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New Zealand Flax – (Phormium tenax)

New Zealand Flax

New Zealand flax was discovered in 1773 during Captain Cook's expedition to the South Pacific. It was named so because of the similarity between its fiber and true flax. This large sword-shaped perennial plant can grow to ten feet tall under ideal conditions and it blooms with bright red or orange flowers in late spring. In containers or in less perfect conditions, it grows between two and four feet tall. It is easy to grow, tolerating most soil types and any light except deep shade. Known as harakeke to the Maori people, NZ flax has proven to be a very useful plant.

Key Medicinal Uses

Internally – New Zealand flax juice is antiseptic, and was used as a vermifuge to remove internal parasites.

Externally – New Zealand flax roots were boiled and mashed to make a poultice for tumors, abscesses, boils and varicose ulcers. When the base of the leaves were applied to boils or abscesses, they were induced to come to a head. The juice was applied to wounds from bullets or bayonets. The sap aids blood clotting and is used as a mild anesthetic for wounds, toothache and rheumatism.

It was also used for ringworm and other skin ailments like burns and rashes. The leaves and plant bases were used to make splints for broken bones and strips of plant fiber was used to stitch large wounds closed. The leaves were also used as bandages.

Other Uses – New Zealand flax leaves are used for making mats, wall hangings, panels, baskets, fibers for weaving clothing, fishing nets and rope. The fibers of are stronger than European flax and it is still grown commercially in Europe today to make twine and rope. The pollen is used to make face powder. The Maori people collected the nectar to make a type of honey that they used to sweeten food.

Flax fiber is also used to make paper. The flower stalks can be lashed together to make small rafts to use on the local rivers and lakes. The flowers can be eaten or boiled to create several shades of fabric dye like brown, tan, apricot and khaki. The soft fibers from the leaves can be used similar to cotton wool as diapers for infants.

Parts Used

Whole plant – The entire plant is used in some form or another.


There is some evidence that some people may experience skin irritation from this herb.

Preparation and Dosage

There is very little information on dosage for New Zealand flax. If you use a commercial preparation or formula, follow the instructions on the label.

New Zealand Flax Herbal Remedies Top