Forest plants not only provide us with food, they
are also a major source of medicinal drugs. Almost a quarter of drugs prescribed in the United States contain compounds from or based
on those found in tropical forest plants. The rosy periwinkle of Madagascar was a little-known species until it was discovered to contain
alkaloids that can help cure people of Hodgkin's disease.
A Pacific yew tree, source of the drug Taxol. Photo by Maya Walters.
|Over millions of years, plants, animals, even microorganisms have evolved chemicals to suit their particular needs. It is not surprising that some of these compounds could also be useful to us. A substance from the saliva of the Central and South American vampire bat may be able to help prevent heart attacks. The Pacific yew tree contains a compound called Taxol that fights cancer.|
[forest life] [plants] [chemical defenses]
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