Whether you mark the arrival of spring by the calendar date of 1st or September or last weekend’s Vernal Equinox, this year the season seems to have burst forth with flowers and new growth all over the place. The local ducks are walking around with their baby ducklings and the tui and grey warblers have returned to our local forest.
One of the variety of flowers that have taken my notice this year are on the kūmarahou, kūmerahou or pāpapa (Pomaderris kumerahou) plant, which is native to the top half of the North Island of New Zealand. At this time of year, the plant has masses of pretty, little, creamy yellow flowers and is said to traditionally mark the coming of kūmara (sweet potato) planting season.
So often plants make themselves known just at the time of year that we need them. In spring, even though the days are getting longer, the weather is often at it’s wildest and spring colds seem to do the rounds. Kūmarahou has a long traditional use as a Rongoā and herbal medicine plant for the treatment of respiratory complaints including coughs, bronchitis and as a general tonic. It is often included in NZ made cough mixtures.
Kūmarahou has been used topically for rashes and wounds. The saponins in the plant have another useful application - by rubbing the flowers between the palms of your hands with a little water you quickly create soapy bubbles to effectively clean your hands. I remember being shown this with the leaves too in my Girl Guide days and being amazed that bubbles could appear from leaves! We told the European name was “gum diggers” soap.
Kūmarahou has also been used to make a type of home brew or paikaka by both Maori and Pākehā. There is a recipe for this in “Māori Healing and Herbal – Murdoch Riley, 2010” which sounds quite interesting. If you have tried making this, let me know in the comments whether or not it is worth experimenting with 😊.
As always, this is general information and not to be taken as direct advice. For a more personalised approach, either click the “Book Now” button to book a consultation with me or contact your local registered Naturopath or other Health and Wellness professional
Phytomed Medicinal Herbs Ltd. (n.d). Herbal Monograph: Kumerahou (Kumarahou) (Pomaderris kumerahou: P.elliptica). Retrieved from Phytomed Medicinal Herbs Ltd: https://www.phytomed.co.nz/site/phytomed/Kumerahou%20monograph.pdf
Riley, M. (2010). Māori healing and herbal. Paraparaumu, New Zealand: Viking Sevenseas NZ Ltd.
Well here we are at April and the weather is sending us an early reminder that winter is fast approaching. It’s time to start looking at how you can support your immune system to help you fight off the season’s colds and flu.
As always, the best place to start is with good nutrition. I know this may sound a bit clichéd and repetitive, but, reducing processed foods and sugars, increasing the amount of lovely colourful vegetables you eat and adding in some fruit really is a great place to start.
During winter, nature provides us with beautiful fruits that are full of vitamin C and other antioxidants that our immune system just loves. Seasonal fruits like the citrus family – oranges, mandarins, lemons, grapefruit and kiwifruit are all good sources (hold off on the grapefruit if you are taking statins for cholesterol control or other medication with a warning about grapefruit). Frozen berries are another great source of vitamin C and other antioxidants which can be easily added to smoothies or thawed and eaten with yoghurt. Take care with fruit juices as they can contain high amounts of sugar – fruit is best eaten whole. If you have a lot of stress in your life, are very physically active, or have issues with adrenal fatigue you may benefit from taking a vitamin C supplement to support your adrenal glands, which can take a hammering during any stress including illness.
Zinc is another element that is important for our immune system. Oysters are one of the best sources of zinc, however if you are not keen on these - or don’t have the budget of the rich and famous for more than an occasional indulgence - then beef, lamb, pork, whole grains, nuts and pumpkin seeds are good sources too.
Herbs are a traditional and effective method of improving our immunity, both directly and indirectly by supporting other systems. One of the most famous is Echinacea, which is found in a number of over the counter remedies. Echinacea has been shown to prevent acute infections and to stimulate the immune response. Withania is also a well-known adaptogen that helps our bodies to cope with stress and also supports the immune system. Liquorice can assist with supporting the adrenals glands during times of stress. Keeping our stress levels under control is important in reducing the risk of illness and infections. Talk to a qualified Naturopath or Herbalist to determine which herbs are right for you, as some do have contraindications.
Vitamin D – the sunshine vitamin! This is a very important component of our immune systems, central nervous systems and is important for bone health. Many Kiwis have low levels of vitamin D, which is a downside of the sun protection message to avoid skin cancer in this part of the world. Generally GPs will not test vitamin D levels as it is cheaper to prescribe a supplement than it is to do the blood test.
Winter, with its short daylight hours, is the season when many animals hunker down and rest. We should also take the hint and make the time to rest too because our bodies do their best repair work when we are resting and sleeping. Often our modern lifestyles and the winter weather mean we are as busy as ever and so we compensate for lack of daylight with artificial lighting and rarely venture outside. Our bodies have evolved to react to natural sunshine that changes spectrum throughout the day. Early morning light helps us to wake up, sunset light tells our bodies it is time to go to sleep. At this time of year, we often miss those cues – how many times do you hear people say “I leave for work in the dark and get home in the dark”? This can mess up our circadian rhythm, leaving us tired, run down with depleted vitamin D and prone to catching the latest lurgy. For some people it can cause Seasonal Affective Disorder.
“So what can I do about it?” you may ask.