Bush Medicine
Bush Medicine

We’ve all heard of Tea Tree and Eucalyptus Oils and now the medicinal potential of Australia’s native plants is the focus of scientific research to develop new drugs.

A recent review identified 135 species of Queensland Aboriginal medicinal plants belonging to 103 genera from 53 families, with Myrtaceae having the most representatives.*

But long before anyone had access to GPs or hospitals, indigenous people and early pioneers used native plant remedies to treat a variety of ills.

This book, “Bush Medicine” published by Native Plants Queensland – Pine Rivers Branch and written and illustrated by Jan Sked, lists local native plants and their traditional medicinal uses garnered from various sources including people who’ve spent much of their lives in the bush.

Take the Broad-Leaved Paperbark (Melaleuca quinquenervia) for example.

Oil extracted from its leaves was used for coughs and colds, as disinfectant, insect repellent and insecticide. The leaves were used to make tea to treat colds, headache and general sickness; bruised and used as a pack for sore muscles or chewed when new to relieve head colds.

White Cedar (Melia azedarach) leaves were placed among clothing and in books as an insect repellent; Slender Mint (Mentha diemenica) was used to treat stomach cramps, menstrual disorders and as a diuretic and the sap of the Strangler Fig (Ficus watkinsiana) was applied to ringworm-infested skin.

Even the Lawyer Cane or Wait-a-While (Calamus muelleri) had its uses. Young shoots were eaten to combat dysentery and the sap drunk to relieve colds.

“It is not intended that these remedies be used in preference to conventional medicine and their effectiveness is not guaranteed,” the author says. “They are simply recorded here as another interesting facet of our Australian Native Plants.”

*Gerry Turpin et al. “Aboriginal medicinal plants of Queensland: ethnopharmacological uses, species diversity, and biodiscovery pathways”, 2022, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov