University of Bristol
Wellcome Trust
Recommended by:
Society of Biology
PEEP for Physics & Ethics at GCSE


Periwinkle – now also a
common garden flower.

Benefits to Man – Human health

  • Plants have a broader use than just a source of food or as a genetic reservoir. Rainforest plants, and to a lesser extent, rainforest animals, are proving to be a major source of useful compounds for medicine.
  • Currently there are 47 major drugs derived from tropical plants e.g. vinicristine from the periwinkle plant (Madagascar) to treat childhood leukaemia, and it is estimated that there are 125,000 species of flowering plants from rainforest which could yield valuable drugs.
  • Fewer than 5% of tropical plants have been examined so far for their medicinal value.
  • A conservative estimate is that they will find 375 important drugs from this screening.
  • Plant derived medicines are worth well over billions of US dollars a year.

There is a new database being developed for useful Amazonian plants called ‘Biozulua’. Read about this by accessing an article in the British Medical Journal.
 View the article

  • The article talks of ‘bio-piracy’ – what is this?
  • Find 5 important drugs which are derived from plants. One useful list is on
     View the list

Useful website:

The Mongabay website, devoted to rainforest conservation:
 Visit the Mongabay website

 Habitat destruction


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