Here in Hawaiʻi, māmaki is synonymous with good health and vitality. Native Hawaiians have consumed this so-called “miracle plant” for generations, and it is deeply revered in lāʻau lapaʻau (Hawaiian plant medicine). Meanwhile, māmaki producers rave about its many health benefits ranging from detoxification to weight loss.
Despite its wellness reputation, if you ask someone about its precise health benefits, there’s a good chance you’ll be met with a blank stare. I get it—and I’ve been there.
As a māmaki farmer, it’s tempting to brag about all the ways māmaki will heal you, especially when you’ve experienced positive effects firsthand. But I wanted to understand the science behind the hype.
Enter a 2006 University of Hawaiʻi study by Henny Kartika, which sheds some scientific light on the health benefits of māmaki.
To sum up this study in one word: ANTIOXIDANTS! That’s right, māmaki packs in the antioxidants!
“Long before researchers and scientists could explain it, Native Hawaiians understood the powerful health effects of māmaki.”
Kartika found that māmaki leaves contain high levels of three major polyphenols.
But wait a sec, you might be wondering . . . “Um, what the heck is a polyphenol?”
In short, polyphenols are compounds that are naturally found in plant foods. They’re packed with antioxidants that offer a laundry list of health benefits.
According to Kartika’s research, māmaki leaves contain high levels of the following polyphenols:
- Catechins: Helps to regulate blood pressure, promote weight loss, and increase brain function. Green tea, for example, is known for high levels of catechins.
- Chlorogenic acid: Shown to regulate blood pressure (yup, just like catechins), promote weight loss (also, like catechins), and improve brain function (you know, like catechins). Chlorogenic acid is most notably found in green coffee beans, and fruits like blueberries, apples, and pears.
- Rutin: This compound is probably best known for its anti-inflamatory properties. In particular, it works by strengthening blood vessels and improving circulation, which in turn helps prevent blood clots (i.e. stroke and heart attacks).
In addition, research has found that rutin compounds boost metabolism, which leads to increased energy and weight loss. Other rutin-rich foods include buckwheat, cranberries, and black/green/white teas.
This study also found that māmaki leaves contain more catechins and rutin than teas that are traditionally touted for their health benefits, such as Gyokuro green, Chinese oolong, and Kenyan black tea leaves.
I mean, it’s not supposed to be a competition or anything, but . . . MĀMAKI FOR THE WIN!
Also . . . INDIGENOUS INTELLIGENCE FOR THE WIN!
Long before researchers and scientists could explain it, Native Hawaiians understood the powerful health effects of māmaki. Lāʻau lapaʻau (Hawaiian plant medicine) is rich with wisdom, and māmaki is just one example.
So the next time you sip māmaki tea, I hope you feel the deep connection to not just the plant itself, but to the native wisdom that lives on to this day.