The Nature’s Medicine Chest – There are many animals and plants both on land and in the seas that are a rich source of remedies, painkillers and health supplements. Killer venom’s can ease pain and save life, snakes scorpions, frogs, jellyfish and ants, which are the stingers prisoners and paralyses of the animal world, produce a range of venom’s and secretions powerful enough to kill or immobilize their prey.
Many of these poisons, scientist have now discovered, that contains chemical compounds that can be used in medical treatments. Pit viper venom is used in a number of drugs. The venom of Brazilian pit viper, which induces the constriction of blood vessels and increases blood pressure, has been used to develop a drug for treating people with high blood pressure.
Russell’s viper of India and Southeast Asia has venom used for a drug that controls bleeding in hemophiliacs, and vital ingredient of a drug for treating thrombosis comes from Malayan pit vipers. And from the venom of African’s which include the deadly 14 feet long black mamba, scientists have isolated proteins that can help in the treatment of brain diseases.
Natural substances that effectively block pain have been found in the skin secretions of frogs. The skin toxins from some of the brightly colored arrow poison frogs of Central America have been made into a painkiller to be more effective than morphine. Scientists have also investigating the toxins used by certain spiders to immobilize their prey for up to three weeks without impairing the victim’s vital function. These secretions may be useful for the production f new drugs that could sedate patients for long periods without ill effect, perhaps during lengthy operation.
If you look in history, you will find that in 1870’s Joseph and Thomas Bancroft of Brisbane Australia a father and son team of Doctors, heard of a narcotic brew made by Aborigines They decided to investigate the medicinal potential of this brew, made from water stored in the bark of a small tree of the eastern Australian rain forest.
Experiments with extracts from the tree, a Duboisia known locally as a corkwood, resulted in the production of a highly effective dilator for use in eye surgery. Other doctors used the brew to treat inflammations and fevers. Before long rate forest it was being exported to Europe.
But with the move towards synthetic medicines at the beginning of the 20th century Duboisia and many other local remedies fell out of favors. The 2nd world war when synthetic drugs were in exceedingly short supply, did Australian researchers begin to look once more to the rain forest as a source of natural medicines. Testing different plants at random, the researchers discovered almost 500 alkaloids potent poisons made by certain plants to protect themselves against animals that strip them of their leaves.
They found too, that there are more poisonous plants growing in tropical rain forests than in temperate forests. This is because tropical forests have a far greater number of animals competing for food so tropical plants need much better defenses against animals.
Duboisia leaves were found to contain several alkaloids one of which hyoscine, is a highly effective treatment for motion sickness, shell shock and stomach disorders, as well as the side effects resulting from cancer therapy. This led to the cultivation of Duboisia once again becoming a commercial proposition. Now the hyoscine rich leaves of a hybrid of two Duboisia species are exported in powdered form to pharmaceutical companies in many parts of the world.