Plants may yet provide the cure for deadly diseases such as diabetes, cancer and AIDS.
Plants sustain life in this world. Without them man cannot exist. The leaves, the fruits and the roots of the plants that we eat provide us the nutrients and phytochemicals that are necessary for our health. Moreover, plants are also one of our sources of medicine.
Since time immemorial, people turn to plants to cure their ailments. In a primitive society shamans are called upon to attend to the health needs of local folks. The services of shaman and local healers are needed especially if the place is far from urban community where the service of a doctor is available. Shamans have some uncanny ways to treat their patients. These included rituals using herbs and concoction and invoking spirits to heal the patient. Strange enough, medicine men are sometimes able to cure illnesses. The healing is definitely not attributable to the intercession of spirit but is caused by the action of the substance in plants and other materials that are used in the ritual. Herb doctors and shamans are people who can effectively use the healing power of the plants although they may be ignorant of the reason why their method works. Medicine men usually pass their skill to their progenies thus the knowledge of herbal medicine is passed from one generation to another.
Some medicinal plants are hard to find while others grow almost anywhere. Some are only found in the forest, others can grow in the urban area and still others grow wildly right in our own backyard. In the Philippines tawa-tawa, a wild herb, has been found to be an effective remedy of dengue a killer disease that afflicts thousands of people especially during the rainy season. The Philippine government has not officially confirmed the herb as a cure of dengue. But testimonials of many people especially those who took it vouched for the efficacy of the herb against the disease.
To cash in on the popularity of herbal medicine some pharmaceutical companies manufacture the extracts or the herb itself in the form of tea, tablets, capsule, syrup among others to make the intake of herbal medicine easier. In fact the manufacturing of herbal medicine has become a growing industry. Most of the herbal products are labeled only as food supplements although some people give testimonials to the effect that herbal products can cure ailments such as erectile dysfunction, arthritis, diabetes and even cancer.
Some plants have toxic substance and may cause allergies to some people. People who take herbal medicine could do better by consulting first with their doctor before taking it as a medicine or as a food supplement because it might interact with prescription medication. Herbal medicine and plants should never supplant the medicines prescribed by a doctor.
The forest has become a frontier in search for plants that may cure some man’s deadly diseases. Some prescription drugs came from plant sources, but only a very small percentage of forest plants have been studied for their medicinal properties. Pharmaceutical companies, scientists and researchers could facilitate their effort by studying plants that are use by the Shamans and herbalists especially those who make the rain forest the dwelling place of their tribes. Many plants in the forest are yet to be discovered for their potential as medicine. The untapped plants in the forest may hold the key for the discovery of the cure of deadly diseases such as cancer and AIDS. But the problem is that we are destroying the forest faster than it can regenerate itself. And plants which might be very valuable as medicine would become extinct in the very near future without us knowing it. Our search for a cure of deadly and incurable diseases from the plants is yet another big reason why we should protect and conserve our remaining rainforest.