAU-NUI

KAMOLE-LAU-LI'I

Seeds
Plant

Small cuts, scratches
Purifying blood

OXALIDACEAE

Oxalis corniculata

‘IHI-'AI

Entire plant

General debility

Oxalis martiana

'IHI-PEHU

Entire plant

General debility

PANDANACEAE

Freycinetia arborea

'IE'IE

Stems

General debility, fever

Pandanus odoratissimus

HALA

Flower

Constipation, weakness because of giving birth to large number of

children, chest pains

PAPAVERACEAE

Argemone glauca

PUA-KALA

Sap of plant

Toothache, neuralgia, ulcers

PIPERACEAE

Peperomia spp.

'ALA'ALA-WAI-NUI-KANE 'ALA'ALA-WAI-POHINA

Bud
Leaves, stems

Asthma
General debility, scrofulous swellings,

ulcers

Piper methysticum

'AWA

Leaves, bark, roots

General debility, weary muscles, chill, colds, headaches, lung and kindred troubles, displacement of womb

PITTOSPORACEAE

Pittosporum spp.

HO'AWA

Bark
Fruit

Swelling

Sores

PLANTAGINACEAE

Plantago major

LAU-KAHI; KUHEKILI

Leaves

General debility, pulmonary diseases,

physically weak, boils, high blood pressure

PLUMBAGINACEAE

Plumbago zeylanica

'ILIE'E

Leaves, stems

Swelling, sores


POACEAE


Cenchrus calyculatus


KAMANOMANO

Shoots, leaves, roots

Sores, cuts

 

Coix lacryma-jobi

PU'OHE'OHE

Leaves

Diabetes

 

Digitaria henryi;
D. puriens;
D. sanguinalis;
D. timorensis

KUKAE-PUA'A

Shoots

Run-down condition, cataract

 

Paspalum orbiculare

MAU'U-LAIKI

Plant

Skin diseases

 

Saccharum officinarum

KO

Shoot

Cuts

 

Saccharum officinarum (variegated var.)

'AINA-KEA

Cane

Internal difficulties of the male

 

Sporobolus virginicus

'AKI'AKI

Leaf and stem

Excessive catamenia

POLYGONACEAE

Rumex giganteus

PAWALE

Plant

Purifying blood, leprosy, consumption, heart disease, weakness of body, conditioning mother for pregnancy

RHAMNACEAE

Alphitonia ponderosa

KAUILA; KAUWILA

Wood

Fainting, skin contraction owing to fear

ROSACEAE

Fragaria chiloensis

'OHELO-PAPA

Shoots, leaves, and berries

Stomach ache

 

Osteomeles anthyllidifolia

'ULEI; ELUEHE

Buds, seeds

General debility

 

Rubus hawaiiensis;
R. macraei

'AKALA; 'AKALAKALA

Ashes of plant

Scaly scalp, burning in chest, vomiting

RUBIACEAE

Bobea spp.

'AHAKEA

Bark

Blood purifying, ulcers

Morinda citrifolia

NONI

Fruit

Deep cuts

RUTACEAE

Pelea cinerea

MANENA

Bark

Venereal diseases

Pelea spp.

ALANI-KUAHIWI

Leaves

Beauty remedy, general debility,

purifying blood

SANTALACEAE

Santalum spp.

'IHI-AHI

Leaves

Removing dandruff and for destroying

SAPINDACEAE

Dodonaea spp.

A'ALI'I

Leaf

Rash, itch

SAPOTACEAE

Pouteria sandwicensis

'ALA'A

Bark, leaves

General debility, fever

SAXIFRAGACEAE

Broussaisia arguta;
B. palludosa

KANAWAO

Fruit

Aid to conception

Broussonetia papyrifera

WAUKE

Bark

Expectant mother

SOLANACEAE

Capsicum annuum

NIOI

Plant

Skin diseases, scrofulous sores,

asthma, bad blood

 

Datura stramonium

KIKANIA

Ashes from leaves

Asthma, sores, boils, ulcers

 

Nicotiana glauca;
N. tabacum

PAKA

Leaf

Sores, boils, cuts

 

Nothocestrum breviflorum;
N. latifolium;
N. longifolium;
N. peltatum;
N. subcordatum

'AIEA or HALENA

Ripe leaves, bark
and tap-root

Ulcers, scrofulous sores

 

Solanum nigrum

POPOLO

Leaves, stems, fruit

Sprains

STERCULIACEAE=
MALVACEAE

Waltheria americana

'UHA-LOA; HI'ALOA;
'ALA'ALA-PU-LOA

Buds, bark of roots

Sore throat, asthma, run-down condition, loss of weight

URTICACEAE

Pipturus spp.

MAMAKI

Meat of seed

General debility, expectant mother

VERBENACEAE

Clerodendrum buchananii var. fallax

'AHI-HI or LAU'AWA

Bud, root

Constipation

Porphyra leucosticta

LIMU-LU'AU

Weed

Chest ailments

ZINGIBERACEAE

Curcuma domestica

'OLENA

Bulb

Growth in nostrils, cleansing blood,

gargle

 

Hedychium coronarium

LIMU-MANAUEA

Flower and root

Fetid nostrils

 

Zingiber zerumbet

'AWAPUHI-KUAHIWI

Ashes of leaves

Cuts, skin sores, headaches,toothache, ringworm

Table II. Unidentified Medicinal Plants.

