Underneath a pohutukawa tree at Hohi Bay on Christmas Eve in 1814, Ruatara and Samuel Marsden established the first Christian Mission in Aotearoa.

The pohutukawa is now the symbolic Christmas tree for Aotearoa. It provides great shade, bursts of red along the northern coastline and also provides healing properties in its bark for deep bruises, fractures and scarring.

Not all native plants however have healing properties. I learned this at the Kahutia wānanga at Morere hot springs last week, organised by Michelle McIlroy and Robert McGowan, who most people know as Pa McGowan, and hosted by Ngati Rakaipaaka.

We learnt that kawakawa was the most used plant for skin infections, respiratory ailments, heart and blood pressure and so on.

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However, the most often used for rongoa was karamu, or karamura, or kara ngunu or kawariki which was used for diabetes prevention, blood disorders, menstrual pains and more. It was the number one healer.

The kohekohe was used for menstrual pain but could also be used to make barren women fertile.

The tutu plant is poisonous to humans and animals at the right time of the year but is the best healing for chronic eczema and other skin ailments.

It has a quick growing root network and is great for stopping river banks from collapsing and road slips.

Korimiko is good for blood disorders, gastric problems and organ cleansing but its root systems are also good for slips and erosion prone areas.

The matai provides berries for kereru, tui and other native birds, but it was also used as a pain killer and to make beer. Mingimingi is good for chest and lung infections and the whole respiratory system.

Manuka and kanuka are good for the digestive system as well as for honey but are also good for cleansing the soils they inhabit.

All in all, I enjoyed a fabulous wānanga and learnt so much in a few hours. But we only scratched the surface and are now ready to explore more opportunities to hold these wānanga throughout the region.

Ruatara and Samuel Marsden used the pohutukawa to celebrate Christmas. Each whānau should plant native trees this Christmas to celebrate our dual or multi heritages and of course Christmas. It's the right thing to do, heal our land, heal our people and heal ourselves.

Have a Happy Christmas and New Year. Meri Kirihimete me te hapi niu ia!

Recloak Papatuanuku 'Kahutia'!

* Ngahiwi Tomoana is Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated's chairman.