• This mum turned to traditional herbal remedies when she ran out of options to treat her daughter's itchy skin (Facebook)Source: Facebook
Through her Māori heritage, Michele Wilson learned to forage for medicinal herbs.
By
Bianca Soldani

4 Oct 2016 - 2:10 PM  UPDATED 4 Oct 2016 - 2:10 PM

New Zealand mum of two Michele Wilson, is introducing the world to traditional Māori medicine.

The Tainui iwi woman, 32, turned to herbal remedies, or Rongoa, from her Māori heritage as a natural way to ease her 19-month-old daughter’s eczema.

"I tried everything on the market, natural and non-natural, and it was actually my father who asked if I was interested in looking at how Māori used to deal with skin irritation," Wilson tells SBS.

"He told me that Kawakawa had been traditionally used by my ancestors to help to treat skin conditions."

Together they went into the bush near Wilson's father's home on the north island to forage for Kawakawa using traditional techniques.

"The Rongoa way of foraging is to have a lot of respect for the forest and it’s the idea that the bush and the native New Zealand plants are also our ancestors," Wilson explains.

"We have a lot of really old, native New Zealand bush that has been around for hundreds of years so it’s the idea that those trees and that forest and that bush was around at the same time as our ancestors and was used by our ancestors to feed them, it was their medicine, it was their everything, so it's really sacred to Māori."

With great respect, Wilson uses Karakia, Māori prayer, and asks for permission to take the leaves, explaining why she's taking them as she does. An integral part of the foraging process is also giving back, and Wilson moves seedlings along from the native trees to help it grow in its natural environment. 

While she hadn't previously studied Rongoa, Wilson learned how to apply traditional Māori techniques to infuse the Kawakawa leaves into a balm and found the result worked wonderfully in easing her child's itchy and irritated skin.

It was so effective in fact, that the former lawyer  has since developed it into a commercial product after people in her local community became interested in the idea.

A clinical trial of her Frankie Apothecary balm - named after her daughter - is now in the works, and Wilson has already expanded internationally with customers as far afield as Denmark.

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