Medicinal Plants from the Rainforest

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The use of plants as medicinal remedies has been going on for centuries. A quarter of the prescription drugs in modern medicine today is produced from raw materials found in the rainforest. Research is being carried out on the effectiveness of many other medicinal plants.


Scientific name: Cinchona officinalis

The cinchona tree, found in the rain forest of South America, has been of great value to modern medicine since 1640. The bark of cinchona produces several alkaloids. The most important alkaloid, quinine, is largely used to treat malaria. In herbal remedies, quinine is used to treat fevers, influenza, cramps, and anorexia nervosa. It is also added to drinks as flavouring.

Lesser Periwinkle

Scientific name: Vinca minor

At one time, periwinkle was considered just a garden weed by many people. However, this rainforest plant has been used for a long time to treat bleeding, pile, skin inflammation, cramps, diarrhoea, nose bleeds, menstrual and urinary tract problem. In recent times, it has been found to have properties that can cure certain forms of cancer.

Holy Basil (tulasi)

Scientific name: Ocimum sanctum

Throughout Asia, holy basil is considered a useful herb for everything from coughs and colds to fevers and even cancer. Research has shown that holy basil boosts immunity and prevents the attack of infections.

            To test the effects of holy basil, scientists from University of Madras in India induced cancer in animals. The scientists found that the incidence of cancerous cells in those animal which had been given holy basil extracts had significantly reduced. They concluded that this herb might have the ability to prevent the early formation of cancer. This herb also been found to lower blood sugar. It can benefit mild to severe non-insulin dependent diabetes in human beings.

Dukung Anak

Scientific name: Phyllanthus niruri

Found throughout the rainforest of Asia and south America, dukung anak has been used as a herbal remedy to relieve pain, treat diarrhoea, and skin diseases, protect the body against colds and flu, eliminate kidney stones  and for speeding the recovery from hepatitis and jaundice.

            Tests conducted on the herb to treat hepatitis B, an infection linked to liver cancer, were successful. Studies on dukung anak have shown promising anti-viral effects against hepatitis B.

            In another clinical study, dukung anak extract was found to be effective in the prevention of kidney stone formation and in the expulsion of kidney and bladder stones. Recent research on the herb reveals that its anti-viral activities extend even to the human immunodeficiency  virus (HIV).

More about this author: Mohamad Fadzli

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