Do you know where chocolate comes from? Or avocados? Or sugar? Or the cure for malaria or for Parkinson's disease? The Amazon has thousands of species of plants that are used for food and medicine.

Many more medicinal herbs from the rainforest will be discovered if we stop deforestation.


Cacao is a tropical tree  native to South America.

The fruit is a pod containing a sweet pulp with lots of seeds, the cocoa "beans" .

From cacao we obtain cocoa butter used in fine soaps and cosmetics and in medicine for creams and suppositories; the residue is converted into a powder (cocoa) and used for drinks. Chocolate is the most popular food made from cocoa.



Cinchona Tree leaves





Curare is an Indian name that means "poison". Curare grows as a large liana, or vine, found in the canopy of the South American rainforest.

Indigenous people used the crushed leaves and roots to make poison to hunt animals.

Curare is used in medicine as a muscle relaxant and in Parkinson's disease.



Kapok Tree





The virola tree lives only in the Amazonia. It can be 23 metres high and produces a red resin. This resin has been used by indigenous peoples like the Yanomami as a hallucinogen.

Colombian indigenous groups use it as medicine, for divination and other magic-religious purposes.





Cacao tree with cocoa beans



The cinchona tree is original from the Amazon. It is believed that it got its name from the Countess of Chinchon, wife of the Spanish Viceroy of Peru, who in 1638 fell desperately ill with malaria. Fortunately, she was cured using the ancient herbal remedy of "quinquina" bark, and in her honour, the tree was named Cinchona.

The anti-malaria properties of the cinchona tree became so famous that the demand for its bark was bigger than the number of trees, which led to its almost dissapearance. In the 1880s, some traders took some trees to Java where they built plantations, and later some species were returned to South America to avoid extinction.

Malaria is transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito and it kills 1 million people every year.

Besides being an anti-malarial medicine, quinine is used as an analgesic, anaesthetic, antibacterial and muscle-relaxant.



Curare vines

 ( http://www.ucl.ac.uk/~ucbplrd/wild_page.htm)



The kapok tree or silk cotton tree or ceiba tree is the tallest tree in the Amazon rainforest. It produces beatiful flowers every five years and it loses its leaves in the dry season.

This tree houses many aerial plants, insects, birds, frogs and other animals. It produces kapok , a kind of silk resistant to water which is used for stuffing life jackets. This tree was considered sacred by the ancient Mayas. Indigenous people use the seeds, leaves and resin of the kapok tree to cure dysentery, fevers and asthma. They also used its large trunk to make canoes.




Virola Tree