La’au Lapa’au: Preserving Ancient Hawaiian Healing Practices

Laʻau lapaʻau is a traditional medical practice, as defined by the World Health Organization: “Traditional Medicine is the sum total of the knowledge, skills, and practices based on the theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in the maintenance of health as well as in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental illness.”

The knowledge of laʻau lapaʻau is shared by past generations that can be traced back over 1,000 years.  A Kahuna Lapaʻau is master and expert in the field of laʻau lapaʻau. The Kahuna responsible for gathering, preparing and administering the herbs according to the needs of the patient and healing properties of the laʻau.  The different laʻau used by a Kahuna can consist of plants, animals and minerals from the land and ocean.

Many of the la‘au used for healing contain exceptional healing properties and have become accepted in Western medicine.  For example many well- known laʻau include aloe vera, awa, awapuhi, kalo, ko, mai’a, noni, and olena. Aloe vera is used for burns, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer. Awa, more commonly known as Kava, can be used for treating anxiety and insomnia.

“La’au Lapa’au is: Solving the problems of body, mind and spirit. In Hawaiian Healing the mental is not separate from the spiritual and physical. Rely on spiritual insight and most of all, guidance from Akua.”

— Papa Henry Auwae, Po’okela

Population: Native Hawaiian

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Date: 2018