Hawaiian Name(s): ‘ōolena, lena, mālena

Scientific Name: Curcuma longa

Vernacular Name: turmeric

Family: Zingiberaceae

Status: Polynesian introduction

Authority: L.

Description: Herb.

Habitat Widely cultivated, but also persisting in habitation areas on some islands (Moloka‘i, Maui, Hawai‘i, others?) (Wagner et al. 1990:1620).

Medicines: In the treatment of nasal ailments (ihu pilau, etc.) the rhizomes mixed with the rhizomes, flowers, and flowering heads of the ‘awapuhi (Zingiber zerumbet), and kō kea (white sugarcane, Saccharum officinarum), and mature niu water (coconut, Cocos nucifera); the liquid placed on hāpu‘u pulu (Cibotium spp.) and kapa and inhaled. A gargle is also made of ‘ōhi‘a ‘ai bark, kukui bark and flowers (Aleurites moluccana), and moa holokula; the mixture is strained through ‘ahu‘awa (Cyperus javanicus) (Chun 1994:231–232). A variant for i‘aku and ihu pilau maopopo is a medicine taken internally, made from the rhizomes mixed with the rhizomes, flowers, and flowering heads of the ‘awapuhi, kō kea, noni fruit (Morinda citrifolia), and one niu.These ingedients are mashed, strained, and ingested. Foods to accompany the treatment include fish, lu‘au, and ‘inamona. To purify the blood, ‘ōolena rhizomes are blended with leaf buds, tap roots, and leaves of the pawale (Rumex spp.), the bark of ‘ōhi‘a ‘ai and koa (Syzygium malaccense and Acacia koa), and kō kea; the resulting mash is strained and ingested (Chin 1994:232–233). The sap is used as a mild astrigent, and as a cure for earaches (Abbott 1992:101).

Non Medicinal Uses: Rhizomes were a favorite a source of yellow dye for kapa (Krauss 1993:66).

Specific gravity of wood: n/a

Famous Locations:


`Ōlelo Noeau:

Dye Color and Parts: Yellow to gold & mustard (rhizome)

Kino lau:

Location on Bishop Museum Kalihi Campus:

Propagation Information:

Seed: Seed length approximately 1 mm. Photograph: B.Kennedy.
Click for image