Better Health, Naturally
The recent warm and humid weather has created ideal conditions for the growth of fungi and moulds. Having grown up in a dry and cold climate, I cannot believe how they thrive in these damp conditions. Leather products, including belts and shoes; clothes and walls are easily affected in this weather, and can contribute to allergies. Additionally, our bodies may be more susceptible to fungal infections.
Thank goodness for plants with antifungal and antimicrobial properties! These include herbs such as pao d’arco, golden seal, calendula and thyme. Some essential oils are also powerful antifungal agents, for example oil of cloves, thyme, oregano, and even patchouli and lavender. Australia has some of the world’s best anti-fungal plants, namely tea tree and my favourite, lemon myrtle (Backhousia citriodora). This tree is native to the sub-tropical and tropical rainforest region of the Northern Rivers and Queensland and grows to a height of 6-14 metres. It is a stunning plant with dense foliage, lemon-scented shiny green leaves, and it has an abundance of little white flowers in summer. Much of the commercial crop is grown in the Northern Rivers. The smell and antifungal activity is due to the essential oil citral. Lemon myrtle is very versatile, and can be used in cosmetics, cooking and of course medicinally. Crush up the leaves to use as a mosquito repellent.
Research has demonstrated antimicrobial activity of lemon myrtle oil against a number of organisms, including Candida albicans, Staphylococcus aureus and mulluscum contagiosum. Never take the oil internally, and do not apply undiluted to the skin as it is a strong irritant - use it at maximum of 1-2% dilution. Lemon myrtle oil can be bought in most health food shops and pharmacies. To clean your house, add a few drops of essential oil in water in a spray bottle, and shake well before spraying. Alternatively, you can add solubaliser, which mixes the water and oil. Use it to clean floors, walls, bathrooms and kitchens. Add the oil (1-2% maximum) to a moisturizer and apply to your skin, either as a general moisturizer or to treat fungal infections such as tinea. I have used lemon myrtle oil successfully for recurring outer ear infections – add 15 drops to 25 mls of olive or mullein oil, and apply three drops in ear 3-4 times daily (please consult your GP first if you have a sore ear). This amazing plant is so versatile; we should all have one in our home. Commercial varieties only grow 4-6 metres tall, some you can grow in pots - go and plant a lemon myrtle tree this week!
Martina Pattinson, Naturopath
ph 0427 025051