Ti Leaf Tips: the ti plant, also referred to as ‘Ki’ isn’t “tea” at all, but a member of the lily family with a distinctive cluster of large, glossy, dark green leaves on a stalk that can grow up to ten feet high. Ti is a “canoe plant,” or one of the few plants the first Hawaiians brought thousands of miles across open ocean to their new home. The leaves and roots of this important plant appeared everywhere in ancient Hawaiian life. If it rained, you might put on a ti leaf cloak. You might have eaten food cooked inside the strong, flexible leaves, or been blessed with a ti leaf in a sacred ceremony.
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There were many other uses for the ti plant in old Hawai’i. The boiled roots were brewed into a potent liquor known as ‘okolehao. The large, sweet starchy roots were baked and eaten as a dessert. This versatile plant also had many medicinal uses, either alone or as a wrapping for other herbs needing to be steamed or boiled. The ti leaves were wrapped around warm stones to serve as hot packs, used in poultices and applied to fevered brows. A drink from boiled green ti leaves were used to aid nerve and muscle relaxation. Steam from boiled young shoots and leaves made an effective decongestant. The pleasantly fragrant flowers were also used for asthma. Besides its use in healing practices, the large ti leaves became roof thatching, wrappings for cooking food, plates, cups, fishing lures on hukilau nets, woven into sandals, hula skirts, leis and rain cape.