PLANT NAME: Aleurites moluccana (L.) Wild.
OTHER NAMES: Aleurites triloba, Croton moluccanu
COMMON NAMES: Kukui (“Light”) [Hawai'i]; candlenut [USA]; tuitui [Cook Islands; Tonga]; lama [Samoa]; ti’a'iri [Tahiti]; ‘ama [Marquesas]; tutu’i [Austral Islands]; shi li [China]; lauci [Fiji]; kurup [Papua New Guinea].
Status: Polynesian Introduction
Habitat: Moist Valleys
NOMENCLATURE: Aleurites comes from the Greek “aleuron” which means “covered with fl our.” This is a reference to the fine hairs of kukui that make it look as if it were dusted with flour. The word kukui means, “light” in Hawaiian. It is also a word for “lightbulb.”
FAMILY: Euphorbiaceae ( spurge family).
CATEGORY: Downward draining herbs – purgatives ~.
PROPERTIES: Astringent, bitter, cold.
PLANT PART USED: Whole plant.
DOSAGE: For constipation, 1 roasted nut. Topical as needed.
STATUS IN HAWAI’I: Polynesian Introduction. Low to moderate pest factor. It is presumed that because kukui seeds were too heavy to be carried by birds that kukui is a Polynesian introduced plant, and not a native. Considering that kukui can create monostands, this might be the case. But it can also beg the question about the ancestors of our endemic heavy-seeded Pritchardias.
MERIDIAN AFFINITIES: Stomach, large intestine ~.
WESTERN FUNCTIONS REPORTED: Anti-infective; anti-mycotic; aperient; aphrodisiac; emollient; laxative; purgative; stimulant; sudorific.
TRADITIONAL CHINESE ENERGETIC FUNCTIONS (~ = extrapolated):
Drains downward and moves the bowels
Clears damp heat
Clears stomach heat and stomach fire.
Mends the tissue, stops pain.
Common Medicinal Uses • Oil for massage • Roasted nuts as a colon cleanser • Sap for thrush
OTHER MEDICINAL USES • Weakness, debility [Hawai'i]; unconsciousness [Fiji (bark decocted)], Hawai’i]. • Hernia [Fiji]. • Chest pain [Fiji]. • Recurring illness [Fiji (bark decocted)]. • Neuralgia [Fiji (fruit or bark boiled in seawater as a mouthwash)].
USE AS FOOD: Kukui nut is roasted, mixed with Hawaiian sea salt ( pa’akai) and made into a tasty condiment called ‘inamona. ‘Inamona was also traditionally eaten to help deliver a child. To make ‘inamona, mix 12 roasted, shelled, and ground k ukui nuts with 1 small C apsicum frutescens ( chili pepper/nïoi), and 1 teaspoon of Hawaiian sea salt ( pa’akai).
TOXICITY: TOXIC. Kukui is used as a “poison” in Haiti and Turkey. If too much kukui was taken in old Hawai’i, and diarrhea resulted, specially prepared Tacca leontopetaloides ( pia) root was given with poi.
CAUTIONS AND CONTRAINDICATIONS: Not in pregnancy. Not with diarrhea. (Please note: Kukui was once used for digestive infections such as dysentery to remove pathogens. This is NOT recommended.)
ENERGETIC CAUTIONS: Not with weak central Qi. ~
NOTES ‘N QUOTES
A kukui tree can be up to 3 feet in diameter and 60 feet tall.
Two useful fungi: Auricularia auricula ( pepeaio) and Trametes versicolor ( yun zhi) grow on rotting kukui logs.
In the 1800s the Chinese grew a similar fungus, Auricularia cornea, on fallen kukui logs for export to China. • In the early 1800s, up to 10,000 barrels of kukui oil per year were shipped to Russians living in Alaska. Today kukui oil is used in high performance racecars.
Hawaiian valleys often glisten with the shiny leaves of the kukui tree, painting a reminder of the ancient land divisions called ” ahupua’a” and land stewardship called ” kuleana”.
Kukui flowers are monoecious, with both male and female flowers on the same plant.