Australia has a remarkable bushland with many unique plants that are not found anywhere else in the world. Aboriginal people exploited this diversity, being superb survivalists in a harsh environment. They harvested the bounty of the land with ingenuity and centuries of practical experience. The sweet native honeys, the sugar letp insects, tasty Witchetty grubs and oil-rich Bogong moths are good examples.
When the colonists arrived two centuries ago they found the strange flora almost incomprehensible and again, the long process of experimentation began, inspired by European traditions. The astringent, antibacterial qualities of Eucalypt kino and the Wattle trees were quickly pressed into service. The fragrant oils of much of the flora could be unmistakable particularly the Eucalypts, Tea-trees, Native Myrtles and Mintbushes, and were easily pressed into service. A few were even reminiscent of familiar traditions. They included the distinctive aromatic qualities of Sarsaparilla, Sassafras and Sacred Basil, which were useful flavourings and medicines. The discovery of others, such as the Lemon Myrtle and Tasmannia Pepper, ensured similar uses.
The early colonists marvelled at the discoveries that appeared to abound on this 'new' continent. There was much that was novel and unique, causing great excitement in scientific circles. Yet, in many ways, they also struggled with a practical appreciation of the environment. Indeed, the story of the exploitation of the legendary Sandalwood, sadly, was accompanied by destructive consequences across the continent.
The records of the early pioneers, the European medical men and Aboriginal experience have given us valuable bush remedies that we continue to learn about. This fusion of ancient tradition in an ancient land, combined with the insights granted by modern science, today sees native plants take on a new role for the future — a very special legacy of this remarkable island continent.
Bush Remedies is based on Bush Pharmacy (Volume 1 of Medicinal Plants in Australia), which is now out-of-print.
Chapter 1: The Search for Sustenance
Chapter 2: The Physician's Medicine Chest
Chapter 3: Discovering Bush Remedies
Chapter 4: Xanthorrhoea: Grass-tree Medicine
Chapter 5: Sarsaparilla and Sassafras: Old Remedies in a New Country Chapter 6: Uniquely Australian: An Age of Floral Discovery
Chapter 7: Floral Emissaries
Chapter 8: Bush Beverages
Chapter 9: Bush Tucker Bugs
Chapter 10: Sweet Surprises: Medicinal and Toxic Honeys