The Amazon River winds through several countries in the Amazon rainforest of South America. According to the World Wildlife Fund, nearly 40,000 Amazon River plants live in this lush region of the earth. Raintree Nutrition asserts that from the forest floor to the emergent top layer, the diverse plant life provides food, medicine and oxygen to much of the world. The group projects that rapid deforestation practices could obliterate 55 per cent of the Amazon rainforest by 2030. Dependence upon rainforest plant life makes a strong argument for preserving the natural resources of the Amazon River region for future generations.
The Rainforest Alliance touts many benefits and uses of the giant kapok tree. In addition to providing food, shade and shelter for many rainforest animals, this king of the tree kingdom has lightweight, porous wood for easy carving and making dugout canoes. The silky fibres stuff many beds and life preservers. The oil from the seeds is an ingredient in some soaps, and still other parts of the tree have medicinal value.
Raintree Nutrition describes the açai tree as a tall slender palm which "produces an edible fruit which grows in bunches." It reports that the tree is threatened by demand for the palm heart, a staple vegetable for native diet and important income-producing export. The "Tropical Plant Database" records that the berry makes a popular fruit juice, as well as a natural ink or dye. Amazon herbalists use the fruit oil to treat diarrhoea; the root for jaundice, malaria, diabetes, hepatitis, hair loss, haemorrhages, liver and kidney diseases, and menstrual and muscle pain; the rind for skin ulcers; and the seeds for fever. Many people build their homes of the wood.
Purdue Agriculture identifies the pineapple as a native of Southern Brazil and Paraguay and a leading commercial food crop. The fibrous, yellow flesh of the fruit graces many desserts and compotes, pies, cakes and puddings. It serves as a garnish on ham, as a sweet sauce or preserves, and an ingredient in curries and other meat dishes. Cut pineapple and pineapple juice are popular worldwide.
Amazon Interactive states that the cacao bean, the source of chocolate and cocoa, is actually a seed. The "Tropical Plant Database" notes that the ground seed makes a coarse powder that boils in milk or water as a popular coffee substitute. Invalids and convalescents benefit from the nutrition it provides. Butter of cacao is an ingredient in suppositories, skin moisturisers, lip balms, cosmetics and soaps.
Curare grows as a large liana vine and Raintree's "Tropical Plant Database" lists its uses as a diuretic or mild laxative, muscle relaxant, antiseptic, and to treat bruises, contusions, ear aches, oedema, fever, kidney stones, madness, snakebite and arrow poisons. Although in fatal doses, curare causes respiratory paralysis.
Blue Planet Biomes reports that the cinchona tree provides quinine, a common treatment for malaria. According to the "Tropical Plant Database," the cinchona is native to the eastern Amazon and its astringent, bactericidal and anesthetic properties treat anaemia, indigestion, gastrointestinal disorders, fatigue, fevers, cancer, amoebic infections, heart problems, colds, diarrhoea, dysentery, dyspepsia, flu, hangover, lumbago, neuralgia, pneumonia, sciatica, typhoid, varicose veins, hair loss, liver, spleen, gallbladder disorders, leg cramps, haemorrhoids, varicose veins and headaches.
Raintree Nutrition states that the active ingredient in periwinkle has powerful cancer fighting effects that have increased the survival rate for childhood leukaemia. Blue Planet Biomes concurs, "A person with lymphocytic leukaemia has a 99 per cent chance that the disease will go into remission because of the rosy periwinkle."