Researchers have discovered another crisis developing due to the negative impact of climate change on the global plant kingdom. So many plant species are now facing extinction that humanity could lose half of all future medicines developed from those disappearing plants.
Medicines from plants
It is estimated that more than 25% of prescription medications contain ingredients derived from plants. Plants provide a large source of natural bioactive substances, many of which are known to have therapeutic effects.
A recent study shows we could lose the medicinal benefits the plant world has to offer if we, as a species, do not act now to reverse this devastating trend and save endangered plant species around the world.
Loss of known medicinal plants and unknown medicines
The report is based on the findings of different teams of Kew scientists, including many discoveries about the universe’s current flora and how they are threatened.
“Estimates indicate that 45% of all known flowering plant species may be threatened with extinction,” the report notes.
The most threatened plant groups are Orchidaceae (orchids): Pepper familyincludes black pepper; Family Bromeliaceae, including pineapple; And Ray family, including many important crops.
Facing the risk of extinction before being discovered
Although about 350,000 species of vascular plants have been identified and named, we still have about 100,000 species that have not been officially named. Scientists fear that most of these undescribed plant species are also at risk of extinction.
“New estimates suggest that as many as three in four undescribed vascular plant species are likely threatened with extinction,” the researchers wrote.
Based on these predictions, it is likely that newly discovered plant species will also be at risk of extinction by the time they are found, or even before we know they exist.
2.5 million fungal species
Fungi include microscopic organisms, such as yeast, mold, and mushrooms. Like plants, they provide valuable sources of useful medicinal compounds. Scientists believe there are about 2.5 million species of fungi around the world, but most of these remain unknown.
Despite their diversity, there are only 155,000 officially named mushroom species, of which 10,200 have appeared in the past three years. At this rate, it would take about a thousand years to describe them all.
Identify and investigate
What is the way forward? The first step is to increase our efforts to name and describe more plant and fungal species around the world.
This is especially important because many new discoveries are waiting to be made that could be important sources of food, drugs, chemicals and enzymes with useful properties such as degrading plastic.
Dr Tuula Niskanen, former research leader in Accelerated Classification at RBG Kew, shared this view.
“Without knowing what species there are and naming them, we will not be able to share information about key aspects of species diversity, make any assessment of the state of species conservation to know whether are they at risk of extinction or explore their potential to benefit humans and society,” said Dr. Niskanen.
Reclassify new species
Scientists also called for newly described species to be placed on the threatened list. It is believed that prioritizing these threatened species over others on the IUCN Red List will speed up their full assessment and support their conservation efforts.
Dr Matilda Brown, researcher in Conservation Assessment and Analysis at RBG Kew, said: “Ideally, collaboration between taxonomists and experienced conservation assessors will aim to describe and evaluate species simultaneously to maximize opportunities for effective conservation action.”
“In the meantime, if accepted, our recommendation could support the protection of tens of thousands of undescribed threatened species by designating them as threatened as soon as we become aware of them. ”
Plant medicine is a gift of nature
Finally, it is important to protect the medicinal treasures of the natural world. We must protect these species and the future of medicine for generations to come.
More than 200 scientists at 102 institutions worldwide contributed to the report titled “The State of the World’s Plants and Fungi.” It was published on the RBG Kew website.
Learn more about the medicinal uses of the plant
Plants have served as the foundation for human health and well-being for thousands of years. Not only do they provide us with oxygen, food and shelter, but they also provide countless medicinal properties. Here, we will expand on the previous statements and delve into the beneficial aspects of plants in treating various diseases.
Plants act as powerful healers
Willow bark relieves pain: Long before the invention of aspirin, people chewed willow bark to reduce fever and reduce inflammation. The active ingredient salicin, when consumed, is converted into salicylic acid in the human body, which has pain-relieving and inflammation-reducing effects.
Aloe vera soothes burns: Most people know that aloe vera gel instantly soothes sunburns. Aloe vera contains moisturizing, healing, and inflammation-reducing compounds, making it a must-have in any first aid kit.
Turmeric reduces inflammation: Turmeric, a yellow spice, contains a compound called curcumin. This compound has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Consuming turmeric helps fight chronic inflammation, potentially reducing the risk of chronic diseases.
Plants boost immunity and health
Echinacea fights colds: Many people turn to echinacea at the first sign of a cold. Studies show that this plant can help strengthen the immune system and may reduce the severity and duration of cold symptoms.
Ginger relieves indigestion: Ginger root has been a remedy for stomach upset for centuries. Whether you’re struggling with motion sickness or morning sickness, sipping ginger tea can provide relief thanks to its anti-nausea properties.
Plants help relax the mind
Lavender calms the mind: The sweet scent of lavender has long been associated with relaxation and sleep. Essential oils derived from lavender can reduce anxiety, stress, and even mild pain.
St. St. John’s Wort anti-depressant: For those facing mild to moderate depression, St. John’s Wort provides a natural remedy. Its active compounds interact with brain chemicals that regulate mood.
Safety is paramount when using plants as medicine
Although plants have incredible medicinal properties, it is essential to use them wisely. Not all plants are safe for everyone, and some may interact negatively with prescribed medications. Before experimenting with the world of medicinal plants, always consult with a health care provider or herbalist.
Plants play a pivotal role in the field of natural medicine and pharmaceuticals. As researchers continue to explore their potential, we will better appreciate nature’s ability to heal and nourish our bodies. When we harness the power of plants, we find a path to total health and happiness.
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