La’au Lapa’au

La’au lapa’au = Hawaiian herbal medicine.

A kahuna la’au lapa’au is a traditional Hawaiian herbalist.
Starting from the age of five, a kahuna was trained by an elder in the disciplines of botany, pharmacology and medicine.

In addition to prescribing herbs for internal ingestion and topical application, kahunas would frequently utilize other methods for healing.
Amongst these included:
~ steaming in a tent made of hau {hibiscus – Hibiscus tiliaceus} branches: hot stones were placed inside the tent and splashed with water to create a steam chamber {“puholoholo”}.
~ wrapping the body in ti {Cordyline fructicosa} or ‘ape {taro – Colocasia escualenta} leaves to induce sweating.
~ sunning, typically employed for sore tendons, muscles, and joints; juice from the leaf of popolo {American nightshade – Solanum americanum} might be applied to the afflicted area beforehand.
~ immersing in fresh or salt water: sometimes a lei of limu kala {a type of seaweed – Sargassum} was worn into the ocean and the patient was required to wait until the water carried it away, thereby releasing {“kala”} the person from the illness.

[sourced from Isabella Aiona Abbott: La’au Hawai’i, 1992]

October 29, 2012 by Deanna Ahigian