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Plant’s from the Amazon rainforest have been a catalyst in the development of modern medicines for centuries. Many of these plants contain bioactive compounds capable of treatmenting diseases that are not yet curable, especially cancer.
The pharmaceutical industry is worth over $405 billion dollars and continues to grow… but the majority of medicines in the Western world have been found in the most traditional places. Specifically, the Amazon rainforest.
25% of modern drugs are derived from rainforest plants with ancient cultures taking advantage of their medicinal benefits for centuries. Plants from the Amazon rainforest have proven invaluable for the healthcare of humanity – and we’re not protecting them.
Lss than 5% of Amazon plant species have been studied for potential medicinal benefits. Meaning we could well have the cure for numerous debilitating diseases hidden somewhere in this incredible environment.
Take a look at 7 plants from the Amazon rainforest below that have medicinal properties.
The cinchona tree is one of the most well-known plants from the Amazon rainforest – not just for its dainty appearance, but for its provision of quinine– the world’s first anti-malarial drug.
Patricia Schlagenhauf, a professor of travel medicine at the University of Zurich specialising in malaria, explains that;“Much like countries today are rushing to get a Covid-19 vaccine to get a competitive advantage, countries back then rushed to get quinine.”
The drug can be found in the bark of the cinchona tree and has allegedly saved ‘more Englishmen’s lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire’ according to Winston Churchill.
70% of plants that have anti-cancer properties grow in the Amazon rainforest, and Cordoncillio is the best of the bunch.
Its leaves contain chemicals called chromenes that can fight cancer cells, alleviate pain, and fight bacteria. Both the leaves and the bark of the cordoncillo negro shrub are used as medicine, and whilst they are carefully grown in countries like Peru, Jamaica, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Amazon rainforest is where they naturally thrive.
Known colloquially as Cat’s Claw, Dolichandra unguis-cati sprouts vines that curve upwards around tree trunks. Its tiny green thorns hidden beneath the leaves warrant its name in English. Indingenous tribes of the Amazon often used these plants as a “cure-all” medicine – whether it be for joint pain or mouth ulcers.
After being extorted almost 200 years ago by European scientists, the plant has since been utilised around the world, serving various healing purposes.These include regulating the immune system, relieving symptoms of osteoarthritis and arthritis via anti-inflammatory properties, and potential to alleviate more serious diseases like Alzheimers and AIDS. Not to mention the fact it’s super pretty – so people are growing Cat’s Claw in their own gardens!
Wasai is renowned for its improvements for kidney health, the root of the wasai tree is ground into a powder and then prescribed throughout South America as a natural diuretic
Have we got any tea lovers in the room? Across Brazil, northern Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia and other South American countries, lapacho has been used in tea for medicinal purposes for thousands of years.
Made using the inner bark of the pau d’arco tree, lapacho is caffeine-free yet packed full of essential vitamins and minerals including iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, iodine, boron and barium – all of which help maintain health and vitality.
Get ready to throw away your nicotine patches and e-cigarettes, sodo is one of our favourite plants in the Amazon rainforest. Not just because of its aroma, but because it can be used to relieve addiction to alcohol and cigarettes. Quinine may not be the answer to a pre-established unhealthy addiction – but another plant from the Amazon rainforest, thanks to wonderful Mother Nature, sure can!
The name Jaborandi comes from the Tupi-Guarani language ya-mbor-endi, meaning “what causes slobbering.” It is a herb that has been used by the Guarani people of Brazil for generations to combat a number of niggling ailments.
These days, the Jaborandi plant is rarely used as a medicinal herb, but instead makes up part of the production of Pilocarpine, an FDA-approved prescription medication. Pilocarpine is modernly used for treating glaucoma, dry eyes and dry mouth.
More recently, the oil from Jaborandi has been used to improve skin and hair health too! That’s right, jaborandi is an active ingredient in several cosmetics like shampoos, conditioners and gels due to its tendency to prevent hair loss and nourish the skin.
When we hear about saving the rainforests, we don’t think about the extent of its resources and its remedies. “People often think of plant-based remedies as ‘alternative medicine’, but it is to plants that we owe some of the major medicinal breakthroughs in human history.” says Patricia Schlagenhauf, a professor of travel medicine at the University of Zurich specialising in malaria. With so much of the jungle left unexplored, who knows what other incredible plants from the Amazon rainforest there are left to discover? Protecting the rainforest is protecting its plants and – by extension – the health and wellbeing of humanity.
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