Surprising Everyday Products Sourced from the Rainforest

Are the rainforests really relevant in our everyday lives? Take a closer look at some of the everyday products sourced from the rainforest, and see how much we rely on it.

rainforest

We’re all used to hearing about the world’s rainforests and the threat that mankind is posing to them. But are the rainforests really relevant in our day to day lives? Why not take a closer look at some of the everyday products sourced from the rainforest, and see just how reliant we are upon it?

In the bathroom

Your daily wash and shower can use a wide range of products containing ingredients originally sourced from some of the world’s rainforests. Any product which foams as you use it contains a chemical foaming agent called Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) which is derived from palm oil. Not only is SLS notoriously drying and harsh on the skin, the global demand for the palm oil needed to produce it has had a devastating on the rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia.

The palm oil-derived agent SLS can be found in:

  • hand wash

  • face wash

  • shampoos

  • shower gels

  • bubble baths

  • toothpastes

Cosmetics

The cosmetics and beauty products you might use on your face and skin every day might seem far removed from the plants and animals of the world’s rainforests. But look closer and you’ll see that your makeup is one of the main everyday products sourced from the rainforest, due to the origins of its key ingredients. Not only is the aforementioned palm oil a common ingredient in many of our favourite products, castor oil is also used in a number of cosmetic products, the source of which, Euphorbiaceae, grows in abundance in the tropical rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia.

Food

When thinking of ingredients which we consume daily from the rainforest, food, and in particular- fruit, may be the first thing you think of. A huge range of our favourite fruits grow in the rainforest, including:

  • banana

  • oranges and lemons

  • berries

  • guava

  • pineapple

  • avocado

While many fruits and other foods are well known for their “Tropical” origins, many others have surprising sources in the rainforests. Black pepper, for example, is a popular addition to food in the UK and grows on the flowering vine of the Piperaceae family in tropical regions worldwide. Other lesser known foodstuffs with their origins in the world’s rainforests include:

  • tea and coffee

  • flavourings such as spices, sugar and vanilla

  • cocoa- which is the key component in making chocolate

  • kola nut- the founding ingredient of Coca Cola, one of the world’s most consumed beverages

  • beans and grains, including rice, one of the most popular and versatile grains eaten worldwide

Even foods which contain none of the ingredients which directly grow in the rainforest, palm oil is often used in the cooking and preparation process of many low cost foods which we eat every day, especially baked goods and confectionery.

Medicines

It’s not just what you eat and wash with that can derive from rainforests on the other side of the world. Many prescribed and over-the-counter medicines also contain ingredients which have naturally grown in the rainforests of the world. A number of medicines would never exist without vital ingredients sourced from the rainforest, including:

  • Quinine- a drug used to cure malaria, extracted from the cinchona tree which grows in Africa and South America

  • Anti-tumour agents- sourced from the rosy periwinkle which grows in Madagascar

  • Diosgenin and cortisone- active ingredients in common birth control pills, sourced from the wild yams of Guatemala and Mexico

Even more essential medicines have been derived from research which has taken place on plants which grow in the rainforest. Scientists have been able to discover how cancer cells grow, how contraceptives can be improved and how safer pesticides can be created, all by looking at plant compounds sourced in the rainforest.

Ethical use of rainforest products

The rainforest is one of the richest resources on the planet for food, medicine, cosmetics and cleaning products, not to mention timber and paper products. But with its usefulness comes exploitation, and the rainforests of the world are decreasing at a rapid speed. But with so many of our day-to-day products sourced from these regions, it seems almost impossible to avoid using rainforest derived products at some point. Fortunately, there are a number of accreditations given to responsibly sourced products which allow you to choose to support companies who are free of exploitation. While not all products sourced from the rainforest are “unethical”, care and attention needs to be paid to the ways in which they are extracted, the sustainability of the rainforest’s plants and the protection of its wildlife and its habitat in order for us to preserve these regions for future generations to benefit.

Image sourced: Shao

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