Landcare Research ethnobotanist Sue Scheele explains how mānuka and kānuka can provide welcome relief in more ways than one
We’ve all heard about mānuka honey and its antibacterial potency, but trampers can make good use of the leaves and capsules too.
The leaves make a refreshing and pleasant tasting tea. Take a couple of twigs or leaves and put them into a billy of boiling water. Leave for a minute or so (too long and the tea is bitter), then remove the twigs, drink and enjoy.
To treat a sore stomach or diarrhoea, chew several seed capsules and swallow the saliva (spit out the hard seeds). You can also make a strong tea or infusion using the capsules and twigs.
Although a distinct species, kānuka can be used in the same way. The two plants are often confused. Mānuka leaves are harsh and prickly while kānuka leaves are quite soft.
The small, creamy-white flowers of kānuka are borne in clusters towards the end of twigs, whereas the pure white, single mānuka flowers are scattered over the bush.
Woody seed capsules are evident on mānuka at any time of the year, and the branches are typically covered with sooty mould.
Both plants are common and widespread.