Name of Plant

Hawaiian Name of Plant

Part Used

Medicinal Use

?

IWA-IWA                        

Leaves  

Beauty remedy for children up to 6 months old

?

Kalaipahoa—name for 3 woods:

KAUILA                      

NIUI

'OHE

Wood

Ulcers, scrofulous sores, asthma

?

HAPUE                              

Flowers, leaves,

buds, roots       

Constipation

?

LUMAHA'I

Bud, fruit

Purifying blood

?

MAKIAWAHINE 

Plant

Skin diseases

?

MOKUHALII

Tea from plant 

Cold, fever, sweat bath

?

NAUNAU

Plant

Broken bones

Table III. FERNS and FERN ALLIES
 

Name of Plant

Hawaiian Name of Plant

Part Used

Medicinal Use


PTERIDOPHYTA


Adiantum capillus-veneris

'IWA-'IWA KAHAKAHA

Leaves

Sores

 

Adiantum spp.

'IWA'IWA

Leaves

Sores

 

Asplenium horridum

'IWA

Leaves, roots

Stomach trouble

 

Asplenium nidus

'EKAHA KUAHIWI

Shoots

General weakness, ulcers, sores

 

Aspleniuni nidus var.

'EKAHAKAHA

Shoots

Asthma, halitosis

 

Athyrium arnottii

HO'I'O; POHOLE

Shoots

Boils

 

Athyrium microphyllum

'AKOLEA

Bud, trunk

Restore lost appetite

 

Cibotium splendens

HAPU'U

Meat within trunk

Purification of blood, stimulating

appetite

 

Cyrtomium caryotideum

'AHINA-KUAHIWI; KA'APE'APE

Entire plant

General debility, stomach trouble

 

Microlepia setosa

PALAPALAI

Plant

Insanity

 

Sadleria spp.

'AMA'U

Trunk, shoots

Asthma, boils

 

Sadleria hillebrandii

TI; 'AMA'U-'I'I

Stems

Sores, chaffed skin, asthma, halitosis

 

Sphenomeris chusana

PALA'A

Leaves

Constipation

 

Table III. OTHER (SEAWEED and HARD/SOFT CORALS)

ANTIPATHIDAE

Antipathes grandis

'EKAHA-KU-MOANA

Piece of plant

Sores, lung trouble

VALONIACEAE

Dictyosphaeria favulosa

LIMU-LI-PUU-PUU

Weed

Body weakness in children

ULVACEAE

Enteromorpha compressa;
E. intestinalis; Enteromorpha spp.

LIMU-'ELE'ELE-KAI

Weed

White blotches on the skin

GELIDIACEAE

Gelidium filicinum

'AKOKO

Weed

Miscarriage

GRACILARIACEAE

Gracilaria coronopifolia

'OHELO-PAPA

Weed

Miscarriage

FUCACEAE

Haliseris pardalis;
H. plagiogramma

LIMU-MANAUEA

Weed

Mouth sores, especially in children

 

Mezoneuron kauaiense

WLIUKI

Bark, young leaves

Purifying blood

PITHOPHORACEAE

Pithophora affinis

LIMU-LIPALA-WAI

Weed

Congestion

ZYGNEMATACEAE

Spirogyra spp.

LIMU-KALA-WAI

Weed

Burning in chest

CHAETOPHORACEAE

Stigeoclonium falldandicum

LIMU-LIPALA-WAI

Weed

Congestion

DENDROPHYLLIIDAE

Turbinaria

LIMU-KALA-KAI

Weed

Body weakness in children

DICTYOTACEAE

Dictyota acultiloba var. distorta;
D. dichotoma;
D. divaricata

LIMU-LIPOA-KUAHIWI

Weed

Mouth sores, especially with children

DUMONTIACEAE

Laurencia spp.

LIMU-LI-PUU-PUU

Weed

Body weakness in children

HYPNEACEAE

Hypnea armata

LIMU-MANAUEA

Weed

diseases of sexual organs

HYPNEACEAE

Hypnea nidifica

LIMU-MANAUEA

Weed

Disorder in alimentary canal

MONOSROMATACEAE

Monostroma latissimum

LIMU-PAHAPAHA-KAI

Weed (Dried)

Asthma

MONOSROMATACEAE

Monostroma spp.

LIMU-LIPALAHALAHA

Weed

Stomach ache

SARGASSACEAE

Sargassum cymosum
Sargassum echinocarpum;
S. polyphyllum; Sargassum spp.

LIMU-KALA-KAI

Weed

Weakness in small children
Body weakness in children

ULVACEAE

Ulva fasciata

LIMU-LIPALAHALAHA

Weed

Stomach ache, asthma

ULVACEAE

Ulva lactuca;
Ulva spp.

LIMU-LIPALAHALAHA

Weed

Stomach ache

VALONIACEAE

Valonia utricularis

LIMU-LI-PUU-PUU

Weed

Body weakness in children

?

Asparagopsis sanfordiana

LIMU-LIPEHU

Weed

White blotches on skin, rash