Centipeda cunninghamii is a native Australian plant, found predominantly in south eastern Australia in moist but not flooded soils, near rivers and around wetlands and billabongs. Centipeda belongs to the daisy family and grows to about 20 centimetres tall, with multi-branched stems. It has uniquely shaped leaves, which are aromatic when crushed. The flowers are small and rounded, pale yellow to green in colour, and bloom from spring to autumn.
Centipeda is commonly known as old man weed and is a traditional medicine plant of Indigenous Australians (The term Indigenous is used to describe Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples) . There is documented medicinal use of the plant as an external treatment for skin conditions, for over 150 years. Extracts from dried Centipeda have been patented for use in a range of cosmetic applications, including skin care, deodorants, exfoliation, and as a general anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant in nutraceuticals and cosmeceuticals. There is increasing national and international interest in high-quality C. cunninghamii extracts.
Before the mid 1990s, Centipeda was wild-harvested to supply a fledgling industry. There has been some selection of wild lines of Centipeda and cultivation of the plant, however, many aspects of its production have not been evaluated on a scientific and systematic basis; nor has there been rigorous analysis of the plant’s phytochemistry and bioactivity. A research project was conducted from 2010 to 2013, and much valuable information was gained providing industry participants with a greater understanding of production systems, a greater understanding of the factors influencing product quality and greater confidence to gain and maintain markets, based on consistent product quality.
The information on this website is based on the findings of the research project and the experience of key project participants.
Facts and figures
- Centipeda cunninghamii is a plant endemic to wetland environments, predominantly in inland south eastern Australia
- Centipeda is a traditional medicinal plant used by Indigenous Australians, in tonics and skin treatments
- There is increasing national and international interest in high-quality C. cunninghamii extracts for nutraceuticals and cosmeceuticals products
- Centipeda performs well as a commercial crop on well-drained but moist soils
- Summer rainfall can be detrimental to yield and crop health, therefore irrigation is essential for commercial production
Centipeda production occurs on a very small scale compared with other horticultural crops, reflecting the demand for very small volumes of the extract, however returns on the crop are high—up to AU$20,000 per dry tonne as at 2013.
As at 2014, industry experts estimate there would be less than five producers growing the crop in a commercial arrangement and the total production area would be less than ten hectares. A typical production area is 1–3 ha.
As at 2014, there may be a small number of growers or wild-harvesters using Centipeda or Centipeda extract to make ‘home-made’ products or supplying manufacturers of products containing Centipeda.