Plants of The Rainforest
By Anna Dow
Edited by Amy Thomas
(Both are volunteers of KSTR)
Plants are so COOL! Here is why! Each and every tiny plant in the rainforest is very important to the world. Working as a team, these plants regulate our global climate, give us air to breathe, provide us with medicines, and give food and shelter to animals of all sizes (including humans).
Regulating Weather – As mentioned earlier, our planet has a fever. Bad gases known as greenhouse gases are trapping heat inside the earth’s atmosphere, causing it to get hotter than is safe. Burning coal and oil so we can drive cars and have electricity releases these poison gases. The rainforest naturally filters these toxins and keeps a healthy balance of gases in the air giving the rainforest the nickname “Lungs of the Earth”. Could you live without your lungs? Our planet can’t either. (Telforde, Carole & Theodorou, Rod)
Rainforests also act like big sponges, soaking up the immense rainfall through their roots that will be later released as water vapor. This water vapor will form clouds high in the air that will later rain down, helping life grow below. If these forests disappear it will throw off these necessary ecological cycles, causing widespread drought and crop failure, while increasing the unnatural warming of our planet. (Green, 20)
Shelter – It is not just in the cartoons that cute creatures make their homes in trees. Rainforest trees are always bustling with life. They are like the big buildings of the animal world, and forests are the big cities. How would you feel if a bunch of monkeys came into your city and cut down buildings? I would be pretty upset!
Plants Provide Medicines – 25% of Western Pharmaceuticals are made from rainforest ingredients. The National Cancer Institute has found up to 3,000 plants that fight cancer, and considering all the magical rainforests in the world, I bet that is just the beginning. Vincristine, for instance, is a medicine that comes from the periwinkle plant in the rainforest, and is currently saving countless lives of children struggling with Leukemia (cancer of the blood). Over 100 pharmaceutical companies and several branches of the US government are also doing research to find plants to cure many infections and viruses, including AIDS.
Some Medicinal Plants that have been discovered:
• The blood red sap of the virola is used to treat skin rashes and infections. (Kurtis, pg.31)
• Indians in both the Columbian Amazon and in Venezuela have been found to use wild nutmeg to clear up fungal infections. This is particularly interesting because these tribes are vastly separated and have never communicated. (Kurtis, pg.34)
• Opium poppy from Asia (made into the painkiller Morphine). (Kurtis, pg.38)
• The rosy periwinkle from Madagascar – source of Vincristine (used in chemotherapy for
childhood leukemia), and Vinblastine (used to fight Hodgkins disease). (Kurtis, pg.38)
• Reserpine from India (traditionally used for snakebites, and reduces blood pressure). (Kurtis, pg. 38)
• Ephedrine from China (treats asthma, hay fever, and low blood pressure). (Kurtis, pg.38)
• The Purple Foxglove is the source of digitalis (used to treat heart disease). (Kurtis, pg.39)
• South American Cinchona tree produces Quinine, which cures malaria. (Kurtis, pg.39)
“The Amazonian Rainforest is a mysterious place. Some scientists believe there
are cures [there] for every known disease – cures that could be drawn from plants that we don’t even know exist” (Kurtis, pg.5)
Foods – 80% or more of the developed world’s diet originated in the
tropical rainforest. Some of the rainforests tasty gifts are: avocados, coconuts, figs, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, bananas, guavas, pineapples, mangos and tomatoes; vegetables including corn, potatoes, rice, winter squash, yams, black pepper, cayenne, chocolate, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, sugar cane, turmeric, coffee, vanilla, Brazil nuts, cashews, and chewing gum. In fact, there are at least
3,000 fruits found in the rainforests. Of these, only 200 are now in use in the
Western World. The Indians of the rainforest use over 2,000.
Aren’t you curious how all those foods taste that we have never tried? If we destroy the rainforest we will never know.
So help us to save the rainforest! Stop by our KSTR Souvenir Store. 100% of the proceeds go to save the rainforest and we have great prices too! The store is located adjacent to the Hotel Mono Azul and is open daily from 7 AM until 10 PM.