The Amazon rain forest is known for its rich collection of plants and animals, some found nowhere else in the world. Science has only begun to explore the medicinal properties of some of the plant specimens found in the jungle, with some already known to aid modern medicine. While indigenous people are familiar with certain plants and have been using them for shamanic and medicinal purposes, some of the plants of the Amazon are poisonous and potentially fatal if consumed incorrectly or consumed at all.
Strychnos is a plant found in the Amazon rain forest with oval leaves, green flowers that have an unpleasant smell and red fruit about the size of an apple. The plant is best known for its use in creating poisonous arrows that kill a victim through contact with blood and asphyxiation. The plant's resin has also been used in hand-to-hand combat, by coating fingernails so that a scratch on an opponent has the possibility of being lethal. If poisoned, a victim will experience muscle spasms, rapidly changing blood pressure and suffocation. The plant has been used in medicine as an anesthetic.
Angel’s trumpets are a flower found and grown across the world, with some species originating in the Amazon rain forest. The rain forest varieties are known for being used by shamans, or medicine men. The flowers are capable of producing lucid dreams that shamans use to predict disease and misfortune, such as in with the Jivaroan-speaking people of the western Amazon. The plant's poison comes from the alkaloids found in the flower, and in large amounts can be deadly to a human.
Another plant used as an arrow poison, curare is a large and poisonous vine that is filled with alkaloids. The alkaloids can relax muscles, thus rendering a foe unable to charge or run when used as a poisonous arrow tip. An animal or person shot with one of these arrows will experience paralysis of the respiratory muscles, but will remain conscious while suffocating to death. These consequences can be reversed through artificial respiration, but typically a victim can not gesture to indicate that is what he needs. In medicinal purposes, it is used to help cure fever, bruises and kidney stones, and can be used as an anesthetic.
- Photo Credit rainforest image by Aleksander from Fotolia.com
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