Are We Bulldozing Medicines Before We Discover Them?

It seems second nature to reach for an aspirin to stop a headache or ward off potential heart disease. We can do so thanks to the stately willow tree, the aspirin’s biological source.

But what if sources for the medicines that haven’t been developed yet are destroyed before they have a chance to be discovered?

The notion isn’t farfetched. Rainforests are losing an area about half the size of Florida each year. Temperate groves, like the kind we’re more likely to find in our national forests, are also under siege. So are the wetlands, streams, rivers, lakes, meadows, and plains that harbor thousands of untested but potentially medicinal plants.

A new study (you can find it in our Latest News column) by the National Cancer Institute reports that at least 70 percent of all new drugs introduced in the U.S. in the past 25 years came from Nature.

In fact, David Newman and Gordon Cragg, the study’s authors, found that about half of all anti-cancer drugs introduced since the 1940s are either natural products or medicines derived directly from natural products.

What does this have to do with your big green purse?

You can help protect Nature and her life-saving plants by spending your money on products that make a difference. Buying shade grown coffee keeps rainforests intact. Choosing recycled paper products reduces the need to clearcut temperate forests. Not purchasing chemical-intensive fertilizer so you can garden organically will protect wetlands and waterways.

When you use your money to keep Nature alive, ultimately you may be keeping yourself alive, too.

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