Harvesting Kawakawa - Respecting Tikanga and Te Ao Maori

Harvesting Kawakawa - Respecting Tikanga and Te Ao Maori

Koa Organics - Bringing the joy of nature home, respectfully.

The healing power of glorious Kawakawa is simply astounding, and not to be underestimated.

For centuries, Maori have been using Kawakawa as Rongoa (medicine). From consuming in teas and tonics to applying topically for skin ailments and pain relief, there’s a reason: this glorious plant is packed full of healing properties.


Kawakawa respectfully harvested to bring healing balm to your skin

A journey to healing

Koa founder Michelle has always felt an ingrained, spiritual connection with nature - particularly the forest.
From many camping trips in the bush as a child, with only a pup tent and the bare minimum equipment, Michelle learnt to navigate the forest and from a young age has appreciated all that nature has to offer. These fond memories have led to a life of enjoyment in the outdoors - from camping with her own children, to the thrill of mountain biking, and heading to the forest in times where calm and peace in the mind have been needed.
This ingrained, heartfelt connection to the forest one day found Michelle with an intuitive desire to head into the bush.
Surrounded by the peaceful energy of the Ngahere, she found herself soul searching, though she was unsure what was calling her on this day.
Upon walking the forest, she was stopped in her tracks by a gorgeous Kawakawa branch. Fallen to the ground during the previous nights storm, the message it sent was clear. Immediately knew she had found her purpose - to create healing products with natures Rongoa.

The Forest calling Michelle to create healing kawakawa balm for skin ailments like eczema

Harvesting kawakawa, however, is not as simple as taking some leaves from the forest and boiling them into a tea. 

Tikanga Maori (customary practices or traditions) calls for specific rituals to honour the Wairua (spirit) of both the forest and the Kawakawa plant itself.

A powerful medicine given to us from Papatuanuku and Tane Mahuta needs to be respected and handled carefully. Let us tell you the story of Koa - from the forest to your home.

Ma nga manu e arahi - Guided by the birds.

morning hikoi (walk) on a sunny day to the forest clears the mind and offers connection to the Ngahere. Pausing before entering, digital technologies are switched off, and we establish our intentions for this visit. The sounds of the nearby city disappear as we listen intently, guided by the sounds of the birds to find our rakau (tree) for this harvest.

When this rakau is located, it is time to recite a Karakia (prayer). We ask for blessings and give thanks to the Atua (gods) of the Ngahere.

We harvest the leaves facing east - due to their higher potency, this means the plant will heal faster.

The leaves with the most holes have been enjoyed thoroughly by nga Anuhe (caterpillars). While it might seem like these holey leaves should be discarded, this is not so - these caterpillars have shown us which leaves hold the most medicinal properties, and therefore are our first choice for harvest.

It is key not to take many leaves from one tree - respect for these rakau keeps this harvesting a sustainable practice. When the leaves have been harvested and thanks given to these plants, they head home with Michelle to begin their next journey - a transformation into the Koa products you know and love.

A spiritual experience every single time, at Koa there is nothing but gratitude for this incredibly powerful plant and all it has to give.


Harvesting kawakawa must be sustainable and respectful


Key Protocols for Kawakawa Harvesting

While it might sound like a personal preference, there’s a reason these harvests take place in the morning while the sun is shining.

Every aspect of our harvesting process follows traditional protocol, and is well thought out in advance.

We walk to the forest to clear our mind and enter with no emotional or energetic baggage that might interfere with our focus, or be left behind when we leave. It’s important to respect the Wairua of the environment we’re in. This is also why we switch off - any music or digital distractions would take away from the spiritual experience of a Kawakawa harvest.

A sunny morning ensures the plants are at their healthiest, and the sap rises more strongly on the east-facing side of the plant. 

These caterpillars who are kindly showing us which leaves have higher potency are doing the plant a favour, too. 

By selecting these holey, sun-soaked leaves, we’re not only crafting premium, powerful product. We’re also ensuring the plant can heal quickly from where it has gifted us some of its green magic.

Karakia is imperative - Tane Mahuta is kindly gifting us this super-plant, and we’ll never take without giving thanks.


Why we love Kawakawa

Whether used as a tea, tonic, or balm, the benefits of Kawakawa are just incredible.

Known for its antioxidant properties, this gentle and natural medicine helps to detox organs such as the liver, kidneys and lungs. It works wonders on the urinary system and is recognised for assisting in the removal of uric acid build-up which can cause achy joints.

As a balm, Kawakawa is a superhero for skin ailments, from eczema to bites, burns and rashes.

Over and over again, our customers are amazed by how quickly their skin heals - even after having tried many treatments before turning to Kawakawa.

It also makes a wonderful, hydrating and healing lip balm - perfect for summer!

Noho ora mai - Keep well, with Koa Organics.


Koa Organics is a New Zealand Organic Skincare brand, based in Rotorua and shipping nationwide. With organic Kawakawa and Magnesium healing balms, creams, oils and bath soaks, our products provide relief and moments of calm to skin ailments and achy muscles. 

Browse our Kawakawa range of products and bring natures magic home!