Discover the basic of Rongoā Māori healing system


This article covers the origin of Rongoā Māori and how it is practiced. We will have more articles on Rongoā healing in the future, so keep an eye out!

The Rongoā Māori healing system is originated by the indigenous people of New Zealand. But, it is not well studied and understood. Like traditional Chinese medicine, it is doubted by many conventional practitioners. However, Rongoā Māori is on the path to official recognition by Western practice, such as acknowledgment and funding from the New Zealand Ministry of Health. Rongoā Māori is an integral part of the indigenous Māori culture and New Zealand as a whole, so it is important to have a grasp on this subject.

Before we begin to explore the knowledge of Rongoā Māori we must first understand the Māori people and their culture.


Māori people are the indigenous people of Aotearoa (New Zealand). It is said that they came to New Zealand more than 1000 years ago from their mythical Polynesian homeland of Hawaiki. Māoris make up 14% of our population and their history, language and traditions are central to New Zealand’s culture.

The origin story of Maori is traced back to the islands of Eastern Polynesia (Mythical land of Hawaiki), and their journey to New Zealand is said to have occurred in many epic waka (canoe) voyages over a long time. These journeys tell us that Māori people are daring and resourceful adventurers, and are one of the greatest navigating peoples of all time.

FACT: Te Reo (the Māori language) is an official language of the country, along with English and New Zealand Sign Language.


Rongoā Māori is the traditional healing system of Māori. This healing system is based on herbal remedies, physical therapies, and spiritual healing. The healing process is carried out by a Tohunga.

Tohunga is the discipline of traditional healing and name for its practitioners. In Māori history, Tohunga was a very crucial member of the tribe. They were responsible for keeping the harmony of the people as they were given a role to control spirits and hence influenced all aspects of life. If a person was sick, this was viewed as a symptom of disharmony with nature. Before the illness could be treated, Tohunga would first determine what imbalance had occurred. Then Tohunga treated the illness both spiritually and physically.


Rongoā is/was an important aspect of health care to many Māori people. Today it represents the passing on of culture and history and traditional treatment may be sought for many different reasons. For instance, an illness that is not responding to conventional treatment, mental illness and chronic “lifestyle” conditions such as type II diabetes are treated by the Rongoā system.

The Rongoā treatment includes plant remedies, massage (mirimiri) and prayer (karakia). Illness is treated by looking at various aspects of health including spiritual, psychological, emotional, cultural, social, environmental, family and physical health.


Rongoā rākau form an integral part of Rongoā Māori. The plant remedies are based on native plants and are used to heal many conditions such as colds, flu, gastrointestinal problems, aches, and pains. When selecting plants for treatment, plants must be carefully prepared as there are chances of plants being toxic to the body if not used correctly.

It is crucial that correct customs (Tikanga) is used during the collection, preparation, and storage of plant materials. Plant material must be collected from non-polluted areas and prepared safely and hygienically.

During the preparation for Rongoā rākau, plants are usually crushed and dried. It is then mixed with water for it to be ready to be used. It is important that plant remedy is only advised by Tohunga for appropriate use to individual patients.

Materials used to assist in writing this article

- Jones R.G. Rongoā Māori and primary health care. Thesis submitted for the degree of Master of Public Health. University of Auckland; 2000. Available from:
- Ministry of Health. Taonga Tuku Iho - Treasures of our heritage: Rongoā development plan. Ministry of Health: Wellington; 2006. Available from:
- Ministry of Health. Standards for traditional Māori healing. Ministry of Health: Wellington; 1999. Available from:
- School of Pharmacy, University of Otago. Te Rongoā - Māori Herbal Medicine. Available from:
- Te Ara Encyclopaedia of New Zealand. Poisonous plants and fungi. Available from:

- Williams P. Te Rongoā Māori: Māori medicine. Auckland: Reed Publishing; 1996