Applied Botany

Medicinal KapokIntense efforts are underway to discover and utilize the potential in plants before their genetic resources are lost to extinction. From our earliest beginnings, humans have been on an unending quest to discover the useful properties of plants.

The search has produced a healing harvest. Plants are the source of powerful therapeutic drugs for treatment of cancer, hypertension, Parkinson's disease and many other illnesses. Today, three out of four people in the developing world continue to rely on remedies made directly from plants. Where prescription drugs are the norm, a majority of medicines contain at least one plant-derived compound.

Since 1986, Garden scientists have collected and identified more than 35,000 plant samples, which are screened at other institutions and companies looking for chemical compounds that may lead to new products. Garden botanists collect in Africa and Madagascar for the National Cancer Institute, in Gabon for Sequoia Sciences, and in Suriname and Madagascar as part of an International Cooperative Biodiversity Group. All collecting by Garden scientists is carried out with respect and rigorous safeguards for the rights of host countries.

To learn more about our work in Applied Botany, check out the Garden's William L. Brown Center.