Health & Grooming: Native Healers

For centuries, “dreamtime stories,” or fairy tales, offered the only insight into Australia’s Aboriginal culture. “When the white people came, they treated us like children, so we gave them children’s stories—and nothing more,” explains Kakkib lidthia, an Aboriginal elder. Today, Aboriginal figureheads, such as lidthia, are increasingly willing to share pertinent aspects of their ancient culture. In fact, when lidthia met Australian Gayle Heron, he was so impressed with her willingness to learn that he did the unthinkable: He divulged knowledge about Aboriginal healing practices never before shared with anyone outside the tribe.


“Plants were being harvested from Europe, the United States, and Asia, but nothing from Australia, which has some really amazing and powerful plants,” says Heron, the daughter of a major cosmetics house chemist. “Aboriginals have been using these plants for 40,000 years.” In her quest to learn more about the healing properties of native botanicals, Heron went straight to the source: the Aborigines.

With lidthia’s input, Heron developed the Li’Tya skin and spa care line, utilizing Australian flowers, berries, nuts, and plants. She received the blessing of tribal leaders to name her collection in their native tongue—Li’Tya means “of the earth.” Heron repays the favor by donating a percentage of all Li’Tya profits to preserve the Aboriginal culture.

From the lillypilly facial cream cleanser to the munthari berry hydrating lotion, Li’Tya products are earthy, not perfumey. More important, the ingredients have genuine healing properties. The Baime kakadu plum shave foam, for example, is composed of kakadu plum (which has an extremely high vitamin C content), Australian blue cypress (known for its soothing anti-inflammatory qualities), grass lilly (similar to aloe vera), and native peppermint (which stimulates circulation and cools the skin).

A number of U.S. spas—including the Spa at Torrey Pines in Southern California and the Spa at Turnberry Isle Resort in Florida—feature Li’Tya healing treatments. But for a truly authentic Aussie experience, journey down under to the Healing Waters Spa at Silky Oaks in Queensland. Here, in the Daintree rain forest, you can stay in an understated treehouse chalet or riverhouse and choose from a menu of tribal-inspired spa services.

Most indulgent is The Dreaming. Set to bush music, this three-hour fantasia begins with a footbath in pepperberry (which contains strong antifungal properties), followed by an Aboriginal smoking ceremony, for which native plants are burned to cleanse negative energy and clear the mind. Mapi mud is applied and washed away before an hour-long Kodo massage using the ancient Aboriginal technique that combines smooth, circular motions with pressure-point therapy. As quandong (a fruit kernel) is applied to the hair, macadamia nut oil to the face, and wattleseed to the hands, you cannot help but drift into your own private dreamtime.

Li’Tya, www.litya.com

Healing Waters Spa at Silky Oaks Lodge, 800.225.9849, www.silkyoakslodge.com