The history of the Kukui nut lei dates back to the arrival of the early Polynesians to the Hawaiian Islands. They brought the kukui trees and nuts with them from south east Asia and cultivated them of the Hawaiian islands. The nut from these trees had a spiritual significance because of their many uses. The kukui tree is one of the most common trees seen in Hawaii’s forests. The tree has light colored green leaves covered with a fine silvery powder. The tree grows to eighty feet tall, has fragrant white flowers, eight inch maple leaf shaped leaves and a twisted trunk and branches. This beautiful tree has rightly become the state tree of Hawaii. The kukui nut lei was only worn by royalty in ancient times. The reigning chiefs and kings treasured the kukui nut lei and wore them proudly. Today Hollywood’s royalty has brought back the popularity of the kukui lei by wearing them as part of their chunky jewelry collections. Many famous stars, male and female, have been seen at fancy restaurants and in the nightclubs wearing kukui nut leis. Visitors to Hawaii are often greeted with the kukui lei which costs relatively more than the fresh flower lei. The kukui nut or (candlenut) was also used by ancient Hawaiians ( and are still used today ) for their rich oils. The nuts were crushed and the oil was used to polish the leis, enhance polish and waterproof wooden bowls made by the early Hawaiians. The kukui nut oil was also used to make the koa wood canoes and surfboards waterproof. In 1896 a surfboard building ritual was observed and recorded in a journal. It was said that after the board was built, the kukui nuts were gathered and mashed to get the oil. The shells were burned and the kukui ash was rubbed all over the surfboard. After the board was colored from the ash, the kukui oil was rubbed on the board and when it dried it was a shiny, glossy black, waterproof and ready for surfing. The ancient Polynesians also used the kukui nut oil to burn for light. They used the oil in lamps and eventually became able to measure time by the amount of oil burned.
The kukui nut had many uses including:
Used for making shampoo
The kukui kernels and leaves were boiled to make a tonic used as a remedy for:
The ancient Hawaiians realized that the kukui nut oil was a perfect moisturizer for their skin. The oil forms a semi-permeable barrier on dry skin to prevent further damage and allow the body to heal itself naturally underneath the oil. The nuts were also cooked and chopped and used for flavoring foods. The kukui shells were also used to make dyes for the kappa, or tapa. The nut was also used to make a “top like” toy called a “hu”. With all of it’s uses, it is no wonder the highly revered kukui nut tree is Hawaii’s state tree.
Copyright 2007 Discover-Oahu.com