In regards to deforestation to make medicinal products, is it possible we could be loosing a resource that will be vital to us in the future?
Consider for a moment the source of many medicinal products. In our lifetime thousands of acres of tropical rainforest have been destroyed. How is this affecting us now and in the future?
Deforestation and slash-and-burn agricultural and trade practices in rain forests could certainly affect our access to life-saving products if it is not controlled sensibly. Not only is the jungle a "living lung" for our planet, it also harbours plants and trees with life-saving properties. For example, everyday chemicals and drugs such as quinine and and aspirin can be derived from plants. Quinine is used for the treatment of the mosquito borne disease Malaria. Aspirin is helpful in relieving pain and lowering temperature. Who knows how many more plants could be explored to see what life-giving properties they hold. If rain forest deforestation is not controlled , humankind could be the losers.
Of course there could be plants (usually tropical and subtropical) that could be used for medicinal purposes that are being destroyed by deforestation. It has been estimated that 15,000 medicinal plants are in danger of extinction. More and more land is being used for monoculture agriculture. This leaves less room for native plants. Deforestation isn't the only threat to these of plants though. Excessive harvesting of these plants also puts them in danger.
There are many things that are being done to try to save many of these plants. Botanists study ecosystems before they are altered and then monitor it while it is being altered to discover which plants are being depleted.
The IUCN Medicinal Plant Specialist Group have come up with a set of standards to ensure that medicinal plants will be available and not destroyed.
Deforestation for making anything for human use an activity is non-sustainable/ This means that such activity cannot be continued for very long period. At some time the deforestation will reach such a level that there will be no forest left for further deforestation, and in such a situation such an activity will come to a stop automatically.
However, I am sure that we can extract medicines from plants without causing deforestation. As a matter of fact, availability of medicines from plants could be used as a motivation for protecting and increasing the forest area by plantation of trees that yield medicines.
If currently some people are destroying forests to extracts medicines out of plants, such practices are unnecessarily destructive and clearly against long term interest of humanity. Such activities must be stopped immediately, and replaced by better methods that yield medicines from plant, and at the same time protect the forest covers.