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"Chili pepa wata" has surprising health benefits  

By: Troy Jacobs

22 April 2020

Some of your everyday grocery hauls from the produce section are more than just fruits and vegetables. 


UH Mānoa’s Women’s Center hosted a laʻau lapaʻau (healing medicine) workshop to demonstrate the benefits of native Hawaiian medicine. But the medications that were made in this workshop consisted of miso soup, “baba ganoosh” and “chili pepa wata.”  


“When you break it down, food is actually medicine,” said Malia Kaio, Women’s Center coordinator. “Food that is grown here is the best for you.”


Natural foods such as ginger, garlic, and fish help treat specific ailments: Ginger reduces nausea; garlic reduces hypertension; fish improves heart and brain health.  


One of the main ingredients is eggplant. According to, eggplants help reduce one of the leading causes of death in the United States -- heart disease. 


“The eggplant we grew in our farm in Waimānalo at the learning center,” said Ilima Ho-Lastimosa, community coordinator at the Waimānalo Learning Center. “We’re trying to promote health, nutrition, and better choices.”  

Ho-Lastimosa preparing the cut vegetables 

Participants chat and eat after cooking

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One of the most popular medicines at the workshop was the “chili pepa wata,” which is made of chili peppers, apple cider vinegar, paʻakai (salt), water, lime, garlic, ginger and ōlena (turmeric). The ingredients are mixed into an empty glass bottle with hot water to steep, similar to making hot tea. Drinking apple cider vinegar has many health benefits that improve weight loss and heart health, according to Kaio. Eating chili peppers promotes weight loss and limes help boost your immune system.   


Ho-Lastimosa led the class as a Ma Ka Hana Ka ‘Ike (learn by doing) style workshop. She believes the best way to learn is by not only using your ears but also your hands.


The workshop started with an opening prayer and introduction. Participants and organizers then worked together while learning how to prepare and cook each dish.


Christopher Yanuaria attended the workshop because of his interest in holistic healing. 

“I'm learning to be more intentional about what I'm putting in my body to allow it to operate so it's optimal,” said Yanuaria.

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This will be the last laʻau lapaʻau workshop for this semester. For more information about upcoming workshops, you can contact Kaio at (808) 956-8059, or email

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