Bush medicines analysed

Kurnai elders Sandra Mullett and Cheryl Drayton create bush medicines with Mirboo North herbalist Laura A'Bell. photograph hayley mills.

Kurnai elders Sandra Mullett and Cheryl Drayton create bush medicines with Mirboo North herbalist Laura A'Bell. photograph hayley mills.

A Mirboo North herbalist is working in collaboration with local Kurnai elders to find the healing properties in traditional bush medicines and create essential oils and balms.

Herbalist Laura A'Bell is running weekly sessions with the Kurnai women to collect plant samples around Mirboo North where there is a treasure-trove of traditional medicines and bush foods.

The women have already collected about 30 samples which they are distilling and sending to Southern Cross university to analyse the chemical compounds.

The analysis will reveal the plants' exact properties which will guide the women on how the oils can be used.

The women hope to create a Kurnai-owned cottage industry selling balms and oils made with the local native plants.

Kurnai elder Cheryl Drayton said the sessions were a way to pass on 60,000 years of knowledge that she had been taught from her own family.

Ms Drayton said there were more than 1000 plants in the region that could be used for specific cures, ranging from easing coughs and colds through to headache pain.

"These traditional medicines are tried and tested. This is a living culture being handed down. We are finding out how this can be used in conjunction with western medicine," Ms Drayton said.

"Everything that is being passed down is being confirmed by science. We've sent samples off and it's confirmed that the chemicals in the sample marries up with how we used them traditionally."

Ms Drayton said western culture had embraced things like ti-tree and eucalyptus oils which were being used extensively across the globe.

She said the sessions were also a way to connect with country and a reminder to look after the land to preserve its precious plant life.

"This is about walking on country and grounding ourselves and then learning how to make the products. It's a form of healing," she said.

"If we log the area, these healing bush plants will be lost forever – there will be some species that will be almost eliminated."

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