Mamaki: Hawaiian Super Plant
The world is growing increasingly hectic and stressful. We look for products or ideas that will help make the world seem simpler or easier to navigate. With such complexity, we often think technology or some new innovation will be what saves the world; meanwhile, Mother Nature has already crafted a cure: Hawaiian Mamaki. A lot of attention has been given to Green Tea for its miracle capabilities, but lesser known is a traditional Hawaiian tea called Mamaki.
Farmers now produce green and black teas in Hawaii but Mamaki is the original Hawaiian tea plant.What is Mamaki?
Mamaki is a special native Hawaiian plant that's been safely used for centuries by indigenous healers as a natural remedy for physical and spiritual ailments through a process called Laʻau Lapaʻau. Unlike most varieties of nettle plants, Mamaki is stingless, meaning it’s able to evolve thus because Hawaii lacked grazing herbivores, making it one of a kind. This plant grows in forested areas of the islands where the ground is moist that can range from 200 to 6,000 feet in elevation. The plant can grow up to 20 feet and can flourish for almost 40 years. Similar to how the plant is used now, Hawaiians used the plant's leaves to make tea to help treat fatigue and illness.
But it gets deeper- parts of the plant were and are used for many different purposes which makes it a convenient resource for the people in Hawaii and those around the world who had Mamaki before. For instance, the bark is known to be used to create Hawaiian Kapa (Hawaiian word for Cloth). The cloth or fabric is traditionally made by pounding the bark using a wooden mallet until it is laid flat like a sheet. This process can be tiring and takes a long time, most of the time the makers sit on the ground to complete the product. During the pounding process, the bark will feel wet and damp. Once the cloth dries, it would then be decorated with Hawaiian designs and patterns. The cloth would be made into clothing which was to be worn by both men and women in Hawaii. They were also traditionally used as blankets and represented religious values. In addition, the bark could also be turned into rope. The berries, on the other hand, were used for aching muscles and to treat constipation. Berries were also normally given to children and women during and after pregnancy. Furthermore, the leaves of the plant have not always been used for tea. Hawaiians have also used the leaves either cooked or raw in dishes such as soups and salads. The Hawaiian Mamaki plant has many uses that have benefited men, women, and children, and the plant surely doesn’t go to waste!
While we are still discovering the power of Mamaki, here are a few things this natural healing herb has already brought to the world.
The benefits of Mamaki tea are high in antioxidants plus antibacterial and antiviral benefits. The plant is rich in nutrients including magnesium, potassium, vitamins A, C, K, and B, beta-carotene, and rutin. It also has adaptogenic properties related to balancing blood sugar and lowering blood pressure. In addition, according to Native Plants Hawaii published by the University of Hawaii, “Mothers gave the small white fruit to children as a mild laxative or to treat ʻea (thrush).” Thrush disease is a yeast infection that produces white blotches in the mouth and throat. Overall, the Mamaki plant is very beneficial in helping people with physical weaknesses and overall health.Mamaki Tea is a Natural Stimulant Without Caffeine
Does Mamaki tea have caffeine? No, mamaki brews naturally caffeine free tea. One of the biggest factors we consider when choosing our teas is how it will make us feel. Whether you are seeking energy, relaxation, or health, tea is an elixir that can power your mood. Yet teas with caffeine can leave us wired after the initial boost while some herbal remedies can put us to sleep. Hawaiian Mamaki Tea stimulates and invigorates without caffeine. Mamaki Tea is loaded with macro and micro minerals that contain catechins; these polyphenols stimulate brain activity and boost metabolic rates and are rich in antioxidants. The unassuming and subtle effect gently stimulates natural brain activity, leaving you feeling productive, creative, and confident.Mamaki Tea Can Help Protect Against Cancer
The same medicinal properties that make Green Tea renowned for its cancer remedies are also found in Mamaki. The polyphenols that inhibit tumor cell proliferation in Green Tea are abundant in the Mamaki leaves. This powerful antioxidant is natural, safe to consume, and a precious remedy to defend against life’s most unforgiving disease.
Mamaki Restores Damaged Ecosystems
There are oli or Hawaiian chants dating back 400 years that refer to Mamaki as the forest fixer. Just like us, Mother Nature has diseases that she needs to protect herself against. With carbon emissions at an all-time high, our soil is losing its ideal chemical balance for plant growth. With the potential to have devastating impacts on agriculture and ecosystems, farmers and conservationists alike are looking toward regenerative plants like Mamaki to restore damaged soil by adding nitrogen.Mamaki Tea Is a Natural Sunscreen
Recently, Hawaii released a law prohibiting the use of sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, the two active ingredients that reflect UV rays. Not only are these chemicals damaging to the user's skin, but they also are a major threat to our coral reefs. With more and more research on this issue, the more likely other governments will follow in Hawaii’s footsteps.
