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17 Medicinal Secrets Of The Amazon Rainforest

The rainforests are full of medicinal secrets that we may never know about. So far 90% of all drugs are derived from some sort of plant, both from rainforests and other areas of the world. The rainforest is, however, a largely untapped source of medicine. Here are 17 South American rainforest plants and animals that we have derived medicines from so far.

Cinchona Tree

Photo from: “Plants that changed the world: cinchona

Quinine derived from the cinchona tree in the South American rainforest and is mainly used to treat malaria. The drug is extracted from the bark of the tree; it is also used to treat lupus, arthritis, and leg cramps. Quinine is also a popular ingredient in mixed drinks; used as a flavoring. The World Health Organization suggests that medical practitioners use it as a second line of defense because of adverse side effects. Common side effects are headache, hearing impairment, and nausea.

Wasai Root

Photo from: “Top Ten Medicinal Plants from the Amazon

Wasai root is from the rainforests of South America. Its medicinal properties have not been fully researched. It is currently used as a diruetic and for kidney health. The root is dried and ground up then administered to the patient in a tea.

Coca Plant

Photo from: “Coca Plant: The Andean Elixir

Novocaine and cocaine are derived from the coca plant. The coca plant hails from South America and was initially used to combat fatigue. The favorite soft drink Coca-cola used to incorporate this plant into it as a stimulant. The drug has not been used in the soft drink for years due to regulations, but people still use cocaine in many regions of the world. The plant is used as an anesthetic, bone repair, rheumatism, headache, improved digestion, malaria, ulcers, and asthma.

Curare Liana

Photo from: “Meet The Plants

The Curare plant is native to Central and South America and is used to make tubocurarine. Tubocurarine is a muscle relaxant. Indigenous South Americans originally used it as a paralyzing poison in blow darts. When the dart hit prey animals, they became immobilized; then it could then be killed and used as a protein source for the tribe. Today it is used in anesthesia when patients need to be completely immobilized for delicate surgical procedures.

Pusangade Motelo

Photo from: “From Pant to Pill

Pusangade Motelo is from South America and it is known for its calming medicinal properties. People have used it to treat things like depression and anxiety. It certainly makes a good alternative to some of the harsh psychotroic medications curretnly on the market.

Wild Yams

Photo from: Gundry MD Team

Wild yams from South America contain diosgenin. Diosgenin is the precursor to hormones such as pregnenolone, cortisone, and progesterone. Wild yams are currently used in the commercial synthesis of these hormones. Yes, your birth control is made from potatoes. Wild yams have also been used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, cramps, blood sugar, and menopause symptoms. People do not usually eat these because they are bitter. They are usually ingested as a tea or in a tablet.

Bothrops jararaca

Photo from: The Reptile Database

Also called jararaca (hararaca) is a snake from South America with a viper like head. It was often referred to as Fer-De_Lance. The venom from this snake drops the blood pressure of the victim causing the victim to collapse. Scientists isolated captopril, the compound that causes the victim’s blood pressure to fall to treat hypertension. This isolate is the first of the family of Ace inhibitors on the market today.


Photo from: Alex Popovkin, Bahia, Brazil

Pilocarpus is the source of pilocarpine, a parasympathomimetic alkaloid. Pilocarpine is used to induce sweating or salivation. People with Sjogren’s Syndrome have blocked excretion glands; pilocarpine is used in these patients to enable them to sweat and relieve dry mouth. It is also used to alleviate ocular pressure in patients with glaucoma. The plant comes from South America, and the medicinal portion is the leaves.

Yerba Mate

Photo from: Mate Factor

Yerba Mate is a plant from the southern region of South America. It is a popular stimulant that contains amino acids and the health benefits of tea. Many people are choosing to use yerba mate over coffee because of the health benefits and it being perceived as a cleaner drink. You have probably seen it offered in your local coffee shop.

Lapacho Tree

Photo from: The Horticult

The pink lapacho tree is native to South America. It grows in the Andes, and the inner bark is used to make a medicinal tea. People from that area use the tea to treat stomach problems such as diarrhea, infections, and fever. Naturopaths recommend it for cancer, and there is currently research being done on the inner bark tea, usually called Taheebo, to see if it can be scientifically proven.

Tawari Tree

Photo from: Liliana Usvat

Tawari tree bark from Peru is known for curing many different types of ailments. In the western world, it is primarily used as an anti-inflammatory, fungicide, and anti-bacterial agent. It is also known to have anti-cancer properties and to be used as a laxative and to stimulate the immune system.


Photo from: Shaman’s Garden

Suma also called “Brazilian Ginseng” is a root with medicinal properties from South America. It is not like ginseng at all except for the fact that it is a root and similar in color. Sum root is used for many medical issues including fatigue, anxiety, and digestion. It has also been used as an aphrodisiac and for the treatment of ulcers. The most common mode of ingestion is from a tea prepared from the crushed root.

Spiked Pepper

Photo from: Australian Department of Agriculture

The spiked pepper or cordoncillo is native to many rainforests around the world. Indigenous people mainly use it as an antiseptic. People in Peru claim that it is good for ulcers and stopping hemorrhages; it is used to stop the bleeding when someone is cut. Europeans have used it for genital diseases. The main part of the plant that is used are the leaves.


Photo from: Lorax Metz

OK, the sloths don’t actually cure disease, it is the fungus and bacteria that can be found on them. Sloths in the Central and South American rainforests are home to microorganisms that have been shown to slow cancer growth. So far, these organisms have fought breast cancer cells and Chagas disease (an infection caused by a parasite).


Photo from: Royal Electro Homeo Industries

Uragoga is from South America and the widely used chemical emetine is derived from it. Emetine is used in the syrup of ipecac. Ipecac is not as heavily used in the west as it had been in the last century. Ipecac is still currently used to induce vomiting after someone has ingested poison.


Photo from: “From Pant to Pill

Sodo, also from South America is well known for its ability to help people to quit smoking, drinking, or other bad habits. Natives and people today use the plant to cure addiction. This is another medicine that still needs scientific research, but if you are in a tough spot, why not give it a try, it may work for you.

Plastic Eating Fungi from the Amazon

Photo from: SciTechDaily

This one is not necessarily a medicine, but it could solve the enormous plastic garbage problem that we have in the world today. There is plastic trash everywhere killing animals every day. We currently have no workaround for the fact that plastics do not biodegrade readily. This fungus called Pestalotiopsis microspore, from Ecuador, can eat and break down plastic. As technology around this fungus is developed, it will save the lives of animals and humans in the long run.

Rainforests are important sources of new medical treatments. Most medicinal resources from the rainforests of the world have not even been discovered yet. We have to do everything that we can to make sure that they don’t disappear.

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