Kumu Dane Kaʻohelani Silva, was a kahuna lāʻau lapaʻau, lomilomi practitioner, qigong practitioner, chemist, researcher, faculty member, chiropractor, acupuncturist, and martial artist, among other things.
Regardless of what role he was in, it was always for the sake of healing and helping others. Humble, yet powerful in spirit, Kumu Dane was an active and vocal advocate for the use of traditional medicines and therapies in modern times.
My husband and I have had the privilege of learning traditional plant remedies from Kumu Dane to help our patients with type 2 diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, asthma, heart disease, cancer, and more. He believed it was the responsibility of kauka to learn these traditional medicines so as to better understand their Native Hawaiian patients and provide these complementary options as part of their care. As he often said, “Hawaiians need Hawaiian medicines.”
At our workshops, he would teach us how to prepare native plants for use in medical treatments, using patients in his demonstrations. His knowledge of biochemistry enhanced his teachings, as he was able to scientifically explain how and why different plants worked. This knowledge gave him the ability to understand which plants to use to treat lesser-known diseases, such as COVID-19.
Kumu Dane was always available to provide individualized guidance for our patients who wanted to incorporate traditional medicines as part of their treatment. He made a salve for a patient whose infection didn’t respond to antibiotics. For a “hard head” patient who refused to get treated after a fall, he developed a protocol that healed his injuries, allowing him to return to work within a week. He developed an ointment that shrunk the tumor in one patient and prevented the cancer from spreading in another patient. These are only a few of countless examples.
Kumu Dane did all this with so much aloha and no expectation of anything in return.
Out of all the plants he used, he would promote ʻuhaloa the most. ʻUhaloa, as he taught, addressed the root cause of many illnesses today – inflammation. By reducing inflammation, one could prevent or treat disease. His understanding of ʻuhaloa led to a collaborative effort with pharmacy researchers into the benefits of this plant.
Not surprisingly, many of Kumu Dane’s herbal formulas or treatment plans included ʻuhaloa as a component, in the form of teas, oils, salves, or as mists for nebulizers. A daily cup or two of ʻuhaloa tea, made using either fresh or dried ʻuhaloa flowers and leaves, was commonly recommended as a simple treatment.
Kumu Dane’s recent passing is a heartfelt reminder of the obligation we Native Hawaiians have to learn from our kūpuna and use what we learn to help others and, in turn, teach others who will carry on the work passed down from our ancestors.
While greatly missed, his life and legacy will be carried on whenever we promote and seek healing for each other. Aloha ʻoe, e Kumu Dane.