Medicinal plant use in two Tiwi Island communities: a qualitative research study

J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2019 Aug 16;15(1):40. doi: 10.1186/s13002-019-0315-2.


Background: Traditional medicinal plants are still used today in many Aboriginal communities across Australia. Our research focused on the contemporary use of such plants in the two communities within the Tiwi Islands, Wurrumiyanga and Pirlangimpi.

Methods: This qualitative research project performed a video ethnography, community interviews, and a trial intervention to better understand the extent to which these plants are still used throughout the community and how they may be used more in the future.

Results: We found that several plants are still used predominantly as medicinal washes to treat skin disorders and/or as a tea to treat congestion associated with cold and flu. Those plants that are commonly used are found near to the community in large amounts and are recognized as being both safe and effective.

Conclusions: Within the community, it is the elder women who remain most knowledgeable about these plants and continue to make them for their families. However, there are many families who no longer know how to make these traditional medicines though they express a desire to use them. Therefore, it would be beneficial to have a central location or method to produce traditional medicine for the community-a bush pharmacy.

Keywords: Bush medicine; Ethnography; Medical anthropology; Medicinal plants; Qualitative; Tiwi, Wurrumiyanga.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Australia
  • Ethnobotany
  • Ethnopharmacology / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicine, Traditional / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander / statistics & numerical data
  • Phytotherapy / methods*
  • Plants, Medicinal*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Rural Population*