Frogs save people: medicines from rainforest frogs – use of frog skin chemicals as medicine – Cover Story

Scientists and doctors around the world are learning to use “frog juice” to help cure human diseases.

For hundreds of years, people living in rainforests have known about the “magic” of certain frogs. These frogs have powerful chemicals in their skin. The chemicals ooze out of the skin whenever the frogs are attacked. Since the chemicals are poisonous or taste bad, most attackers learn to stay’ away from the frogs.

The rainforest people have been using these chemicals as medicine or as poison to kill other animals for food. And now scientists are learning to use the chemicals too. Here are some of the things they’re finding out about the chemicals:

* Australian tree frogs give off a chemical that helps heal sores when it’s put on human skin. Doctors expect to find lots of other ways the chemical can be used. * A chemical from a frog that lives in Ecuador, South America, can be used as a painkiller. The chemical is 200 times more powerful than a painkiller often given to people in hospitals. * People from an Indian tribe in Peru, South America, rub frog chemicals into their skin before they go hunting. The liquid makes them feel stronger and more alert. Feeling like that makes them better hunters, so they call the liquid “hunting magic.”

Now some doctors think that these chemicals also may be useful for curing diseases.

“Scientists have only begun to find out how useful the chemicals from frogs may be,” says John Daly, a scientist who studies frogs. “But when rainforests are cut down, the frogs can disappear before we’ve had a chance to know about them. Saving precious frogs is just one of the many reasons to save the rainforests.”

COPYRIGHT 1994 National Wildlife Federation

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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