Celebrating NAIDOC: Backyard Meals and Medicine

We live in such a diverse environment here in Australia. Many of us may not be aware of the medicinal properties and food sources available to us right here in our very backyards. There are many common native plants, trees and flowers that have been used by First Nation Australian in medicinal and food practice for thousands of years before introduction to our modern supermarkets and chemists.

To celebrate NAIDOC week and bring awareness to the richness of our own natural flora we’ve detailed just a few of the benefits of local flora with the help and shared knowledge of our local Indigenous Gumbaynggirr community.  Thank you to local Ricky Buchanan who has assisted me in writing this short piece to share with you all.

And a caveat before we read on – this article is for information and knowledge sharing only and does not contain professional dietary or medical advice. Be mindful of our own personal circumstances and health and seek professional assistance prior to any use or consumption.

Plant 1- Lemon Myrtle, Backhousia citriodora

Lemon Myrtle is sometimes referred to as the “Queen of the Lemon Herbs”. It boasts an intensely citrus fragrance and flavour and has long been used in Aboriginal cuisine and medicine. This plant can be used in tea’s, add flavour to meals such as biscuits, slices and cheesecakes. It grows in most areas of NSW and into both QLD and Victoria. It’s process is to extract the oils by boiling and separating the oil from the water.

Along with its ability to be eaten it also has antifungal and antibacterial properties.

lemon myrtle Naidoc week

Plant 2- Bracken Fern-Pteridium aquilinum

This plant acts to stop itch and help symptoms when bitten by insects. When broken at the base or root section it produces a gel like substance and when applied helps the affected area from stinging and itching. This plant is found near Ants nests or bushes. It can be readily found in our local area.

Bracken Fern NAIDOC Week

Plant 3 – Nettle and Stinging Nettle-Urtica dioica

This can be used in treating joint pain if applied direct to the area. The nettle heats and numbs the area. Nettle can also be used in teas. Place leaves direct into the water and boil.

The left-over leaves can then be used for things such as toothache and applied to the affected area.

Stinging Nettle is native to streams and rainforest of eastern and southern Australia.

Stinging Nettle NAIDOC Week

Plant 4 – Paddy’s Lucern (Curved Leaf)- Sida rhombifolia

This can be used to stop acid reflux and indigestion. It is the milky sap inside the leaves that is the key. The leaves can be eaten whole and best to avoid the stalk. This will also help settle upset stomachs. Consumption should be a handful of leaves to be effective.

Paddy’s Lucern is common throughout Australia and especially in tropical to warm temperate areas.

Paddy's Lucern NAIDOC Week

Plant 5 – Pig Face-Carpobrotus glaucescens

This can be sued to treat sunburn, dehydration and headaches and has a fruit that can be eaten. It is best eaten when the flower dies and turns a dark purple. What can be eaten is the base of the flower and swollen to indicate the fruit has developed. It has a taste similar to a combination of watermelon and Kiwi Fruit.

This plant can be found along our coastal areas and grown in gardens.

Pig Face NAIDOC Week
  • To treat headaches you can break the leaves and put the sap on the middle of the forehead.
  • For dehydration you can eat leaves but this is a very short term solution. Due to the salt content water is recommended within a short period after consumption and seek medical assistance.
  • To treat sunburn you can apply sap to the affected area.

The author of this piece Anessa Edwards is a life-time Nambucca Heads local and Team Leader for our Disability Employment Service in our Nambucca office. Anessa crafted this article by sharing her own family knowledge and collaborating Gumbaynggirr local Ricky Buchanan.