Wellcome Collection - Medicines in the Amazon
This medicine chest was used by the explorer Algot Lange on his 1911 Amazon expedition. The Burroughs Wellcome company often supplied expeditions with medicines to generate publicity. Lange was a colourful character who went out to investigate rubber, but ended up excavating archaeological sites.
On display at Kew Gardens from 31 May - 10 July 2011
In fact some of the medicines Lange took to the Amazon originated in South America. Quinine, then one of the few effective treatments for malaria, comes from the bark of the Cinchona trees native to the Andes. Ipecacuanha (Carapichea ipecacuanha) is from the root of a Brazilian shrub - like many herbal medicines of the time, it induced vomiting.
100 years later, the medicinal plants of the Amazonian rainforest are being investigated by ethnobotanists, specialists in understanding human use of plants. Work today focuses on helping indigenous communities record their traditional knowledge and improve local health systems. Unlike in the days of Algot Lange, botanical research is carried out in full collaboration with national governments and local peoples.
A700016, Wellcome Collection kept at the Science Museum.
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