Before there were drug stores, people turned to plants for their healing properties. The land provided organic medicine to native cultures. Bush tucker, or bushfood, is the term used in Australia to describe the plants used by the aboriginal people for culinary or medicinal purposes dating back nearly 60,000 years.
I visited three of the six Australian states: Victoria, southeast; New South Wales, northeast of Victoria; and Queensland, north eastern. Of these three states, I took two separate bush walk guided tours, at Cape Otway, Victoria, and Cairns, Queensland. It amazed me the variety of plants used for every day ailments.
Here are five examples:
1. Lemongrass roots and stems, such as the popular scented Lemon Myrtle, were popular to treat myriad ailments. Once liquified, drinking it treated sore throats, colds, and coughs. This plant also cured headaches and migraines with the same strength as modern-day aspirin. A headache sufferer, I kept a handful on me for a few days to put it to the test — and it worked!
2. Eucalyptus is for more than just hungry koalas. Its antibacterial properties were widely used for dental health, including mouthwash, cough, and throat ailments.
3. Before modern-day female contraception, aborigine women used to seek out the Kangaroo Apple for birth control.
4. Tea tree oil, paper bark, would be applied to wounds for its antiseptic benefits, which helped to clear acne.
5. The sandpaper fig and stinking passion flower were used hand-in-hand for insect bites. The fig, which has a rough, scratchy feel, would be rubbed against the skin until it bled. Then, the flower would be applied to relieve the itch. The sandpaper fig was additionally used to cure ringworm and other wounds.
We so easily take for granted that, when we are in pain, we can pop a pill to alleviate our problems. Everything is within arm’s reach or just down the road. Modern medicine is convenient, but is it as healthy as primitive ways, used long before scientific research?
A society that once worked based on an honor code of take what you need and trade what you believe is of equal value. Indigenous ways were so simple and natural in comparison to the world we live in today. Maybe not all of us can heal ourselves in our backyards, yet, but once I learned the ways of the Earth, it opened my eyes to the possibilities.