Rainforest plants are an important source for our wellness and well-being. Many of the plants used in traditional as well as modern medicines are sourced from the rainforests.
Tropical rainforests balance the global ecosystem and human existence. They are unparalleled in terms of their biological diversity. They not only play a role in regulating global weather, but sustain within themselves, nearly half of the world's plants and animals species. Rainforest have supported centuries of traditional medicinal practices because of their rich medicinal diversity.
For thousands of years, medicinal plants have been used to improve health conditions. The ancient medicinal branches of Ayurveda, Chinese traditional medicine, etc, have used over a thousand plant species between them, to cure many diseases and to promote longevity.
Today, on an average, over 7,000 medical compounds, prescribed by doctors, are derived from plants that grow in the rainforest. Some of these plants have been listed below.
Annatto Tree: The oil extract of this tree contains carotenoids bixin, that protect against UV rays. It also helps to lower blood pressure and serves as a powerful insect repellent. Its leaf extract is said to aid in diarrhea and dysentery. It is also used to produce a red food dye.
Arrowroot: It is used to make poultices which cure sores and urinary infections. It also acts as a demulcent and a nutrient of benefit in convalescence. It aids digestion (mild laxative), and helps relieve constipation, indigestion, colic, acidity, etc,.
Bay Geranium: Tea, made with the leaves of this plant, helps in soothing indigestion, and cures cold and flu. It also acts as an expectorant.
Billy Webb: It functions as a remedy for cough and fever, and is beneficial in cases of diabetes, dry cough, and loss of appetite.
Blue Flowers: It reduces inflammation and soothes skin irritations. It is also used to treat colic, inflatulence, and constipation in infants.
Breadfruit: The leaves are extremely beneficial. A tea made with them, relieves high blood pressure, whereas the application of crushed leaves on the forehead gives relief from headaches.
Calabash Tree: The roasted fruit of this tree is good for soothing menstrual cramps, and it also induces labor in case of full-term pregnant women. Te leaves can be made into a tea to treat cold, diarrhea, dysentery, fever, and headache.
Candle Bush: it carries the distinct odor of urine, and coincidentally help in curing urinary tract infections. It also helps alleviate kidney problems and liver congestion. Juice extracted from the leaves can be applied on the skin in case of skin afflictions
Cascarilla: It treats and cures a wide range of maladies, including digestive problems, fever, hemorrhoids, hypertension,diarrhea, dysentery, dyspepsia, bloating, gas, colic, nausea, anemia and as an expectorant for chronic bronchitis.
Cat's Claw: It is a thorny vine that has been attributed with anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, and anti-oxidant properties. It helps in curing bursitis, arthritis, allergic reactions, and bowel and intestinal disorders. It also increase the efficacy of chemotherapy, and boosts the immune system.
Cecropia Tree: Its extract helps in treating hypertension and diabetes. It also works as a sedative.
Cerasee: It is beneficial for diabetes, hypertension, internal parasites, etc. it acts as a blood purifier. It helps in easing childbirth and is also a natural method of birth control. Its extract can be applied externally to treat skin rashes, hives, sores, blisters, ulcers, etc,.
Cinchona Tree: An alkaloid, Quinine, is extracted from the bark of the tree and is used to cure malaria. It also acts as an analgesic, anesthetic, antibiotic, and a muscle-relaxant.
Clavillia: This perennial herb contains vital active compounds like proteins, triterpenes, flavonoids, alkaloids, etc, that are used to treat infections caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites.
Cocoa Tree: The cocoa tree is one of the few trees that is extremely high in medicinal value, thus, making it one of the most important medicinal rainforest plants. This one tree alone produces over 150 chemicals that can be extracted from its leaves, seeds, fruit, and bark. The extracts are used to treat anxiety, fatigue, fever, coughs, kidney stones, and external cuts and bruises.
Contribo: It possesses a smell that resembles that of rotting meat. It helps cure cold, flu, stomach ache, and indigestion.
Copal: The resin obtained from this tree was used earlier to treat tooth cavities. Powdered resin can be used as a salve on wounds, sores, infection, and other skin afflictions. Tea made from the bark helps in getting rid of intestinal parasites.
Curare Lianas: This large poisonous vine is full of alkaloids used for treating bruises, fever, edema, and kidney stones. It also helps to relax muscles, and thus, is used as an anesthetic agent.
Gumbo Limbo:Also known as kamalamee, it is used topically to treat skin disorders like measles, sores, infections, sunburn, insect bites, rashes, allergic reactions, etc,. Its tea cures fever, backaches, urinary tract infections , cold, and flu.
Hurricane Weed: It has the ability to eliminate gallstones or kidney stones from the body. It also cures poor appetite, constipation, fever, flu, typhoid, and viral infections (hepatitis).
Jackass Bitters: its leaves possess an anti-parasitic compound, called sesquiterpene dialdehyde, which is antagonistic towards amoeba. Candida, giardia and other intestinal parasites. It is also used to get rid of head lice.
Jumbie Plant: Also known as wild tamarind, its tea has a calming effect when ingested. It also relieve flatulence.
Lemongrass: It has antibacterial and antifungal properties, which aid is treating fevers, colds, and coughs.
Lignum Vitae: It is called the tree of life, since its distilled resin, when consumed, helps in treating muscle and skeletal weakness, and fatigue.
Mammosa: Member of the eggplant family, mammosa is used to treat sinus infections, and lesions caused by various skin cancers.
Pacific Bleeding Heart: Tincture, extracted from its roots, is used to provide relief from external bruises and sprains, and when taken internally, it is known to sooth frayed nerves.
Periwinkle: Extracts of the periwinkle plant have two of the most active tumor fighting agents. It is used widely and very successfully in treating leukemia and Hodgkin's Disease.
Sarsaparilla: It has anti-inflammatory and cleansing properties, and provides relief in eczema, psoriasis, rheumatism, arthritis, gout, premenstrual cramps, debility, and depression.
Saw Palmetto: Extract is used to treat certain urinary problems. The fruit contains 5-alpha reductase that inhibits the production of prostaglandins (related to prostatic treatment).
Sorosi: Its extract is used to treat ticks or lice when used externally, and is used as an internal remedy for treating delayed or painful menstruation, and dysentery.
Trumpet Tree: It is used extensively in traditional medicine in Central and South America. All parts of the tree; leaves, fruits, flowers, bark, and roots are used to treat respiratory illnesses and rheumatism.
Wild Yams: Extract of the tubers of wild yam, diosgenin is an active ingredient used in birth control pills. It is also used in many steroidal products like pregnenolone, progesterone, etc.
Despite the role rainforests play in ensuring a healthy life for us, humans have shown a complete disregard towards them all around the world. Today, less than 5% of the Earth's surface is covered with these forests.
With the number of ever-increasing diseases and infections that are prevalent among us, medicinal rainforest plants are needed more than ever. Hence, it is up to us to save the rainforests from turning into barren land.