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Herbalist Nun Honoured

Suzanne Aubert and the Maori healers and herbalists who assisted her have been recognised with the New Zealand Biotechnology Association 1999 Heritage Award.

Suzanne Aubert was a Catholic nun who founded the Congregation of the Daughters of Our Lady of Compassion. She was born in France and came to New Zealand in 1860. During the 1890s, she manufactured and commercially sold a range of remedies made from New Zealand native plants. In 1892, the Evening Post called Aubert's remedies "The chief proprietary medicine of New Zealand". The remedies had significant impact on colonial New Zealand, with 4,000 bottles sold per month.

Aubert made a substantial contribution to local biotechnology. She was the first to:

  • successfully combine Maori and Western medicines into products
  • commercially extract New Zealand native plants
  • launch a commercial processed biotechnology product from New Zealand

Aubert was unique in that she had a significant Western education in science (botany and chemistry), nursing and medicine, while also having rich knowledge of Maori medicine. She was assisted by Maori primarily from Auckland, Meanee and Jerusalem, and the wealth of information from both cultures has rarely been duplicated. Many natural product researchers today tread a path first walked by Aubert over 100 years ago.