Australia Road Trippin’ May 25, 2018
Bustling cities, breathtaking beaches, natural woodlands, and swathes of serene farmlands, Australia has it all. But there’s a treasure trove of wellness just waiting to be uncorked.
Australia’s traditional natural oils have an incredible history; and the new ones are telling a story that is still inchoate. The time is ripe to get close to Australia’s natural bounty that is making waves in the essential oils markets. So buckle up, join this essential oil road trip across the Australian heartland!
WESTERN AUSTRALIA (WA)
As we touchdown at Perth, the capital of WA, say hello to the Wildflower State, occupying the entire western third of the Australian landmass. The population is concentrated along the southwestern coast; and moving inward the land becomes eroded, flat, and arid.
Macadamia Nut Oil:
For years, we have enjoyed eating these crunchy delights or adding them as food flavouring. But did you know that the essential oil from macadamia is equally, if not more, divine?
A drive down the legendary Pacific Coast Drive throws up spectacular scenery of rolling hinterland dotted with macadamia farms. Along the seaboard side of NSW and Queensland, there are never-ending plantations of macadamia in the Northern Rivers and Bundaberg regions. With more than 850 macadamia growers, Australia is the world’s primary producer, accounting for almost 30% of the global macadamia crop.
Among the several species of Australian macadamia only two species are commercially important, Macadamia integrifolia and M. tetraphylla. They are indigenous to the subtropical rainforests of the east coast of Australia. Macadamia nut oil is extracted from the ripe seed of Macadamia integrifolia, which is harvested to manufacture edible nuts.
The macadamia nut is also known as the ‘Queensland nut.’ As this name suggests, it is native to Australia, where it features as a staple dietary component for the native aborigines. It was first cultivated in Hawaii in 1930, and since then has evolved into the only plant of Australian origin to acquire global commercial significance.
Macadamia oil is cholesterol free, and because of an almost 82% proportion of monounsaturated oil, it is one of the healthiest edible oils in the world. It imparts a beautiful nutty flavour. It is also the closest in composition to natural human sebaceous oil, thereby easily absorbed when applied topically. The high palmitoleic acid content avoids oxidation and is a perfect match with the skin’s fatty acid composition. Its benefits are widespread:
- It is ideal for salad dressings, and is also used as a palatable alternative to olive oil
- With its high smoke point of 210° C, it is perfect for shallow frying and an appetising substitute for other oils for baking
- Macadamia oil is stable and has the added advantage of long shelf life due to the presence of stable omega 3 fatty acids, such as oleic acid
- The high oleic acid content makes it important for re-balancing cholesterol levels and reducing the triglyceride levels in the blood
- Its anti-inflammatory properties help soothe irritated skin
- Containing more than 60% oleic acid, it is excellent for softening skin, regenerating cells, and moisturising
Deep into the subtropical rainforests, you will find this thorny understory shrub. It is peppered through the Richmond river basin of coastal New South Wales and the rugged terrains of Mount Tamborine in Queensland.
Do not let its humble looks fool you. Popularly known as the caviar of citrus, the prickly finger lime has an aromatic, smooth but pebbled skin in a triad of colours, ranging from green to brown to red and almost black. Break one open and you will find unique separate juice vesicles resembling caviar and bursting with tangy flavour. It is rated ‘superior’ to other limes.
The trees are erect and can grow up to 10 metres. The prickly fruits are usually cylindrical in shape, up to 100 mm long, 20-30 mm in diameter and contain seeds. The miniscule oil cells on the rind give it a glossy appearance. The compressed juice vesicles burst out, but do not break on cutting. Ease of freezing without compromising on flavour or texture allows all-year-round access to this fruit. It helps in:
- Boosting immunity since it is a powerhouse of vitamin C
- Delayed aging of the skin through trapping the free radicals that damage skin cells, in addition to catalysing collagen production in skin
- Enhances eye health with its impressive levels of Vitamin A
- Quite a favourite with chefs for its use in creative culinary craft
Rosalina Oil :
Wild Rosalina trees abound in the wet, swampy lowlands of this region; the tree can also be found in Victoria and Tasmania, although characteristic lavender fragrance chemotype is predominantly found in New South Wales. Initially used by the aborigines to treat skin imperfections like acne and warts, Australia gifted the world Rosalina
in 1922. Melaleuca ericifolia, commonly known as the Swamp Paperbark Tree, contains high linalool levels, also found in lavender.
