Nature’s abundant storehouse of plants and animals has given us many treasures to be converted into nutrients and medicines. But scientists have only scratched the surface in uncovering potential life-saving ingredients among the earth’s flora and fauna. For example, thousands of plants and animals remain unidentified in the remote Amazon rain forests, their beneficial potential untapped.
Until recently, the study of medicinal and nutritional plants was on the decline because pharmaceutical companies-which had worked so energetically to isolate vitamins and other substances from the 1920’s to the 1950’s-turned their energies into producing synthetic chemicals. The reason was obvious: synthetic substances could be patented and earn the company huge profits. Even of the $8 billion spent on prescription products annually in the United States, only 22 percent is allocated to products derived from the plant kingdom.