Tropical rainforests decrease in volume every day, and while everyone understands that this means the face of our ecological world is changing, we may not have considered the personal impact that this has on us. A specific result is that we are losing valuable and irreplaceable medical resources. This has direct consequences to our health, and what medical and pharmaceutical treatments are available to us. In fact, we can imagine the rainforest as our medicine cabinet, and the more rainforest we lose, the emptier our medicine cabinet becomes.
Tropical Rainforest Natural Resource for Medicine and Prescription Drugs
The Impact of Rainforest Plants on World Health is Quite Amazing. There are over 100 prescriptions drugs used globally that come from rainforest plants, and experts have always championed the protection of rainforests as a medical resource. Rainforest-derived medical drugs include Tubocurarine, Cortisone, Quinine, Neostigmine, and Novocaine. These medicines treat multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, malaria, glaucoma, and are used in birth control and local anesthetics. Of the 3,000 plants that the US National Cancer Institute has found to be effective against cancer cells, 70% are rainforest-based plants. Another example of the power of just one rainforest plant is the drug Vincristine, which is developed from the rainforest plant Periwinkle. Vincristine is one of the most powerful anticancer drugs in the world, and has radically changed the acute childhood leukemia survival rate from 20% to 80%.
Why Our Rainforest Medicine Cabinet Keeps Shrinking
As the rainforest shrinks, we lose plants, insects and animal species daily. So if we know how valuable rainforests are to the medical and pharmaceutical world, why does the trend continue and why are we not ensuring we are creating more medical drugs from this resource? For one, rainforests are being bulldozed because it is seen as land rather than as a medical resource. Also, it is about the extensive process. Tropical plants have to analyzed, clinically tested for measurable effects, and deemed safe before the FDA will give approval. Next, a company or government group must fund the process of bringing the drug to the market and the public. This process can take ten years and mean over $800 million (for more on the process behind developing medical drugs, read this article). So the challenge of turning rainforest plants into medical drugs as we continue to lose land is a difficult one. Perhaps as awareness of tropical rainforests as a medical resource grows, this can be a step towards affecting change.