Medicinal resources

The components of biodiversity are important for human health. For centuries, almost all medical treatments were based on plant and animal extracts, and this type of treatment remains essential even today.

Traditional medicine

Traditional medicine is still used extensively for basic medical care in developing countries and is being rediscovered in our part of the world. Modern medicine is taking a keen interest in these resources in the hope of discovering new cures. Examples of animal and plant species that are useful for medical purposes are given as follows:.

  • Examples of animal and plant species that are useful for medical purposes (Naturopa, 1996)
  • Asprin is made from an organic molecule derived from willow
  • The yew tree, found in many parks and gardens, is a source of taxol, an anti-carcinogenic substance used to treat cancers of the breast or ovaries
  • Digitalin, which comes from fox gloves, is used to treat heart insufficiencies
  • The venom of certain snakes is the basis for substances which enables blood clots to form
  • Caribbean sponges can be used to combat rejection of organ transplants.


Studies of various chemicals produced by animals have led to discoveries of medicinally useful substances. A substance called Prostaglandin E2, which could be of importance in the treatment of gastric ulcers, was originally discovered in the two species of gastric brooding frogs (Rheobatrachus) found only in the rainforests of Queensland. Unfortunately, both species have not been sighted for some time, and it is conceivable that one at least (R. silus) is now extinct (Tyler, 1989).


In the field of agriculture, the genetic diversity discovered within each type of crop is of considerable importance. It is a major weapon against the treats posed to crops and livestock by pests and diseases. Farmers are now showing a growing interest in the genetic diversity of crops and livestock in order to increase production and cope with changing environmental conditions.

  • Examples of species that are useful to farmers and gardeners (Naturopa, 1996)
  • Numerous insects pollinate crops
  • Termites and earthworms aerate the soil
  • Toads, frogs and salamanders love eating insects, showing a preference for slugs
  • In just one day a ladybird eats over 100 aphids, which are harmful to crops
  • Great tits feed their chicks on caterpillars, thereby protecting fruit trees