What Medicines Come From the Rainforest?

Some medicines that come from the rain forest include theophylline, vincristine and Mevacor. Plants in the rain forest contain compounds that are used to treat dozens of diseases and disorders, including malaria, bronchitis, rheumatism and diabetes.

Many drugs used to treat cancer are derived from rain forest flora, such as vincristine. Vincristine comes from the rosy periwinkle plant and is used to treat childhood leukemia. Another periwinkle plant was also used to make cancer-fighting medication, but deforestation in Madagascar has wiped it out. Before its extinction, it was used in medicines that gave children cancer patients a much higher chance of survival. In fact, 66 percent of all cancer medicines come from the rain forest.

There are many rain forest plants, such as the Theobroomo cacaoin, used to treat conditions such as asthma. The asthma drug theophylline is derived from this plant. The trumpetflower plant contains two chemical compounds that help to open airways. The jimsonweed plant also works, although it must be burned so that the fumes can be inhaled. Cocoa contains theobromine, a stimulant used to treat asthma.

Both Mevacor and Cyclosporine are derived from the rain forest, but neither comes from a plant. These two medicines, the latter of which is an anti-rejection drug, come from fungi.