(NaturalNews) Rainforest plants are complex chemical storehouses that contain many undiscovered biodynamic compounds with unrealized potential for use in modern medicine. The healing ability of those that have been discovered is potentially unrivaled, and the race is on between natural product companies, cancer researchers, executives of the world's largest drug companies and native indigenous shamans to harvest them for their benefit. So are rainforests the answer to cancer and other debilitating diseases, and if so, are there any threats to sustainably harvesting this natural pharmacy?
The current state of the rainforests
It is estimated that nearly half of the world's estimated 10 million species of plants, animals and microorganisms will be destroyed or severely threatened over the next quarter-century due to rainforest deforestation. It has been estimated that we are losing 137 plant and animal species every single day, which equates to 50,000 species a year!
This threat to the biodiversity of the rainforest, as well as the loss of those people who can no longer survive in these regions due to deforestation, is a blow to the sustainability of these plant forms to be harvested, as well as the ability to obtain knowledge from the indigenous tribes for decades to come.
Unfortunately, this threat of deforestation continues relatively unabated. Just recently, the Ecuadorean government issued oil drilling permits for the Yasuni reserve, a U.N.-listed biosphere reserve in the eastern part of the country. Despite calls for a referendum and an international campaign to keep the oil in the ground, production could begin as early as 2016.
Are we killing ourselves by killing the rainforest?
Rainforests currently provide sources for one-fourth of today's medicines, and 70 percent of the plants found to have anticancer properties are found only in the rainforest. The rainforest and its immense, undiscovered biodiversity hold the key to unlocking tomorrow's cures for devastating diseases.
Two drugs obtained from a rainforest plant known as the "Madagascar periwinkle," now extinct in the wild due to deforestation of the Madagascar rainforest, have increased the chances of survival for children with leukemia from 20 percent to 80 percent.
In the United States, approximately 25 percent of prescriptions are filled with drugs whose active ingredients are extracted or derived from plants. By 1980, sales of these plant-based drugs in the United States amounted to approximately $4.5 billion annually. Worldwide sales of these plant-based drugs were estimated at $40 billion in 1990. Currently, 121 prescription drugs sold worldwide come from plant-derived sources from only 90 species of plants.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has identified more than 3,000 plants that are active against cancer cells, and 70 percent of these plants are found only in the rainforest. These plants could very well be the answer to the constant battle with invading pathogens, including bacteria, viruses and fungi that are adapting to our mainstream drugs and becoming resistant to them.
These pathogens cause serious diseases, including hepatitis, pneumonia, tuberculosis and many other disorders, which are all becoming more difficult to treat. Many experts now believe that, if there is a cure for cancer or even AIDS, it is most likely going to reside in our rainforests.
However, if the deforestation for oil and timber continues, our rainforests and the rare plants and animals could conceivably be lost forever, and so will the possible plant cures like cat's claw and graviola for diseases like cancer.
So be a part of a movement that could save the lungs and medicine cabinet of the world, and as a result, the future of mankind. It will be well worth it.
About the author: Derek Henry, B.Kin, is a highly revered holistic health coach and world renowned natural health blogger and educator who created Healing the Body to help people understand the fundamental principles to exceptional health so they can overcome their own health challenges.