Extinction of medicinal plant species

Because “over 50% of prescription drugs are derived from chemicals first identified in plants, a report from the Botanic Gardens Conservation International (representing botanic gardens in 120 countries) warned that “cures for things such as cancer and HIV may become ‘extinct before they are ever found’.” They identified 400 medicinal plants at risk of extinction from over-collection and deforestation, threatening the discovery of future cures for disease. These included Yew trees (the bark is used for the cancer drug paclitaxel); Hoodia (from Namibia, a potential source of weight loss drugs); half of Magnolias (used as Chinese medicine for 5,000 years to fight cancer, dementia and heart disease); and Autumn crocus (for gout). Their report said that “five billion people still rely on traditional plant-based medicine as their primary form of health care.