Natural health: a runners’ guide

From Indigenous tradition to the latest scientific research here’s how our local bush medicine can have you running (and feeling) your best.


What it is > Lemon myrtle, or backhousia citriodora, is a native Australian tree grown in areas from Brisbane to Rockhampton.

Health benefits > Packed with anti-viral and anti-fungal properties, it’s been traditionally used to treat viruses, digestive problems and nausea. A 2003 Charles Sturt University study also showed lemon myrtle has potential as an antiseptic or natural disinfectant.

Best ways to take it > The leaves can be used fresh, dried, ground or in an oil, but it’s traditionally drunk in tea or used in foods. Lola suggests having it smashed with macadamia nuts and drizzled with honey over yoghurt. It also shows up in cosmetics, shampoos and shower gels.

Where to find it > Health food stores.


What it is > A native Australian shrub in the myrtle family, myrtaceae. It’s mostly grown in Western Australia, but two species are also found in New Zealand.

Health benefits > While research is still in it’s infancy, some herbalists claim kunzea soothes muscle pain, soft tissue injuries and joint pain associated with arthritis, plus it may also help relieve flu symptoms, tension, stress and anxiety.

Best ways to take it > Kunzea essential oil, discovered by Tasmanian farmer John Hood in the 1990s, can be applied direct to the skin, added to a bath, foot bath or oil burner for inhaling.

Where to find it > Natural skin care and health stores.


What it is > There are more than 700 species of this native flowering tree growing across Australia.

Health benefits > According to chemist Joanne Jamie’s research, the Yaegl people use eucalyptus to help clear bronchitis, sore throats and coughs. It has anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, anti-bacterial, decongestant and deodorant properties, and if you’re an outdoor enthusiast, it also helps repel mosquitos and insects.

Best ways to take it > Inhale essential oil or apply oil to your skin as a disinfectant, it’s also found in lozenges and sweets, while the nectar of some eucalyptus is used in honey.

Where to find it > Health food stores, pharmacies and supermarkets. Karen advises to check for quality and only use pure essential oil for medicinal purposes.


What it is > Thick honey removed from the jelly bush tree or leptospermum scoparium, grown in Australia and New Zealand.

Health benefits > A recent UK study found jelly bush, pasture and New Zealand’s manuka honeys each contained anti-inflammatory properties that may initiate or accelerate the healing of wounds and tissue repair.

Best ways to take it > It can be applied directly and undiluted to a wound and then covered with a bandage. Lola says it’s also a great superfood – try adding a teaspoon to your breakfast cereal or toast.

Where to find it > Health food stores.


What it is > Oil extracted from native tea trees grown from southeast Queensland to the northeast coast of New South Wales.

Health benefits > With the ability to kill harmful bacteria around skin infections, Dr Hughes says runners can use it for cuts and scratches caused by trail running. The Yaegl community also use it for open wounds and sores, while Lola says the added bonus is it helps fight pimples and breakouts.

Best ways to take it > Found in tropical applications, soaps and oils for your skin, or place a few drops in an oil burner and inhale to help relieve respiratory symptoms – Karen warns, tea tree is toxic to drink.

Where to find it > Health food stores, pharmacies and supermarkets – check for purity.


What it is > A native fruit also known as gubinge, billy goat plum or murunga, grown in the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

Health benefits > Containing 50 times the amount of vitamin C found in an orange, kakadu plum is packed with antioxidants. “Runners need a high level of antioxidants for oxidation, to help metabolise the chemicals from lactic acid build up,” says Karen. The native fruit has been used by Indigenous Australians as an antiseptic and healing remedy because of it’s anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties.

Best ways to take it > Karen uses kakadu plum as a bush flower essence. Lola also recommends it as a superfood – it’s often used in chutneys, jams and pickles.

Where to find it > Health food stores and some pharmacies.


What it is > A native Australian plant also called antalum spicatum, grown and exported from Western Australia.

Health benefits > The plant is considered to have high anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory benefits. While research is ongoing some studies suggest it can be used to lower systolic blood pressure.

Best ways to take it > Sandalwood is widely used as an aromatic, a medicine and a food source. It also shows up in perfumes and make-up.

Where to find it > Health food shops and cosmetic stores.

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