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Exploring Olena: A Day At Waimanalo Learning Center Highlights Traditional Knowledge And Community Relevant Research

Exploring ʻŌlena: Waimānalo Learning Center Highlights Traditional Knowledge and Community-Relevant Research

Families from Waimānalo, alongside health researchers and local farmers, convened at the Waimānalo Learning Center to learn about the traditional uses of ʻōlena and its impact on health. ʻŌlena, also known as turmeric, has properties that are believed to effectively reduce the risk of heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and cancer. It is widely used in India, Thailand and Hawaiʻi for health promotion.

Over 50 individuals participated in a three-day workshop in April 2024 focused on exploring the origin of ʻōlena and its potential implications for health research as part of HIPHI’s partnership with Ke Kula Nui o Waimānalo. These hands-on activities resulted in filling 10 five-gallon containers each workday, enabling participants to bring ʻōlena home and share it with family members. Through interactive discussions and hands-on activities, participants learned that Hawaiians used ʻōlena to treat ear infections and nasal ailments.

Dr. Ted Radovich, faculty member at the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR), University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, led participants on a tour describing five varieties of turmeric thriving in Waimānalo. During an informative question and answer session, participants gained a deeper understanding of the cultivation and potential medicinal applications of ʻōlena. Dr. Radovich emphasized the applications of ʻōlena in our diet and lifestyle interventions when addressing non-communicable diseases.

The insights gained from this event could have significant implications for future health disparities research. Specifically, researchers could explore the anti-inflammatory effects of ʻōlena. This traditional remedy could be viewed as a viable option by Native Hawaiians for the prevention of heart disease and cancer, based on its long-standing use in their diet.

The event attendees were immersed in the cultivation and propagation process of ʻōlena, gaining insights about its origins and growth (pictured).

Currently, Waimānalo residents are also growing ʻōlena in their backyard aquaponics as part of the MALAMA project, which aims to increase food access and combat nutrition-related diseases. The event celebrated the rich cultural legacy of ʻōlena and its relevance in community relevant health research and sustainable agriculture practices. This training was partially supported by the Community Engagement Core of Ola HAWAII to promote community-relevant research.

Kathleen Corpuz

Kathleen Corpuz

Program Manager on Community-Based Research
May Rose Dela Cruz, DrPH, MPH

May Rose Dela Cruz, DrPH, MPH

Director of Health Equity & Research
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