Fortunately, Mamaki Tea and its catechins act as a sunscreen. By helping to speed up oxidation in your skin cells, consuming Mamaki can better equip your skin to be more adaptive and protected against harmful UV rays.Buying Hawaiian Mamaki Tea Helps Boost The Economy
One of the major issues that Hawaii faces is its dependence on tourism and imports. Almost a quarter of the state’s GDP comes from the money brought in by visitors. Globalization has affected our market to the point where only 10% of our products are sourced locally. As the world becomes more aware of the importance of Mamaki, farmers and the state can develop a more sustainable income.Purchasing Mamaki Tea Protects an Endangered Hawaiian Butterfly
The Kamehameha Butterfly or Pulelehua is unique to the Hawaiian islands; its beauty holds a special place in the culture as the state’s official insect. The Mamaki plant provides a home for the butterfly and plays a key role in the butterfly’s survival. However, industrial development and invasive species have begun to take over the land where Mamaki has grown for centuries, leaving Pulelehua homeless and increasingly in danger of becoming extinct. Choosing Mamaki can have a butterfly effect in preserving this species, every time you decide to drink Mamaki you are creating more of a demand for farmers to increase their supply, which will create new homes for Pulelehua to live and thrive.
While Mamaki has been around for centuries, its vast potential is just starting to become realized. Mamaki Tea continues to establish roots around the world and heal both the user and the planet; however, its real beauty lies in its smooth, graceful taste. Enjoy with a splash of honey and be transported to old Hawaiʻi.
The Largest Mamaki Farm in the World
Ancient Valley Growers are located in Wood Valley on the slopes of Mauna Loa at the southern tip of Hawai’i Island next to Ka’u. Matt and Andrea, put in a lot of effort in sustainably farming Mamaki. The two farmers have done extensive research to maintain a sustainable farm and rich, fertile soil.
Andrea is a member of the Hawaii Farm Union United and is a leader to farmers in Ka’u where she helps them create sustainable farming methods and reduce the use of fertilizers and chemicals on their crops. In addition, Matt has done research understanding farming in general when he used to manage a fruit farm and now helps manage the Mamaki farm. They both put in effort to understand the different climate, environment, and soil on the Big Island which is required to find sustainable farming methods that work.
Matt and Andrea’s dedication to caring for their Mamaki farm is a way of life. In their experience, growing their crops for food and drinking Mamaki tea has changed their lives, aiding them in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Ancient Valley Growers relationship with the land and environment is much more personal as it benefits and contributes to their community.
A main goal at the farm is to increase the amount of Indigenous Microorganisms (IMO) in the soil. IMO’s are used in organic farming and sustainable agriculture practices, particularly in the Korean Natural Farming (KNF) system. In KNF, the goal is to create fertile soil with a dense IMO count. These microorganisms play important roles in improving soil fertility, nutrient cycling, suppressing pathogens, and enhancing plant growth. They also strived to use other plants to keep away invasives and weeds. These methods prevent them from having to use pesticides or chemical fertilizers to preserve their crops.
Furthermore, this type of farming is also known as regenerative agriculture, which is a general term for all practices that are used to benefit the soil. According to the University of Washington, crops that grow in fertile, living soil are healthier for us as consumers because there are more nutrients. In their study that looked at farms in the US using regenerative agriculture, it was found that the crops had more “magnesium, calcium, potassium and zinc; more vitamins, including B1, B12, C, E and K; and more phytochemicals,” in addition to having reduced amounts of unhealthy components like sodium.
The process of making IMO involves collecting soil samples from diverse environments, such as forests or healthy agricultural fields. These soil samples are then fermented with organic materials, such as rice bran or sugar, in a controlled environment. Over time, the microorganisms multiply and develop into a diverse and rich culture. This culture can be further processed and used as a soil inoculant to introduce beneficial microorganisms to degraded or nutrient-poor soils.
In addition, they started using peanut plants to keep the proper nitrogen and acidic level in the soil, two things that are important in the growth and development of crops. First off, nitrogen is an important plant nutrient and is a major component of amino acids, proteins, and chlorophyll, which are vital for plant structure, metabolism, and photosynthesis. The peanut plant uses the nitrogen-fixing bacteria called rhizobia and when planted, that bacteria converts to ammonium which positively impacts the growth of neighboring plants. The acidic levels or pH are also important because it influences nutrient availability and microbial activity.
Another sustainable practice is solar drying, which allows them to use far less electricity. The processing step ends in a commercial dryer to sanitize and kill unwanted bacteria.
Mamaki goes beyond decaffeinated tea. Our Mamaki Collection features caffeine free teas made with Mamaki. Pure Mamaki is a 100% caffeine free tea that makes a refreshing and uplifting iced tea. It has a nutty, fresh taste and the antioxidant content offers a nice energy boost both as an iced tea and a hot tea.
We also have healthy wellness teas made with Mamaki in the Maka'i Collection. We blend mamaki with other active ingredients and Hawaii grown moringa. An ashwagandha blend for anxiety and stress relief helps the body and mind rebalance and recover from stress. A tea for immunity feature hibiscus, cinnamon and peppermint - ingredients that rank exceptionally high on the ORAC scale that measures antioxidant activity in foods. High ORAC foods and drinks may help to slow aging. Our turmeric blend help reduce pain and inflammation. A blend that promotes restful sleep includes mamaki, passionflower, moringa and valerian root.
Coauthored by Byron Goo and Sage Marume
Photos by Maia Mills