“National Herbal Medicine Week celebrates the role of plants in medicine, not just today but throughout history,” Dr Hans Wohlmuth, head of the Department of Natural and Complementary Medicine, said.
“Herbal medicine is the oldest form of medicine, with evidence suggesting Neanderthals used plants as medicines 60,000 years ago. The oldest writings date back 5000 years in China.”
In Australia, figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that close to 100,000 Australians consult practitioners who prescribe herbal medicine every week, and many more are taking herbal medicines they buy from the pharmacy, supermarket or health food store.
“As far as we know, all human societies through the ages have used plants not only for food, but also for medicine,” Dr Wohlmuth said.
“Now many of those herbal medicines that have been used for hundreds, and sometimes thousands of years, are being scientifically tested and proven.
“Many people don’t realise that even today, a large number of pharmaceutical drugs are derived from medicinal plants. Aspirin, for example, was developed from compounds found in willow and other plants, and major pain relieving drugs such as morphine and codeine are extracted from the opium poppy, which is grown in Tasmania for pharmaceutical use.
“The Madagascan periwinkle, a very common garden plant in Australia, has yielded two chemotherapeutic drugs that are used in the treatment of cancer, and one of the most widely used drugs in Alzheimer’s disease is derived from another common garden plant, the snowdrop.”
Southern Cross University is one of Australia’s leading centres for herbal medicine education and research and conducts ongoing clinical trials of plants for medicinal and therapeutic use through the Department of Natural and Complementary and the Centre for Phytochemistry and Pharmacology.
The Medicinal Plant Gardens at the Lismore campus contain an extensive collection of medicinal plants from around the world. The gardens have a number of thematic beds, including herbs used by Hippocrates, herbs used in Europe in the Middle Ages, and herbs that came to Australia on the First Fleet. A section of the gardens is devoted to native Australian plants with a history of use as medicine or food by Indigenous Australians.
Dr Wohlmuth, a medicinal plant expert, will be conducting the tour of the Gardens, located off Rifle Range Road, Lismore, on Thursday, September 25, at 11.30am. To register for this free event phone 02 6626 9585.
Photo: A free tour of the Medicinal Plant Gardens at the LIsmore campus will be held on Thursday, September 25.
Media contact: Brigid Veale Southern Cross University communications manager, 02 66593006 or 0439 680 748.