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The top 10 Aboriginal bush medicines to cure your illness

From eucalyptus oil to witchetty grubs, these natural medicines are used to cure illness the traditional way.

Witchetty grubs still on the menu for nine out of 10 Aboriginals

A medicinal chemist from Macquarie University Sydney, Professor Joanne Jamie, has compiled a database on Aboriginal plants that contain anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory compound that are used in western medicine.

“When plants are used in a customary way, there is a far greater success rate in them having biological activity,” she says. “The plants that were used by Aboriginal people are very likely to be useful to us.”

The 10 most common Aboriginal bush medicines

1. Tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia)

Bundjalung Aboriginal people from the coast of New South Wales crushed tea-tree leaves and applied the paste to wounds. They also brew it into tea for throat ailments. Since it was discovered as having medicinal properties in the 1920s, the oil has been used to treat everything from fungal infections of the toenails to acne.

2. Eucalyptus oil (Eucalyptus sp.)

Eucalyptus leaves can be infused for body pains, fevers and chills. Today the oil is used commercially in mouthwash, throat lozenges and cough suppressants.

3. Billy goat plum/Kakadu plum (Terminalia ferdinandiana)

The world’s richest source of Vitamin C is found in this native fruit from the woodlands of the Northern Territory and Western Australia. The plum has 50 times the Vitamin C of oranges, and was a major source of food for tribes in the areas where it grows.

4. Desert mushrooms (Pycnoporus sp.)

Some Aboriginal people suck on this orange desert mushroom to cure a sore mouth or lips. It has been known to be a kind of natural teething ring, and is also useful for babies with oral thrush.

5. Emu bush (Eremophila sp.)

Concoctions of emu bush leaves were used by Northern Territory Aboriginal tribes to wash sores and cuts. In the last decade, leaves from the plant were found to have the same strength as some established antibiotics.

6. Witchetty (Witjuti) grub (Endoxyla leucomochla)

Witchetty grubs were crushed into a paste, placed on burns and covered with a bandage to seal and soothe the skin by some people in Central Australia.

7. Snake vine (Tinospora smilacina)

Communities in Central Australia used to crush sections of the vine to treat headaches, rhumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory-related ailments. The sap and leaves were sometimes used to treat sores and wounds.

8. Sandpaper Fig and Stinking Passion Flower (Ficus opposita) / (Passiflora foetida)

The combination the two plants were used in northern coastal communities to relieve itching. Sandpaper fig leaves have also been used to treat fungal skin infections such as ringworm.

9. Kangaroo apple (Solanum laciniatum and Solanum aviculare)

The fruit was used as a poultice on swollen joints. The plant contains a steroid which is important to the production of cortisone.

10. Goat’s foot (Ipomoea pes-caprae)

Goat’s foot is common near sandy shorelines across Australia and provides pain relief from sting ray and stone fish stings.