Approximately 120 prescription medications in the United States are derived directly from plants in the rainforest. Many plants in the rainforest also have cancer fighting properties; according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, more than 2/3 of all medicines that have cancer fighting properties come from plants in the rainforest. Compounds found in rainforest plants have been used to treat malaria, heart disease, arthritis, glaucoma, and tuberculosis, among other ailments. Examples of drugs or chemicals that come from the rainforest include: codeine, ephedrine, morphine, and quinine. This website has a table with plant-based drugs that come from the rainforest.
I found an article that says one quarter of all medications we use today come from the plants in the rainforest—a statistic made all the more startling when you realize that we have done studies on fewer than one percent of the plant species living in the rainforest. The potential for future medication development is huge. Some of the beneficial drugs that come from this ecosystem include drugs to treat Hodgkin’s disease, leukemia, and other forms of blood cancers.
25% of all modern medicines come from the rain forest, including anesthetics, treatments for diabetes, inflammation, and many more. As only a fraction of rainforest plant species have been discovered or catalogued, the potential medical advancement we can gain is staggering, though unfortunately species are disappearing every day due to tropical deforestation. In 1987, a compound from a tree in the rainforest was thought to be a potential treatment for HIV, but the tree was never seen since its initial discovery.
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