Around 7,000 medical compounds prescribed by Western doctors are derived from plants. In 1985, these drugs had a retail value of approximately US$43 billion. 70% of these 3,000 plants have potential anti-cancer properties as identified by the United States National Cancer Institute and are endemic to the rainforest.
Tropical forest species serve Western surgery and internal medicine in many ways. The extracts from organisms can be used directly as drugs. For ailments ranging from headaches to malaria, rainforest medicines have provided modern society with a variety of cures and pain relievers.
Indigenous peoples for thousands of years have made extensive use of the materials in the rainforest to meet their health needs. For example, forest dwellers in Southeast Asia use around 6,500 different plants to treat their illnesses.