Million-dollar boost for bush medicines

Traditional Australian bush medicines have taken a step closer to market with $1 million pledged to explore product commercialisation and sustainable agribusiness opportunities in Northern Australia.

The funds, announced by the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia, will support initiatives including University of Queensland research into the medicinal benefits of native plants.

Associate Professor Joanne Blanchfield said the project would bring together research and experience, showcasing native plants as an important biological, cultural and economic resource.

“Australia’s unique plant life offers a rich but underexplored source of medicinal plants,” she said.

“To embark on this exploration with the guidance and knowledge of the traditional custodians of the land is very exciting.

“Through the application of modern science to Indigenous knowledge, we can potentially develop ground-breaking new health products, working alongside Indigenous communities.”

UQ’s School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences will be one of two locations in Australia where native plants are evaluated for their potential in developing medicines.

Deputy Head of School Professor James De Voss said he looked forward to expanding the role of native Australian medicines internationally.

“People readily recognise products like tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil and Kakadu plum, but we’re hoping to add a number of new medicinal products to that list,” he said.

“We hope that products we develop and help commercialise as a result of this research could add significant value to the bush medicine sector.

“In addition, it may also result in opportunities for Indigenous workforce development, sustainable regional development in Northern Australia, and the creation of uniquely Australian export products.

The project has been touted as an opportunity to cross-pollinate deeply historical Indigenous knowledge through leading scientific investigation.

“We’re looking forward to discovering new compounds, guided by Indigenous knowledge that has developed over thousands of years,” Professor De Voss said.

“Together we can advance scientific knowledge and hopefully create new health solutions developed from traditional knowledge, eventually sharing our locally-grown solutions around the globe.”

The project is a collaboration between UQ, the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia, the Menzies School of Health Research, Traditional Homeland Enterprises and Integria Healthcare.

Image above left: Seeds from a Denhamia tree, which may provide ingredients for the next generation of commercialised Indigenous medicines.

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