The bark from yew trees has been helping the fight against cancer since the 1960s
The Pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia) is one of 500 yews at Kew and has important medicinal uses. Extracts from the bark of the Pacific and common yew are used in treatment for ovarian and breast cancer.
In the 1960s, researchers in the USA isolated an extract from yew bark that was effective against tumours; today Taxol is an important treatment for ovarian and breast cancer.
You can see a Pacific yew near Kew’s Waterlily Pond.
Another drug, Taxotere, is made from the young needles of the common yew, (Taxus baccata).
Both drugs can now be made synthetically, but foliage is still collected and used in the drug-making process.
Author: Christina Harrison