Authors: W.A. Whistler and Michael B. Thomas
Citation: How to Cite: W.A. Whistler and M.B. Thomas. Medicinal Plants of Samoa Checklist. Accessed through The Flora of Samoa Data Portal,, accessed yyyy-mm-dd.
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Locality: Samoa (-13.917645, -171.785769)
Abstract: Many of the plants used in Samoan herbal medicine are native species, but there are sizable minorities of recent and Polynesian introductions. Of the 92 species included on this checklist, about 43% are native plants, 33% are Polynesian introductions, and 24% are modern introductions. This is almost identical to the results obtained in Tonga (Whistler 1992b) of 44%, 34%, and 23%, respectively. The most important species are the vascular plants, only a single lower plant, a lichen (Ramalina sp.), has been recorded as being medicinal in Samoa, and only one fern (tau 'autii, Phymatosorus scolopendria) is commonly used.

The use of medicinal plants dates back to prehistoric times when ancient man found that ingestion or application of certain herbs and barks were effective in treating some of the ailments that plagued him. Herbal medicine is part of virtually all cultures, and Samoa is no exception. However, most observers of Samoan society during the early stages of European contact in the mid-19th century noted only insignificant use of herbal medicines, particularly those taken internally. Whether or not this is accurate may never be known conclusively, but today in Samoa a large segment of the population takes or is given Samoan herbal medicine sometime during their lifetime, especially during infancy and childhood. Thus, despite 165 years of contact with Western culture and its medical traditions, Samoan herbal medicine is strong today, and does not appear to be in danger of dying out in the near future. What may be disappearing, however, are the remedies that rely on plants that are becoming increasing scarce, a problem that needs to be addressed by conservation programs.

Whistler. W.A. 1996. Samoan Herbal Medicine: O La'au ma Vai Fofo o. Isle Botanica, Honolulu, HI. 116 p.
Whistler. W.A. 2006. Herbal Medicine in Samoa. Allertonia. Vol. 9, No. 2. pp. 39-80.

Notes: Scientific names have been updated to follow the APG IV system of flowering plant classification.

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Families: 45
Genera: 81
Species: 91 (species rank)
Total Taxa: 92 (including subsp. and var.)