All herbal medicine knowledge of the Australian aborigines

Page Content
  1. All herbal medicine knowledge of the Australian aborigines introduction
  2. Aboriginal practices
  3. Lost knowledge
  4. Coughs and Colds
  5. Diarrhoea
  6. Fevers
  7. Pains and aches
  8. Rheumatism
  9. Sore Ears
  10. Stings
  11. Wounds
  12. Sore eyes
  13. Toothache
  14. Headache
  15. Aborigines and bush medicine today



Aboriginal people or are the indigenous people of Australia and other Islands nearby. They make up 2.7% of the Australian population.

They were there forty thousand years or more before Captain Cook first stepped foot in Australia.

The aborigines had a great knowledge of all herbal medicine or bush medicine as it is often called. In the past all herbal medicine was essential for the aborigines, after all there was no local chemist to run to.

Aboriginal practices


The aborigines believed that a person's illness was either due to evil spirits or natural causes. In common with other indigenous groups such as the San people, the Ati and the Aetas people and the Ainu people, the shaman of the tribe specialized in spiritual cures, shaman healing while natural causes were treated with native remedies.

The Arnhem Land Aborigines consume pieces of termite mound as well as white clay to cure stomach upsets and diarrhoea.(See eating dirt for more information about people who eat earthy substances.) New born babies were rubbed with oils and steamed, mothers were also steamed.

A bush sauna is used to treat arthritic pain and give general pain relief, see early days of sauna history.

Lost knowledge


Unfortunately all herbal medicine knowledge that was acquired by past generations has mostly been lost.

European settlers were largely responsible for this, as they not only displaced the aborigines but they also introduced diseases that the aborigines had little resistance to. Another reason is that they adopted westernized life styles.

In the last 20 years anthropologists have been working hard to try record what is left of all herbal medicine. Here are some examples of the bush medicine they used to treat ailments.

Coughs and Colds


  • Fuchsia bushes (Eremophila)- Method: Decoction drunk.
  • Lemon grasses (Cymbopogon) - Method: Decoction drunk or applied as wash.
  • River mint (Mentha australis) - Method: Decoction drunk.
  • Tea trees (Melaleuca)- Method: Decoction drunk.
  • Great morinda (Morinda citrifolia): Method: Ripe fruit eaten.



  • Eucalypt bark (Eucalypt)- Method: Infusion drunk
  • Lemon grasses (Cymbopogon)- Method: Decoction drunk.
  • Native raspberries (Rubus)- Method: Leaf infusion drunk, decoction drunk.
  • Cluster fig (Ficus racemosa) - Method : Bark infusion drunk.
  • Sacred basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum)- Method: Root infusion drunk.



  • Tea tree (Melaleuca viridiflora) - Method: Bath of crushed up leaves in water.
  • Kapok tree (Cochlospermum fraseri) - Method: Flower and bark decoction drunk.
  • Turpentine bush (Beyeria lechenaultii) - Method: Leaf decoction taken.
  • Lemon grasses (Cymbopogon) - Method: Wash with boiled leaves.
  • Red river gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis)- Method: Steamed leaves inhaled.

Pains and aches


  • Beach bean (Canavilia rosea) - Method: Mashed root infusion rubbed on.
  • Northern black wattle (Acacia auriculiformis)- Method: Root decoction applied.
  • Rock fuchsia bush (Eremophila freelingii) - Method: Wash with leaf decoction.
  • Beaty leaf (Calophyllum inophullum) - Method: Crushed nut as well as ochre are rubbed on.



  • Konkerberry (Carissa Ianceolata) - Method: Bathing in bark infusion.
  • Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon) - Method: Oily sap applied as liniment.
  • Nettle (Urtica) - Method: Patient beaten with leaves.
  • Beach bean (Canacalia rosea)-Method: Mashed root infusion rubbed in.
  • Tick-weed (Cleome viscose)-Method: Leaves applied.
  • Stinging tree (Dendrocnide moroides)- Method: Bark and boiled leaves rubbed in.

Sore Ears


  • Lemon grass (Cymbopogon)-Method: Root decoction which is poured into the ears.
  • River mangrove (Aegiceras corniculatum)- Method: Leaf decoction applied.
  • Lady apple (Syzygium suborbiculare)-Method: Fruit pulp applied.
  • Native hop (Dodonaea viscosa)-Method: Boiled root juice applied.



  • Snakevine (Tinospora smilacina)- Method: Root poultice applied.
  • Nipan (Capparis lasiantha)-Method: Whole plant infusion applied.
  • Beach convolvulus (Ipomoea pes-caprae)- Method: Heated leaf applied.
  • Native hop (Dodonaea viscosa)- Method: Chewed leaves bound to sting.
  • Peanut tree (Sterculia quadrifida)- Method: Heated leaves pressed on sting



  • Cocky apple (Planchonia careya)- Method: Bark infusion poured into wounds.
  • Billygoat weed (Ageratum)- Method: Crushed plant applied.
  • Tree orchid (Dendrobium affine)- Method: Bulb sap dabbed on cuts.
  • Paperbark tea trees (Melaleuca) - Method:Bark wrapped as a bandage.
  • Spike rush (Eleocharis dulcis) - Method: Decaying plant bound to wounds.

Sore eyes


  • Regal birdflower (Crotalaria cunninghamii)- Method: Leaf or sap decoction given.
  • Ironwood (Acacia melanoxylon) - Method: Root decoction administered.
  • Green plum (Buchanania obovata) - Method: Infusion of inner bark applied.
  • Fan flower (Scaevola sericea) - Method: Fruit juice applied.
  • Emu apple (Owenia acidula) - Method: Wood decoction applied.



  • Supplejack (Flagellaria indica) - Method: Benumbing stem is chewed.
  • Green plum (Buchanania obovata) - Method: Tooth is plugged with shredded wood.
  • Pemphis (Pemphis acidula) - Method: Burning twig is applied.
  • Denhamia (Denhamia obscura) - Method: Tooth is plugged with inner bark.
  • Quinine berry (Petalostigma pubescens) - Method: Fruits are held in the mouth.



  • Liniment tree (Melaleuca symphyocarpa) - Method: Crushed leaves are rubbed on the head.
  • Red ash (Alphitonia excelsa) - Method: Bathe with crushed leaves in water.
  • Headache vine (Clematis microphylla) - Method: Leaves are crushed and then inhaled.
  • Snakevine (Tinospora smilacina) - Method: Mashed stems are put around the head.
  • Rock fuchsia bush (Eremophila) - Method: Leaf decoction drunk.
  • Tamarind (Tamarindus indica) - Method: Fruit pulp is rubbed on the head.

Aborigines and bush medicine today


Aborigines today have a life expectancy of 17 years less than white Australians and higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, drug and alcohol abuse as well as domestic violence. They are often ridiculed, discriminated against and subjected to racism.

The most famous Australian aborigine is Cathy Freeman who won a gold medal in the Sydney 2000 Olympics. She is a fantastic role model; she set up the Cathy Freeman foundation which aims to give young indigenous Australians a brighter future.

Dilthan Yolngunha: The Healing Place, was set up by East Arnhem Land Indigenous leaders in 2007. All herbal medicine there is practiced alongside western medicine. This is a short video about the work the healing place does.

Return from all herbal medicine to natural healing home

Return to herbal medicine.


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