Tropical medicinal plantsOne of the breathtaking secrets of the rainforest is undoubtedly its countless medicinal plants. In medicine today, a total of about 70.000 plant species used. Any 4. Drug contains active ingredients from forest plants. For example, did you know that the tropical sisal agave provides the raw material for certain hormones used in contraceptives?
Did you know that .
– Biodiversity and diverse traditional knowledge can be a basis for future discoveries? – these 5 tropical forest plants have already made it into pharmacies worldwide? – Destruction of diversity and rainforest makes transmission and spread of pathogens from rainforest animals to humans more likely? – healthy ecosystems and tropical forests and a rich biodiversity are important for our health?
Rainforest protection is health care
The great variety of natural resources that biodiversity provides us with is the basis of our life. In addition to food, fuel, building materials and much more, nature provides us with a variety of substances for our medicines. A very large number of our remedies are based on active ingredients from nature. Thus, biodiversity is also important for our health. There are about 70.000 species of plants used medicinally. In forest areas the number of medicinal plants is particularly high: every 4. Drug from our pharmacy contains active ingredients originally developed from forest plants.
Annelie Fincke, International Projects
In many regions, medicinal plants are used quite traditionally, but their use has never been recorded in writing. Among indigenous communities in the Amazon region, for example, shamans usually pass on their knowledge orally.
But not only the variety of special medicines, but also the knowledge and tradition of the indigenous peoples about this is of great importance. With the ongoing destruction of the tropical forest, many of these communities are losing their livelihoods and migrating more and more to cities. In addition, modern medicine is taking on a dominant role and increasingly replacing traditional medicine. As a result, more and more valuable traditional knowledge is lost.
But there are also exceptions: The Kichwa community in Sarayaku in the Amazon basin in Ecuador consciously holds on to their traditional way of life and wants to preserve the medical knowledge of their shamans. We at OroVerde have been supporting the community in their fight to protect the rainforest for several years now, ensuring that shamans can continue to exchange and share their traditional medicine.
Innovation in medicine
Unfortunately, many plant and animal species die out before researchers can uncover their secret. The scientists were too late, for example, in the case of the stomach-breeding frog: The tadpoles of these frogs, which formerly lived in Australia, were reared by the female in her stomach. To prevent the offspring from being simply digested, the tadpoles produced a secretion that inhibits the mother's gastric acid production. By the time scientists wanted to study this ability for use against stomach ulcers and gastritis, the last specimen of the stomach-breeding frog had already died and the medicinal potential was thus lost.
And not only in the field of medical development holds the "Pharmacy rainforest a great potential. We also make use of the abilities of plants in the technical field: The science of bionics transfers phenomena from nature to technology, mimicking its optimized processes and structures. This is also how the well-known lotus effect was discovered, which can be found today in numerous applications.
From this, a great need for rainforest protection can be derived, as also the OroVerde division manager Dr. Elke Mannigel emphasizes:
If we succeed in preserving the diversity of species, genes and habitats, we will continue to have the chance to gain new medicinal substances and insights for bionics.
About 70 – 75 percent of all emerging infectious diseases of humans originally come from animals. As biologists have already been able to show in studies, there is a direct connection between the destruction of ecosystems. The likelihood of infections in wildlife with diseases that are potentially dangerous to humans as well. A wide range of expert teams are investigating how the destruction of ecosystems and the infection of wild animals are linked to diseases that are potentially dangerous to humans. Biologist Simone Sommer at the University of Ulm is leading one of these studies. connection: In an intact ecosystem, many different animal-. Plant species with different specializations. Viruses are also a natural component of such systems. However, they are generally not able to spread as quickly. Now becomes habitat – z.B. by the Deforestation of rainforests – destroyed, the Biodiversity in this ecosystem. Species that can adapt quickly to changing environmental conditions and occupy a wide variety of niches now have an easier time of it. However, it is precisely in such severely disturbed ecosystems that the Outbreak of an epidemic more likely. Other studies by other experts also show: The triggers of such spreads – as is the case with Covid-19 right now – are man-made! The Corona pandemic has put the world on alert and has now hopefully highlighted the link between biodiversity and our health.
