Hawaiʻi’s Holistic Approach to Health and Wellness
Hawaiian healing practices involved both the physical world as well as the spiritual one. Practitioners were often identified in childhood for showing compassion and interest, and they could then spend years learning from an elder. Each individual healer’s knowledge and experience affected their practices, so these differed from person to person. Healing techniques using the hands, along with substances from plants, animals, and minerals, were utilized while prayers from healers asked for assistance and guidance.
Lomilomi: The Science of Touch
The use of massage and touch to treat physical ailments can be found throughout the world as well as in Polynesia. It was likely one of the techniques practiced by the healers of Kapaemahu. Lomilomi, as it is known in Hawaiʻi today, was used by trained specialists as both a therapeutic treatment and a means of locating and diagnosing disease.
Lāʻau Lapaʻau: An Indigenous Medical Science and Practice
In the past, there were many different kinds of healers who specialized in healing different parts of the body. Among them, and perhaps the most highly regarded, were the kahuna lāʻau lapaʻau. They had the most extensive knowledge of anatomy and used plant, animal, and mineral products to treat illnesses. Prayer and ceremony were used throughout the collection and preparation of medicinal products, and the treatment of patients.
In the Hawaiian view, tensions and discord, particularly among family members, could lead to physical illness. To mend bad feelings and diminish traumas, the process of hoʻoponopono could be used. This was comparable to what today might be called group or family therapy, in which honest discussions with agreed upon rules would take place. It was hoped that admissions of wrongdoing and apologies would clear up mental and physical problems.