Can you imagine living thousands of years ago? After a hard day of hunting for food, you return to your cave and plop down on a rock. Unfortunately, you forgot that your club was still in your back pocket and now you have a big scratch on your back!
What would you do? There were no doctors or pharmacies around back then! More than likely, you'd use a home remedy made of plant or animal matter to help soothe your scratched and aching back. Ancient medicines were just combinations of natural substances that people discovered — often by accident — could soothe and cure certain ailments.
Of course, modern medicine has come a long way since that time. We're long past the days when most medicines were made from plants or animals. Today, most medicines are produced through chemical processes.
Scientists, through research and careful study and testing, can isolate the chemicals in plants and animals that cure certain ailments. Over time, they're able to create those substances artificially and use them to produce medicines.
As you probably already know, medicines take many forms. Some are small pills that are easy to swallow. Others are huge pills that are hard to gulp down. Some medicines are liquid syrups and still others might be mists that you need to inhale. Scientists and doctors put medicines in certain forms to make them as effective as possible at getting to the source of your ailment.
Medicines can help in many different ways. For example, some medicines work by replacing a substance that's missing in your body. If you have type 1 diabetes, you may take insulin to replace the insulin that your body isn't producing on its own.
Other medicines might merely make you feel better while your body heals itself on its own. If you get a cold, it often just has to run its course. In the meantime, though, you can take all sorts of medicines to make you feel better by relieving pain, reducing fevers, and helping with coughs or stomach issues.
Some common medicines, such as antibiotics, work by killing the germs that are causing you to feel bad. Still other medicines might work by regulating how much of certain substances your body produces.
Did you realize that medicines were so complex? Doctors and scientists are always working on developing not only new medicines, but also better versions of current medicines. One source of many new medicines is the rainforest.
The wide variety of plant species found in the world's rainforests gives doctors and scientists plenty of unique chemicals to work with. Experts estimate that about half of all plant-based medicines come from rainforest plants!