400 medicinal plants are at risk of extinction, according to Botanic
Gardens Conservation International, largely because of over-collection
Since over 50 percent of prescription drugs are derived from chemicals identified in plants, researchers are concerned that potential cures could become “extinct before they are ever found.”
Among the plants most at risk are:
Yew tree: The bark is used to create paclitaxel, a widely used cancer drug (it takes six trees to create a single dose).
Hoodia: Large quantities have been harvested from drug companies looking to create an appetite suppressant/weight loss drug.
Magnolia: Magnolia may help fight cancer, dementia and heart disease, but over half the world’s species are threatened.
Autumn crocus: A natural treatment for gout and a potential treatment for leukemia, autumn crocus is at risk from over-harvesting.
Although many of the active ingredients from these at-risk plants are now created in a lab, billions of people in the developing world, who still use plant-based medicine as their primary form of health care, will be harshly impacted by their loss.
BBC News January 19, 2008
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
Nature is certainly full of powerful,
potential solutions to most of your health problems. However, once
these natural plants are synthesized in a laboratory and highly
processed away from their associated accessory factors, they often
lack many of their beneficial properties.
It is frequently incorrect to believe that we are smarter than nature and can properly isolate the “active” compound -- and assume it is equivalent to whole, unprocessed and fresh raw material.
It is especially sad that the few remaining tribal communities in the world, who still rely on truly natural plants as medicinal remedies, may have their supplies wiped out because of drug-companies’ greed.
Of course, when anything -- plant, animal, insect or otherwise -- becomes extinct, it will have far-reaching ramifications on the entire ecosystem, in ways that we probably cannot even imagine at this point.
It’s important to remember, though, that while herbs can often be helpful, and typically are not harmful (especially compared to prescription drugs), they are still frequently only addressing your health challenges on a superficial level -- and it is uncommon for them to effectively treat the cause of your health challenge.
What you really want to do is focus on finding the foundational cause of your health challenge, and address them at the causal level.
Some of the Best Medicinal Plants are Your Food!
While I am the first one to marvel at the amazing healing properties of plants found in the earth’s rainforests, deserts, and oceans, it’s not always necessary to seek out an exotic plant or herb to cure what ails you.
In fact, some of the best “cures” around are actually right in the food you eat!
You will get the most benefits not from seeking out the latest “miracle food,” but rather by sampling a variety of healthy, fresh and WHOLE foods that your body was designed to eat.
I highly recommend that you find out your nutritional type, as this allows you to pinpoint the foods that your individual biochemistry requires. In fact, this program has been one of the most profoundly effective tools I have ever encountered to help you accurately establish the optimal foods you need to improve, and sustain, your health.
By planning your meals to consist of these foods, you will be getting regular doses of vitamins, minerals, micronutrients, phytochemicals, antioxidants and more, and these things will nurture and support your body.
Medicinal plants certainly do have their place in certain circumstances (provided they are in their natural form), and I believe efforts should be taken to preserve all of them before it’s too late -- but it is still the food you eat everyday that can actively shape your health, for better or for worse.