It’s home to 40,000 classified plant species—some of which are known cures for the things that ail us.
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Maranham Jaborandi (Pilocarpus microphyllus)
This rainforest understory shrub is used medicinally to treat glaucoma, thanks to an alkaloid in its leaves called pilocarpine that “stimulates the secretions of the respiratory tract, the salivary, lachrymal, gastric and other glands, weakens the heart action, [and] accelerates the pulse rate,” according to a paper put out by researchers at Purdue University—and, most vitally, can relieve pressure in the eye.
Ipecac (Psychotria ipecacuanha)
A shrubby herb that produces a compound in its roots called ematin that’s an emetic—meaning, it makes you vomit. It’s been used for decades to treat a variety of ailments, including gastrointestinal diseases, diarrhea, and intermittent fevers. “It is [also] employed as an expectorant, in bronchitis, bronchopneumonia, asthma, and mumps,” according to Purdue. In fact, many herbs and common foods have been used to treat ailments over the centuries.
Quinine (Cinchona pubescens)
You love it in your gin and tonic. But there’s real power in the bitter flavoring that comes from the bark of this fast-growing evergreen tree that proliferates in the Amazon: it can both prevent and treat malaria—a feat that was first recorded by Europeans in the 17th century—although it was already known to the indigenous Amazonian Quechua. So prized was the quinine tree that it was eventually cultivated in plantations, according to The Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI).