From essential oils to superfoods to energy healing, indigenous remedies have a lot to offer, as Bonnie Bayley discovers. Here are six worth trying.
Referred to as ‘medicine berries’ by indigenous people, riberries, also called small-leaved lilli pilli, were traditionally eaten to strengthen immunity. “They are high in antioxidants that help protect against chronic diseases and have three times the folate of blueberries, which is important during pregnancy, and for energy levels,” says Hayley Blieden, dietitian and founder of The Australian Superfood Co. “They have a spicy flavour, and can be used wherever you’d use cinnamon or cloves.”
You can buy riberries frozen, freeze-dried, or in products such as jam and chutney.
Kodo massage draws on the traditional healing practices and sacred knowledge of the Ya’idt-midtung peoples of Southern NSW and North Eastern Victoria. Offered in Li’tya spas around Australia, kodo is a rhythmic body massage incorporating pressure points and spiralling movements. “It’s based on the understanding that energy moves from the inside to the outside of the body, cleansing, balancing and healing the body,” explains indigenous elder and Li’tya ambassador Anne Warren. “The movements are designed to facilitate this, establishing a state of healing.”
Ancient aboriginal wisdom is merged with holographic kinetics, an aboriginal healing modality, to create Dreamtime healing. “The Australian aboriginal people knew that everything – people, animals, the land – is alive and has a spirit, and that our past, present and future are interconnected,” explains practitioner James Pask. “In this modality, we heal the past in the present, to create a better future.”
In a typical session, the practitioner will look at the original trigger or cause of your troubles. “The person then has a chance to relive that moment, for instance, what it felt like being bullied at seven years old,” says Pask.
“Then, we get them to reimagine that moment however they wish, in turn creating a new moment in their story.” Dreamtime healing can help with anything from feeling stuck, to emotional pain, addictions, relationships, work or money issues.
It can also be used to help animals, properties and businesses, based on the belief that everything has a spirit.
Guradji is a native Australian plant that was traditionally used by the Guringai nation on the east coast of Australia to heal ailments such as toothache, pain and nausea. It is available as a mild, nutty-tasting tea which is rich in antioxidants and contains inositol, a nutrient believed to promote skin elasticity.
As well as brewing it as a tea, you can get creative with guradji. “I grind it into a powder and add it to smoothies,” says Jesse Gurugirr, founder of Lore Australia, which sells the tea.“My partner keeps our brewed leaves and puts them in a body scrub bag, while a friend has been infusing the leaves in coconut oil and using it as a body and face rub.”
This native superfood, also called gubinge, was considered a gift of the dreamtime by indigenous people, eaten on hunting trips to quench thirst and boost energy. “It has the highest vitamin C content of any food in the world, and is being researched as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s,” says Blieden. “It has antibacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties, and is a source of iron, vitamin E and folate.”
You can buy kakadu plums frozen or freeze-dried online and in some health food shops. Add them to smoothies or sprinkle the dried powder on cereal.
Known for its uplifting citrus aroma, the lemon myrtle plant was traditionally used by indigenous people for stomach and respiratory ailments. The essential oil is a versatile one to keep in your medicine cabinet. “If you have a cold or sinus infection you could put some in a vaporiser and inhale it,” suggests aromatherapist Deby Atterby. It can also be used to treat cold sores – just add a drop to some balm, at a ratio of one per cent essential oil, to avoid irritation.
“It makes a brilliant antibacterial spray for cleaning too,” adds Atterby. “Make a mix of half water, half methylated spirits and a few drops of essential oil.”