Kawakawa (Piper excelsum) is traditionally used by the native Maori for medicinal purposes such as pain relief, relief from eczema, and rheumatism. It is also used as a condiment in everyday cooking.
Researchers at the University of Auckland’s Liggens Institute have been studying the plant for years, and their project was recently approved by the High-Value Nutrition (HVN) Science Challenge for nearly NZ $ 1.3 million (US $ 949,000).
The ultimate goal is to introduce a functional drink from local beverage company Chia Sisters, while Wakatu Incorporation will export the product to Japan and Southeast Asia. The Kawakawa used in this project is the native species Aotearoa New Zealand.
The researchers are currently planning two trials to test the optimal dosage quantities and the most suitable beverage formats.
“Kawakawa contains pharmacokinetic metabolites with interesting structures and properties. We suspect that this could increase the absorption of nutrients or increase the availability of nutrients in the body.
“Some of its compounds can affect the way we metabolize glucose and fatty acids,” said lead researcher on the project, Dr. Chris Pook of the Liggens Institute, across from NutraIngredients-Asia. If you
The first study, which will take place later this year, will be a one-day study examining Kawakawa’s short-term effects on fatty acid and glucose metabolism.
Participants must try out Kawakawa in different dosage amounts and dosage formats.
From here, researchers will measure participants’ energy use, as well as the amount of heat and carbon dioxide the body produces, before deciding on the formats and dosages for the second attempt.
The second attempt will run for six weeks and will track the effects of the Kawakawa drink over time.
As part of the project, researchers are also looking for ways to maximize the extraction of Kawakawa’s bioactive compounds.
Labeled claims If you
The industrial partner involved, Wakatu Incorporation, also intends to make functional demands on the end product.
For example, there are plans to register the product as a Foods with Function Claims (FFC) when exported to Japan, said Miriana Stephens, general manager at Wakatu Incorporation.
This is also the first time the trader is working on a functional drink.
“We export New Zealand food and beverages, including seafood, wines and natural foods, to over 40 countries. The functional beverage space is completely new to us and we will work closely with our customers to refine the product, ”she said.
Ready-to-drink Kawakawa beverages are already available on the New Zealand market.
Last year, Atutahi, a local carbonated beverage brand with Kawakawa, was launched.