Emu Bush (Eremophila alternifolia) has a stunning delicate, herbal and earthy taste. It has been used traditionally to assist with sleep and has a calming effect.
Emu Bush has been valued for both, medicinal and ceremonial purposes by Indigenous people in coastal parts of Australia. The leaves have been used as a decoction, for sores and wounds; an infusion for colds, headaches, chest pains and diarrhea treatment and smoked to create a sterile environment for newborn babies and healing new mothers.
Emu Bush is one of the most important plant species to Aboriginal people, especially to those living in Central Australia. It was used in initiation ceremonies, to line graves, for tanning water bags and was placed in the headbands of warriors. Crushed leaves were infused in water and the infusion was drunk for colds, and rubbed over sores or body aches.
◎ Common Name: Emu Bush, Narrow-leaved Poverty Bush, Scented Emu Bush
◎ Scientific or Latin Name: Eremophila alternifolia
◎ Comparison: Eucalyptus
◎ Seasonality: Harvest normally Spring through Summer, all year dried
◎ Region: Native to arid temperate and subtropical parts of Australia
◎ Taste Profile: A milder eucalyptus flavour
◎ Types: Currently 214 species of Eremophila are recognised. We use Eremophila alternifolia as a dried leaf in our healing herbal Emu Bush Tea.
- It is a natural and healthy antiseptic.
- The plant has incredible anti-bacterial properties, used as a natural way of sterilising wounds and infections.
- Infusions of the fresh leaves can be used for treating headaches and insomnia.
- The major components of the essential oil of the leaves have been found to be alpha-pinene, beta-pinene and limonene.
- Geniposidic acid, isolated from a methanol extract of the leaves, has been reported to demonstrate significant cardioactive effects.
Traditional Aboriginal Food and Uses
Eremophilas have been used in Aboriginal tribal life in both cultural and medicinal roles. Plant material has been used in ceremonial rites, extracts and decoctions of plant parts have been used as liniments, medicines and antiseptics. The resinous exudants from some species, being used as sealants and adhesives.
Indigenous people considered Emu Bush to be the most sacred and mystical plant species found in central Australia. It has many ceremonial and medicinal uses and is regarded by many Indigenous groups as their “number one medicine”.
Most Eremophila species have characteristic smells which were key to their selection by Indigenous healers, as the most aromatic specimens were favoured for medicine.
The leaves of the Emu Bush were placed on hot embers for traditional therapeutic use. The resultant wet steamy smoke possibly inhibited bacterial or fungal pathogens, as well as providing a stimulus for milk let-down in women after childbirth. It is an important medicine to women. Steam from the burnt leaves has been used after childbirth to 'smoke' mothers and their newborn babies to stop the mother’s bleeding and to strengthen the babies.
The same smoking procedure was used to prepare surgical tools for circumcision. This was no doubt for sterilisation, and was conceptualised as a type of purification ritual.
Western & Modern
Emu Bush is a unique 'Australian pioneer species', evolving over millions of years to create powerful mechanisms to store vast quantities of the phyto-compounds needed to survive the extreme conditions of the Northern Territory. Records have its leaves used by Aboriginal tribes to wash sores and cuts, while in the last decade the leaves were discovered to have the same strength as established antibiotics.
These particular plants are used in essential oils, teas, massage oils, and rubs. They offer a variety of benefits, such as natural antibacterial qualities and potentially reducing pain.
Eremophila plants contain compounds which have shown to be effective in controlling bacteria responsible for tooth decay.
Australian scientists are investigating the use of Emu Bush for sterilising implants, such as artificial hips. This species offers an abundance of exciting bio-actives to create new points of difference in cosmetic ranges, and is expected to make big news in natural pharmaceuticals where testing has shown that the leaves contain compounds that affect cardiac activity.
Warndu Products featuring Emu Bush
Note: The term 'Bush Tucker' and 'Bush Food' are not Warndu's preferred terms for Australian Native Ingredients or Australian Botanicals.
Images: Photo as featured on Gardening with Angus.