We all know how important biodiversity is for our survival. Yet what most of us never realize is they are prime sources from where we derive medicinal advantages which prepare us to protect ourselves from diseases ranging from minors infections to wide-scale hazards. A lot of animals and plants have been useful in this regard as we have derived extracts from them which have been of tremendous medicinal value.
The use of natural sources as medicines has been a very ancient phenomenon and very rightly so as back then there were no medicines churned out from laboratories. The healers from Asia as well as Europe used a variety of molds to treat infections, cuts and injuries.Very later in 1920s a very familiar name now, Sir Alexander Fleming went on to relate the anti-bacterial properties of the molds. He manged to identify that a fungus which was present in the mold which managed to stop the activity of bacteria in the host tissues. This went on to pave way for another breakthrough which was the discovery of penicillin. And we all know how important that discovery has been, treating infections from minor diseases to as lethal ones like tetanus.
Another major bio-derived product aspirin is also found to have great medicinal value. This was derived from the bark of the willow plants. It was also found in another plant which is referred as Queen of the Meadow in old literature. And as it would be very obvious, this plant was used for treating minor pain and mild fevers in old days.
A few other major drugs which have been derived from the natural sources remain in use even today are quinine, morphine, menthol, taxol, L-Dopa, digitoxin and atropine to name a few. These have contributed towards fighting lethal diseases like cancer and Parkinson’s. That is enough contribution to make us owe to biodiversity for our improved health setup.
Advantages of Biodiversity:
1. Biodiversity has been very and still is very important and major source of medicine in the developing countries. These countries lacking in the health sector as compared to the developed ones have relied on the rich heritage of flora and fauna for medicinal advantages.
2. A stat from World Health Organization suggests that around eighty percent of the people in developing countries rely on traditional medicines. A majority of this comes from plants as they contribute eighty five percent of the total traditional medicines.
3. Even the developed countries are using the extracts from different life-forms to enhance their health systems. This can be clearly understood from the fact that of the top selling 150 medicines, as much as 57 are directly derived from natural sources or are synthesized using the extracts as a beginning compound.
4. Medical studies have shown that sharks are immune to many diseases which are almost always fatal to human beings. They have shown strict resistance towards cancerous tumors and have been found to possess natural antibodies against the HIV virus. The research is still on to take cues from this to develop make major breakthroughs in the health sector regarding this diseases which have been responsible for a large number of annual deaths.
5. Marine life-forms have also been found to possess a wide-range of medicinal properties which yet remain untapped. They are also known for the dangerous toxins which they can produce, a slight amount of which can easily kill a human. Still, these organisms offer a lot of promise and around five thousand compounds have been derived from them, thirty percent of which have come from the sponges, the organisms which contributed towards anti-bacterial medicines. However, the compounds derived from these organism are not easily reproducible in the labs, which have caused problems in scaling up the production of the drugs.
Scientists had very early realized the potential of the biodiversity and have always tried to derive medicinal benefit from this virtually infinite resource. These compounds which can be derived from the plants and animals not only provide us immediate solutions, but at times they also speed up the development of new drug researches.
There are also some animals which can provide us an appropriate model to research over particular diseases. This facilitates the processes of understanding the diseases and speeds up the process of drug development against the disease. So, we can easily see that how biodiversity is important to us in ways we rarely think of. Once can’t help but wonder about the scope they have if they are carefully tapped upon in a sincere manner.
Despite all this, there have been occasions where animals have been hunted for a few properties that have been in their possession. This has caused the loss of these life-forms and threatened their extinction, which was indeed a sorry fact for humanity. We need to find a balance between our needs and the survival of the other life-forms. We know that if they go, we will follow.