Medicinal and Aromatic Plants - Australia
Plants contain a myriad of natural compounds which exhibit important bioactive properties. These compounds may provide alternatives to current medications and afford a significant avenue for new drug discovery. As a result of geographic isolation, Australia is home to a large variety of unique and distinct flora not found elsewhere in the world. Due to the harsh conditions seen in many parts of Australia, plants have developed unique survival methods and phytochemicals specific to the environmental conditions they inhabit and may hold the key to the treatment of many diseases and medical conditions. Herbal medicines have played an important role in the health, culture and traditions of Australian Aboriginal people prior to the arrival of Europeans. Much of our understanding of the medicinal potential of Australian native plants is from accounts of Aboriginal ethnopharmacology. However, traditional Aboriginal knowledge of plants as therapeutics is disappearing as the Aboriginal culture merges into main stream society and the passing of oral traditions between each generation diminishes. Given the diverse nature of the flora present and the diminishing traditional knowledge, Australian plants remain relatively unstudied and it is surprising more research has not been done. Much of our understanding of Australian medicinal plants is fragmented. With the exception of Lassak and McCarthy’s book “Australian Medicinal Plants” and various early colonial texts (such as the 1889 work “The Useful Plants of Australia” by Maiden) which describe Aboriginal and early colonial ethnopharmacologies, most information is scattered throughout various scientific journals and government reports. Whilst readily available to scientific researchers in this field, much of this information is difficult to obtain for interested lay persons. Furthermore, the Lassak and McCarthy and the Maiden texts deal almost exclusively with our understanding of Australian ethnopharmacology and little understanding of phytochemistry and bioactivity mechanisms is provided. This volume builds on these ethnopharmacological reports and summarises the current knowledge of Australian medicinal and aromatic plants. The ethnoparmacologies of various groups, from Aborigines, to early colonial settlers, to later migrant ethnopharmacologies are explored and tabulated as quick reference sources. Knowledge of Australian medicinal plants phytochemistry and mechanisms of action are also summarised, particularly where relating to the aromatic Australian plants (eg. Eucalypts, Melaleukas, Leptospermums etc). This volume also provides an introduction to current scientific studies into Australian medicinal plants (with specific examples) and some of the techniques used in the hopes of stimulating interest and further studies in this field.