When my mind hobbled over a few issues last year, I visited mind-body medicine therapist Alison Corsie to find clarity.

Aboriginal healing

13:44:PM 20/01/2011
Lisa Mitchell

Witchetty grub
Witchetty grub
When my mind hobbled over a few issues last year, I visited mind-body medicine therapist Alison Corsie (www.inner-rhythms.com.au) to find clarity.

Among Corsie’s modalities were some potent flower essences, not from the prolific fields of Britain’s Dr Bach, but from our own wildflower sanctuary of Western Australia. What excited me was that the developers (www.livingessences.com.au) had ratified the healing abilities of these buds by studying the indigenous Nyoongah people of WA, who had been using them for the longest time.

It’s a shame that indigenous Australia’s medicinal mastery remains buried while we scull smelly herbal concoctions and welcome the incisive needles of traditional Chinese medicine.

Since we’re already exploring the beauty and self-purifying rituals of Ayurvedic medicine and the healing vibrations of chanted Indian Sanskrit, why not the rituals, healing songs, ceremonies and herbal remedies of our very own ancient tribes?

It seems we need to count on dedicated natural therapy seekers such as Living Essences to unearth Australia’s botanical secrets.

Shamanic “tourism” to Aboriginal communities has been the exception for an informed few for a couple of decades but, if I put my prescient specs on, I reckon India’s ashrams and Australia’s abundance of well-being retreats will one day compete for space with Aboriginal healing retreats where whitefellas invest their holiday time in indigenous holistic healing.

For now at least, the closest most of us are likely to get to Aboriginal magic is a 100ml bottle of goanna oil.

As with so much culture passed down only through oral tradition, the Australian Aborigines’ rich repository of botanical knowledge has been lost with the ravaging of its population, particularly the healing practices of the southern and eastern tribes.

While the earliest record of Chinese medicinal plants was published about 3000 BC, the first recording of our Aboriginal medicine only found print in 1988: Traditional Bush Medicines: An Aboriginal Pharmacopoeia (Greenhouse Publications), with descriptions and botanic drawings of just 65 plant and five non-plant substances.

I suppose you could argue that their medicine, which is still practised in remote communities, is hardly designed to deal with pervasive Western complaints such as back problems, cancer and depression, tailored as it is to snake bites, fever, stings, toothache and wound management.

Last year, however, news website Adelaide Now reported that the Pitjantjatjara ngangkari (traditional healers) were well in demand at Adelaide’s Native Titles Office, where up to 16 people a day received the healing powers of touch and chant to relocate ectopic spirits and resolve various conditions.

As people filter off to integrated medicine and complementary therapies to fill the holes that allopathic medicine is unable to fill, let’s hope some of the wisdom of the world’s longest continuous surviving indigenous people becomes part of our forward healing.

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» Lisa Mitchell is a hatha yoga teacher, relaxation instructor and freelance writer/editor specialising in holistic well-being.

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