Naturally Āio: Embracing Rongoā Māori in Modern Skincare

Summer Joy Pocklington
January 31, 2024

To shine a light on the incredible pakihi within our hapori, we will be featuring a Tai Tokerau based business in our bi-monthly newsletters.  This initiative aims to celebrate the diversity, innovation, and the success of pakihi Māori throughout Te Tai Tokerau.  

This month we spoke with Whāriki TTT member and pakihi owner Amika Kruger to explore the essence of her business ‘Naturally Āio’.  Amika shares her inspiration, journey, and her advice.  

What is the inspiration behind Naturally Aio?

I am a māmā who wants to provide a pātaka rongoā for myself and my whānau and creating rongoā Māori is something that I am absolutely passionate about.  My goal is to inspire others to use natural medicine, whilst providing an income for my whānau and I.  

How did your journey begin?

Since I was a teenager I have always preferred natural medicine because it was much gentler on the tinana. My husband introduced me to Kūmarahou - I am originally from Invercargill so had never heard of it. We made cough medicines for our baby and I couldn’t believe how amazing they were for her coughs and colds.

What solidified my love for making rongoā Māori was when I went to visit my mum - she's a tinkerer and likes to make her own creams and balms.  We thought we would make a range of facial and body products for my skin as I suffered eczema.  For 30 years I had only ever used water and steroid creams on my face not realising how harmful it was for my skin. I refined my recipes and drastically reduced the amount of steroid cream I was using. I started to make the products for my sisters and whānau and from there, ‘Naturally Āio’ was born.  

How has this journey of creating natural products impacted your whānau?

The biggest impact has been on my baby Āio. She has watched us harvest rongoā since she was a pēpi and is able to identify Kūmarahou and its medicinal properties.  When she has a cough or cold she always asks for Kūmarahou rongoā – she loves taking it and knows that it heals her and makes her feel better.  

To know that she has adopted the tikanga of our tupuna at such a young age is beautiful.  It is a taonga that she will be able to teach and pass on to those around her for future generations.  

For those looking to transition to a more natural skincare routine or perhaps struggling with skin conditions like eczema, what advice would you offer?

I believe skincare doesn’t need to be overcomplicated – our skin just needs to be cleaned, dead skin removed, toned and moisturised. Our products do what they need to for your skin in a very minimalistic way.

Eczema is such a difficult and frustrating skin condition but, we need to take the time to figure out what the root cause of the issue is. Is it food, the environment or is it product related? I had only known steroid creams my whole life until I decided to make my own products and fortunately – they worked well for me.  

It won’t happen overnight but if you’re consistent and can persevere it’s worth it in the long run.  

Looking back from where you started in 2021 to now, what have been the most rewarding moments for you and Naturally Āio?

The most rewarding thing for me personally is knowing that my products have helped people and inspired them to try natural remedies.

For Naturally Aio – it is having large organisations take a chance on a small pakihi and having the opportunity to provide large quantity orders.

Another milestone is being able to convert part of my home into a designated rongoā production space.  

Any advice for those wanting to start their own rongoā business?

Whāia te matauranga - from your kuia/kaumatua or surround yourself with those who are already in this space.  

Whaia te tikanga - learn the tikanga of how to harvest and prepare rongoā Māori correctly.  

Start off with one product at a time, get whānau to test it, perfect it and be open to criticism because it can only help you grow.

Be resilient - If I had of given up at the first sign of bad feedback or criticism I wouldn't be where I am today.

Kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui!

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