Health Insider Update


The Amazon: A Vast Medical Resource in Peril

The Amazon: A Vast Medical Resource in Peril
October 30
10:29 2015

Did you know that the Amazon Rainforest produces 20% of the Earth’s oxygen and fresh water? While rainforests take up only 6% of our planet’s surface, these steamy jungles are home to more than half of all species. Few realize just how valuable the Amazon Rainforest is in regards to human health. While we have thoroughly examined less than 5% of the plants growing within the Amazon Rainforest, we have already discovered hundreds of medicinal plants with lifesaving medical properties.

Rainforest research is never-ending as pharmaceutical companies and scientists continue to make new discoveries. Many believe that cures for cancer, AIDS, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases lie tucked away in the jungle. But we may not be able to find them in time. This incredible natural resource is in danger as logging, fires, mono cultivation, and urbanization destroys an estimated 140 species of animals, plants, and insects every single day.

While scientists once regarded local practices as nonsense, they now recognize the value of indigenous plant knowledge and have started to consult native shaman about their ancient traditions. It is said that native healers use over 6,000 rainforest plants to treat both mental and physical problems. The Matsés peoples of Brazil and Peru have recently complied a 500-page database detailing their medical knowledge. 

A few examples of medicines that originated in the rainforest:
• Muscle relaxants
• Immune system boosters
• Blood thinners
• Steroids
• Antibiotics
• Cancer drugs
• Antiparasitics

Quinine from the Cinchona Tree

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 3.57.43 PMIf you like gin and tonic, you probably know the word “quinine.” Quinine is a white crystalline alkaloid with fever reducing and pain killing properties that was originally used as a prophylactic against the lethal disease malaria. Because of its bitter taste, quinine was mixed with soda and sugar to create a concoction we know as tonic water. Today, tonic water contains far less quinine and is used as an ingredient in mixed drinks.
Quinine is found in the bark of a rainforest tree called the cinchona (pictured above left). The tree’s bark was first sold in powder form in England in 1658 and was advertised as the “countess’s powder.”

In addition to treating malaria, quinine is also used to:
• Kill parasites, insects, and fungi
• Treat cancer
• Reduce fever and pain
• Calm nerves
• Regulate heartbeat
• Stimulate digestion
• Treat mouth and throat diseases

Quinine now appears on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines – a list including all medicines needed in a basic health system as outline by the World Health Organization.
In addition to particular substances like quinine, the rainforest is also an invaluable tool in regards to chemical structures. Did you know that aspirin was created using the chemical structure of a rainforest willow tree?

A current investigation into the abilities of a rainforest potato may significantly reduce the need for pesticides. As a natural self-defense mechanism, the potato produces a sticky substance that traps and kills insects. Just imagine what this could mean for commercial crops! However, agricultural and medicinal improvements are all in jeopardy as destruction of the rainforest continues unchecked.

Of all the prescription drugs we have developed using plants, 90% of them actually contain a direct extraction of that plant. What will happen if the world’s rainforests are destroyed, erasing our supply of much-needed medicinal ingredients?

Click here for 10 easy ways you can help save the rainforest!


About Author

April Kuhlman

April Kuhlman

Related Articles