More than 70.000 plant species in the world, are traditionally used by indigenous peoples or in modern medicine. In rainforest areas, the number of medicinal plants is particularly high. A large number of species are found only in these species-rich regions.
Tropical forests provide us, for example, with important basic substances for the chemotherapy of various types of cancer. Among other things, these remedies are derived from the “Madagascar immemorial green”. People who live in the rainforest also use the flower extract of this plant to fight sore throats and colds. The rainforest offers an incredible amount of plants and animals that provide valuable substances for our medicines. Many species have not yet been researched, so scientists hope someday to find a cure for cancer in the rainforest. The poisons, narcotics, drugs and more serve the plants and animals themselves mostly as effective means against predators. By isolating these substances, it is possible for us to use them in medicine in suitable doses.
How great the medicinal potential of the “rainforest pharmacy” really is can only be imagined. With the help of indigenous peoples and their wealth of knowledge, researchers are trying to uncover the secrets of nature's pharmacy and make them usable for us. Unfortunately, before this can happen, species become extinct again and again. So rainforest protection is also health protection! Most active plant ingredients are not isolated from the plant in pure form and used directly as medicines, but are often used as starting materials for the production of drugs that are then used in our country in the form of tablets, ointments or tinctures. For example, the tropical sisal agave provides a plant steroid called hecogenin, which is used as a raw material for the production of certain hormones used, for example, in contraceptives.
In the following, we present a few exciting examples of tropical plants whose active ingredients have already arrived in conventional medicine:
Cancer therapy: Madagascar marigold (Catharanthus roseus)
As the name suggests, this herbaceous plant originated in Madagascar, but is now widespread throughout the tropics worldwide.
In medicine, its leaves are used, which contain the active ingredients vincristine and vinblastine. These occur in Treatment of certain cancers for use, z. B. in leukemia and lymphoma. Incidentally, active ingredients from plants play a particularly important role in cancer therapy: more than half of the cancer drugs approved in the U.S. between 1981 and 2019 are of natural origin.
Inflammation and swelling: Pineapple (Ananas comosus)
We all know it as a sweet exotic delicacy: the fruit of the pineapple plant, one of the best-known species of the bromeliad family.
But not only the fruit, also the stem of this tropical plant is of interest to us. It contains bromelain, a mixture of Anti-inflammatory and decongestant enzymes. One sets this z. B. after operations and in case of injuries, but also in case of sinusitis.
Ophthalmology and salivation: Jaborandi shrub (Pilocarpus spp.)
Centuries ago, native Brazilians knew that chewing the aromatic-smelling, pungent-tasting leaves of the jaborandi shrub caused increased sweating and salivation. Later, it was also discovered that the consumption of the plant causes the pupils to constrict. This made the plant interesting for Ophthalmology. The active ingredient pilocarpine, isolated from the leaves, is used today mainly in eye drops for the Reduction of intraocular prere uses. As a tablet, it is also used in severe disorders of salivation.
Nausea and inflammation: Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Also native to the tropics is the ginger. The rhizome of the cultivated perennial is popular with us not only in the beverage and food industry, but also because of its diverse therapeutic effects. Considered proven to be effective against Nausea as well as its anti-inflammatory properties. As a medicine, the ground ginger rhizome in capsules against Travel sickness administered.
Nervousness and difficulty falling asleep: Passionflower (Passiflora)
These tropical climbing plants with their large, spectacular flowers are mainly native to the rainforests of Central and South America. Already in the 16. In the sixteenth century, Spanish conquistadors brought the knowledge of the therapeutic effects of passionflower to Europe.
The extracts from the herb of the plant are traditionally used for nervous restlessness and difficulty falling asleep Applied. Due to its many positive effects, the passionflower was even in 2011 in this country “Medicinal plant of the year”.