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Mangrove worms and bush tobacco: strengths and risks in traditional medicine

Date posted: 30 November 2015

The cultural use of bush tobacco has been revealed by Western Desert Aboriginal peoples throughout the Northern Territory (NT), South Australia (SA) and Western Australia (WA). Mingkulpa, or bush tobacco, is a sturdy natural plant that grows across the continent, in arid and tropical areas, from Qld to WA. It is claimed by some, that the plant is a drug that can be known to cause hallucinogenic experiences. It is mixed with ash and chewed, rather than smoked, making it rather different from regular tobacco.

However, the plant is no safe alternative. A fact sheet from Menzies School of Health Research highlights the risk involved in the use of the plant. Its high levels of nicotine make it addictive and ongoing use of bush tobacco may cause significant health problems.

In other news, a group of 12 Elcho Island women from the NT have returned to their traditional land for healing. The women claim that the use of tobacco and a diet of highly processed foods has decreased the health of their people. According to the women, six of them were smokers before the healing retreat, but since eating traditional foods such as the mangrove worm, four of them have managed to kick their habit.

The nutrition or general properties of the mangrove worm are not established. It is a common traditional food in areas that contain mangroves. The ‘worm’ is more of a sea mollusc that carries a shell and feeds on the dead wood of rotting mangrove trees.

Sources: The Australian, ABC News, Menzies School of Health Research.


Last updated: 30 November 2015
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