Museum of Brisbane

Sunday Stories | Lucas’ Papaw Ointment

The small red tube or jar is instantly recognised by Australians, an essential item for handbags, desk drawers and bathroom cabinets across the country. Lucas’ Papaw Ointment is now a staple around the world, with users from celebrities to ordinary Aussies endorsing it as a cure for a long list of ailments, including burns, bites, boils, sunburn, cuts, chafe, cracked skin and chapped lips. While the century-old tropical remedy enjoys widespread recognition, it is little known that the now global business was born out of a small factory in Brisbane suburb Acacia Ridge.

The formulator, Dr Thomas Pennington Lucas, was a Brisbane medical doctor, scientist, writer and philosopher with a keen interest in natural history and botany. Dr T.P Lucas was born in Scotland in 1843, and enjoyed a prosperous medical career filled with various honours and medical research.

In 1876, Lucas set sail for Australia where he conducted his own medical practice and undertook various scientific pursuits in Victoria. Seeking a warmer climate, Lucas moved his family and medical practice to Brisbane in 1886. His medical practice on Ann Street in ‘Maximillian House’ installed one of Brisbane’s first telephones.

In 1890, Lucas purchased a 16-hectare farm off Beaudesert Road in Acacia Ridge. It was here that Lucas first began to grow pawpaws (known then as papaws) and experiment with their remedial properties. This led to the manufacture of the first iteration of Dr Lucas’ Papaw Ointment. Lucas described the Mexican fruit as “the world’s greatest healing agent”.

After Lucas’ death in 1917, the formula for Lucas’ Papaw Ointment was left to Mrs Lucas, who worked closely with her husband to promote the product in Brisbane and all over the world. This formula is unchanged, still used today in production at the same Acacia Ridge facility.

The family-run business employs around 44 people today yet produces over 4 million tubes and jars of Lucas’ Papaw Ointment every year. What began as a small Brisbane company is now a global enterprise, run by six direct descendants of Dr T.P Lucas.

If you want to know more about the flavoursome side to Brisbane’s history, check out our latest online exhibition A Taste of Brisbane.


Image 1: Vera, Queenslander featured on Lucas’ Papaw logo, courtesy Lucas’ Papaw Remedies. Image 2: original Lucas’ Papaw factory, Beaudesert Road in Acacia Ridge, courtesy Lucas’ Papaw Remedies.