Rainforest Plants Produce Life-saving Medicines
Some 120 prescription drugs sold worldwide today are derived directly from rainforest plants. And according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, more than two-thirds of all medicines found to have cancer-fighting properties come from rainforest plants. Examples abound. Ingredients obtained and synthesized from a now-extinct periwinkle plant found only in Madagascar (until deforestation wiped it out) have increased the chances of survival for children with leukemia from 20 percent to 80 percent.
Some of the compounds in rainforest plants are also used to treat malaria, heart disease, bronchitis, hypertension, rheumatism, diabetes, muscle tension, arthritis, glaucoma, dysentery and tuberculosis, among other health problems. And many commercially available anesthetics, enzymes, hormones, laxatives, cough mixtures, antibiotics and antiseptics are also derived from rainforest plants and herbs.
Despite these success stories, less than one percent of the plants in the world’s tropical rainforests have even been tested for their medicinal properties. Environmentalists and health care advocates alike are keen to protect the worlds remaining rainforests as storehouses for the medicines of the future.
But saving tropical rainforests is no easy task, as poverty-stricken native people try to eke out a living off the lands and many governments throughout the world’s equatorial regions, out of economic desperation as well as greed, allow destructive cattle ranching, farming and logging. As rainforest turns to farm, ranch and clear-cut, some 137 rainforest-dwelling species plants and animals alike go extinct every single day, according to noted Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson. Conservationists worry that as rainforest species disappear, so will many possible cures for life-threatening diseases.
You can do your part to help save rainforests around the world by following and supporting the work of such organisations as Rainforest Alliance, Rainforest Action Network, Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy, and by clicking special links on websites like The Rainforest Site, which contribute funds to organisations working on the ground to preserve rainforest land.
Above text sourced from http://environment.about.com/od/healthenvironment/a/rainforest_drug.htm