Scaevola Spinescens

A traditional Bush Medicine

Scaevola Spinescens is a native Australian bush. Long used by the Australian Aboriginal people for its natural healing properties.

Perhaps the greatest anecdotal "claim to fame" for Maroon Bush extract (tea) has been people who have used it to assist them in dealing with cancer. There are also those who have used it for a range of other health issues. My personal use now is as a booster for the immune system. It comes in very useful if there are colds, flus or other bugs doing the rounds.

The bush grows across a reasonable area of Australia, from Western Australia through South Australia and into some parts of New South Wales and Queensland.

There appears to be little to no variation in the characteristics and quality of the bush throughout these regions. Perhaps the biggest noticeable difference comes between plants growing in areas with slightly higher rainfall or loamy soils and those growing in more arid, rocky soils. These more arid region plants seem at times to be more thorny and to make a more bitter tea. There seems to be no difference in the efficacy of tea made from the various regions.
This bush first came to the notice of non indigenous Australians in 1935. An Aboriginal man named Albert Nebrong is reputed to have cured his severe case of cancer of the tongue. Since that time, and subsequent history, particularly in Western Australia, the term "Bush Tea" or "Bush Medicine" is often used to describe the tea-like extract made from this plant. Other names used for the bush are, "Maroon Bush", "Murrin Murrin", "Prickley Fan Flower" and "Currant Bush"
These tea-like extracts of Scaevola Spinescens have traditionally been used by Australian Aboriginal people as a treatment for cancer, intestinal trouble, urinary problems, kidney issues and general illnesses. See The Maroon Bush Story by Jeanie Crago, and Wajarri Wisdom by Estelle Leyland.

More recently there have been some interesting studies done on the plant, with some ongoing.
From the late 1940's to the late 1980's there was great interest in the Maroon Bush within Western Australia. At one point in the latter end of this period, and over more than a decade in duration, the Western Australian Health Department supplied the "bush tea" to cancer patients. As documented in The Maroon Bush Story, there seems have been either no records kept, or all records have been lost. In 2011 I spoke with a lady from Western Australia who's mother had been one of those patients. Her Mother had lived on for at least 20 years after the beginning of her use of the tea, which the Health Department supplied. Some of the outcomes which can be documented and tracked have had mixed results, but many would state that the bush tea played a significant role in their recovery or extended life.
One of the clear outcomes of the Health Departments use of the tea was an admission that it is effective in reducing the negative side effects of other treatments like chemotherapy. It is now well known that chemical compounds within the tea have a positive influence on the mood and wellbeing of people taking it.

Sadly, in response to pressure from certain medical practitioners, the maroon bush, and extract was eventually declared an S4 Poison in Western Australia. Its use in that state in now "Prescription Only", and the plant is a protected species. This still stands today. Because of this, supply to people in WA is for use only on stock or pets, and not for human consumption. We take no responsibility for what you do with it.

It seems that the motivation behind this restrictive S4 declaration is based on concerns by medical practitioners that people may use or rely too heavily on the maroon bush extract to treat their cancer and ignore mainstream or modern medicine. It is clear that modern medicine today, in many situations, can do amazing things. It is also perhaps equally true that many natural products, extracts and treatments have also done amazing things for many people.
The difficulty comes when someone having chosen a particular method of healing loses their life to cancer or disease. The question is always there, "Would the outcome have been different with a different method?" It is easy for mainstream medical practitioners to look at someone who chose natural methods and feel that they could have done better. Of course it is just as easy for a natural health practitioner to feel the same about somone for whom modern medicine failed. Clearly, the answer is not that simple. Perhaps it is actually the wrong question because it sets up an either / or situation. The very situation which led to the restrictions on maroon bush when proponents of one view dominated the other though legislative structures.

I would suggest that the better question is, "What methods can be taken from both mainstream and natural approaches to healing to offer the best possible outcome?" Of course this is becoming the approach of more and more people. This must be a good thing. Perhaps both mainstream and natural approaches to healing will be at their best when people have the information, resources, and freedom to select from the complete spectrum for a personalized approach to their healing.

The irony regarding the S4 is that studies have shown the plant and extract to be no more toxic than Aloe Vera. Both sheep and goats are happy to eat the plant. Of course, they suffer no ill effects from it. On the downside, they are probably more likely to threaten the species than would well monitored harvesting. I have been out in the bush and seen plants eaten down by wild goats to a 30 centimeter stub. The good thing is that in most cases the bush continues to grow in this stunted form. Some bushes are more thorny and manage to escape the damage.
Today there is a significant number of people who have used the Maroon bush tea to improve their health, many in conjunction with mainstream medicine. Its use is in practice very similar to any other natural cancer treatment or natural herbal remedy. Some people use it with other natural products which they believe can contribute to natural cancer healing. Others use it in conjunction with mainstream medicine, chemotherapy, or surgery etc. Whatever the choice people have made, the net result is a good number of people who believe these natural herbal remedy methods, or the combination of methods, has either contributed to their remission, healing, or at least extended their life.

I am in the process of gathering more stories together, and if you have any information or stories that you think would be of value please let me know.