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Medicinal Treasures of the Rainforest rainforest fact sheets The widespread destruction of tropical rainforest ecosystems and the consequent extinction of numerous plant and animal species is happening before we know even the most basic facts about what we are losing1 Covering only 6 percent of the Earths surface tropical moist forests contain at least half of all species The abundant botanical resources of tropical forests have already provided tangible medical advances yet only 1 percent of the known plant and animal species have been thoroughly examined for their medicinal potentials Meanwhile 2 percent of the worlds rainforests are irreparably damaged each year Scientists estimate that at the accelerating rate at which rainforests are now being destroyed as much as 20 or 25 percent of the worlds plant species will be extinct by the year 2000 Approximately 7000 medical compounds prescribed by Western doctors are derived from plants These drugs had an estimated retail value of US43 billion in 1985 Seventy percent of the 3000 plants identified by the United States National Cancer Institute as having potential anti-cancer properties are endemic to the rainforest Tropical forest species serve Western surgery and internal medicine in three ways First extracts from organisms can be used directly as drugs For maladies ranging from nagging headaches to lethal contagions such as malaria rainforest medicines have provided modern society with a variety of cures and pain relievers Quinine an aid in the cure of malaria is an alkaloid extracted from the bark of the cinchona tree found in Latin America and Africa From the deadly poisonous bark of various curare lianas used by generations of indigenous peoples in Latin America has been isolated the alkaloid d-turbocuarine which is used to treat such diseases as multiple sclerosis Parkinsons disease and other muscular disorders It also permits tonsillectomies eye abdominal and other kinds of surgery due to its anesthetic qualities From Africa Madagascars
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