The Rosalina tree can reach 8 metres in height and produces white flowers in late spring. Its oil is extracted through steam distillation of the leaves, twigs, and branches. It is a mild cineole aromatic oil with a gentle lavender back note, thereby deriving its common name, Lavender Tea Tree. Many use it as a subtler version of tea tree oil with lavender tendencies. It offers a host of physical and emotional therapeutic benefits:
- With antibacterial, antiviral, decongestant, immune-stimulant, and sedative properties, Rosalina is gentle
- An excellent topical antiseptic, especially when blended with tea tree oil
- It works effectively on acne and other uncomfortable skin conditions that require a gentle healing oil
- Emotionally, Rosalina is calming and induces relaxation and sleep
- Its versatility to blend well with a host of oils makes it an effective immunity booster and natural air purifier
TASMANIA (TAS OR COLLOQUIALLY TASSIE)
Enjoy the ride across the Bass Strait to Tasmania, 240 kilometres off the southern tip of Victoria. How does the smallest Australian state have so much to offer? With craggy peaks, dense forestry and natural lakes, Tasmania, also called the Switzerland of Australia, revels in its isolation and awes with unspoiled natural wonder.
Tasmanian Mint Oil :
Peppermint oil, Mentha piperita, was one of the first essential oils produced in Tasmania in the late 1970s, using the prized Black Mitcham cultivar, renowned for its rich, complex flavour, and aroma. A medium-sized perennial herb, this can grow up to 1 metre in height. The dark green to blackish, square stem bears fragrant deep green leaves. The scent is similar to eponymous mint, with herbaceous notes with fruity and spicy back notes.
Tasmania’s climate with warm summer days, ample sunshine, and cool nights are ideal for the plant to grow profusely. In addition, the lack of endemic diseases enables it to produce the finest peppermint oil available on the market. Production today is still from the prominent “heritage” cultivar. These best growing conditions support the original genetics of the cultivar and present more complexity in aroma and flavour. Compared to that of the highest quality Willamette Oil, they offer a special alternative for the perfumer’s and flavourist palette. Peppermint oil advantages lie in:
- Among the best for digestion, nausea, vomiting
- Beneficial for colds, influenza, and sinus problems
- In a dilution of 1% or less it may relieve skin irritation and itching
- The essence aids in concentration and addressing fatigue
Parsley Oil Tasmania:
Move into the cool temperate climate of North-Eastern Tasmania and you will find a profusion of Tasmanian Parsley Herb Oil, Petroselinum crispum, also called Triple Curled Parsley. This essential oil is sustainably grown and farm-harvested in mid to late summer. The leaves are steam distilled and yield pale yellow oil with the herbaceous odour of ‘newly cut grass.’ From time immemorial parsley has been used to cure many ailments.
- Protects against infections and aids in the treatment of acne and pimples though direct application should be avoided
- Known for its anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and astringent properties
- Widely used for epicurean flavouring, specialised fragrances and in aromatherapy
Fennel Oil :
Fennel Foeniculum vulgare is well suited to the Tasmanian climate; growing strongly in spring and accumulating oil under the mild, sunny days of summer and early autumn. It is harvested from late February to mid-May. A perennial herb, fennel is erect, green, and grows to heights of up to 2.5 metres, with hollow stems and finely dissected filiform leaves. Fennel has a distinct licorice flavour and aroma. The oil exudes a sweet smell similar to anise. Today, this unique oil holds many beneficial characteristics:
- One of its most common uses is in the kitchen. Its potent, flavourful nature adds a strong, savoury touch
- A drop of fennel oil can help with digestion
- It also helps promote healthy metabolism, liver function, and circulation, and healthy respiratory system