Believe it or not this is the essay that resulted in the Pacific Northwest Taxol Industry.

I presented it back in January 1988 because of the local Yew trees being burned in the coastal range and nearby clear-cutting settings.   A few months earlier I was on television speaking about the potentials for the local Yew Tree as a cancer drug source.  I was on this Portland TV show call “Town Hall” produced and directed by Jack Faust.  He agreed to have me on this show in the front row along with several other highly renowned scientists in this field.  One of them was the discoverer of the TATA gene effect.  Also present at this show was Charles (Chuck) Thornton, also of my home town area in New York State and like me a past student at SUNY Stony Brook.  During this show I had the opportunity to talk with two researchers at the Oregon Graduate School in Beaverton, where a number of researchers were working on Bioengineering the products I discussed in this presentation.

Most important to note is that at this time, Canola oil was about to become widely marketed.  As a member of a research team which Canada had established during the initial years of developing the Canola industry (back when it was called LEAR oil), as primarily a correspondent and ghost writer for this group I learned how they produced and patented this particular form of biotechnology, and along the way learned a lot about plant cell engineering and plant tissue culturing in general at the industrial level.  At the time I was also a researcher and expert hired by a local stock brokerage, researching biotechnology firms for Dwayne Hubbard.  Reading about adn then determining the exagerations and most likely to succeed companies based on their annual reports (Calgene had just formed then).

The result of this speech at Portland was increased awareness of Old Growth forests and the potential for the local producers of potential cancer drugs in the Pacific Northwest.  According to a member of the State Forestry Service, this led him to successfully establish the formal program needed to initiate the Taxol industry in the Pacific Northwest during the years to come.

For about 4 years, this led them to invite me numerous times for their regular meetings, and as a result I spoke regularly about these Northwest economic potentials at numerous gatherings, but especially the Annual Academy of Sciences meetings, the Northwest Cottage Industries meetings and the old growth forest natural products conferences held numerous times a year during this newly blossoming natural resource  industry specific to the Pacific Northwest.

It took another 2 or 3 years for public attention to be drawn to Pacific Northwest Old Growth forest industry issues, local plant species extinction, and reduction in our local biodiversity.  This matter finally came to the public’s attention mostly due to the Smithsonian project I was also involved with on the Brazilian-Amazon Rainforest issues.   This gave local non-profit environmentalist groups in the Pacific Northwest Old Growth the momentum they needed to successfully establish their programs during the early 1990s.

Also due to this lecture in January 1988, I was offered a lab to do my own research in and the potential for a teaching position at the university by one of the chemistry professors, Al Levinson, whom I am forever grateful to for such a unique opportunity to openly analyze the chemistry for any and all plants and plant products, including the herbal medicines.  That enabled me to produce the evolutionary chart once very popular on the evolution of plant chemicals or natural products, and the related tables I produce that provide a chemotaxonomic overview on the ethnobotanical uses of plants around the world.



(Presented January 17, 1988)

Biotechnology is a very new and growing applied science limited only by understanding and imagination.  Due to biotechnology, we see nature in a new way; the roadsides, the beaches, the forests, and even our own backyards become untapped sources of research materials.  Nature is no longer just a place to escape, but a place to go for intense scientific study.  As we learn more about the innerworkings of the Earth, its geology, and its plant and animal life, we will learn to solve many problems whose solutions were once thought to be unimaginable.  So, it is the purpose of this presentation to acquaint you with the innerworkings of plant biotechnology and demonstrate that the Pacific Northwest is indeed a land rich in biomaterials and biotechnological potential, capable of influencing its own development as well as the development of mankind.

In order to do this we must consider these four questions:

1.  How do we apply plants to the field of Biotechnology?

2.  Why is the Pacific Northwest flora different from that of any other region of the United States?

3.  Are there any new and undiscovered potentials, and if so how do we find them?

4.  How would these new discoveries be of benefit to the Northwest in its socioeconomic growth?

Currently, a substantial percentage of our state’s income comes from its botanical resources including:  wood for lumber and paper; fruits for wine; and a variety of consumables.  A smaller portion of this income comes from local sources such as organically-grown herbs and spices, several wild-crafted medicinal plants, and a variety of edible wild mushrooms.  When the impact of these botanical resources is viewed on a much larger scale, (in regards to the United States), it is found that we excel in only a select few areas of botanical resource production for which the Northwest is well-known, namely lumber, select crops such as potatoes, sugar beets, mint, barley, and hops, edible fungi, fruits and wine.

The increasing need of a growing U.S. and world population must be met, and some of the Northwest’s primary resources are now dwindling.  One has to consider what effects the future could have upon our old-growth forests.  The most obvious effect could come from timber harvesting, but let us consider a more hidden natural resource–the wild mushroom.  With the increased popularity of edible wild mushrooms right now, it has yet to be seen what the effects of the related heavy foraging will have upon future mushroom availability and the future impacts upon their respective ecosystems.

Recently, Springfield, Oregon’s, Register Guard questioned the potential effects of heavy exportation, suggesting that we better control our harvesting of the National Forests.  In order to better deal with the problems of supply and demand, mushroom culturing and indoor cultivation

techniques are now being employed.  As an example, Avocational Mycologist Mike Wells, of the Oregon Mycological Society, has developed his own personal collection of nearly one-hundred edible, or otherwise useful Oregon fungi.  This living collection of mycelial growth networks stored in Petri dishes is perhaps the simplest example of how a better understanding of science can help to solve the problem of a limited supply and a respective high demand.  Once we develop a better understanding of an organism’s growth requirements, we can develop a better technique for cultivation, with a greater degree of efficiency than nature alone usually provides.  Viable germination tissue would always be available to meet any of the unexpected rises in demand. Other Oregonians are currently engaged in establishing seed banks of our native plants and a variety of important food plants which can be availed to in the future for recultivating botanical resources lost through neglect, poor weather, disease, or poor cultivation and harvesting techniques.

An interesting example of an economic issue involving supply and demand is in regards to the increasingly popular Naturopathic Physicians (the N.D.’s).  It is said that the N.D. is a symbol of the Northwest.  With the only two Naturopathic Medical schools in this half of the country (one in Portland, and the other in Seattle) more and more naturopaths are joining the local workforce each year.  The Naturopathic Physician relies upon several modes of treatment including: Homeopathy, Nutritional Therapy, Herbal Medicine, and Oriental Medicine; all of which employ edible and medicinal plants in their therapeutic regimes.

Most recently this has led to a rise in the demand for reliable, high-quality medicinal botanicals, and local farmers are responding to this need by organically growing important medicinal herbs such as Mint, Comfrey and Nettles.  A most recent success on behalf of the people at Portland’s own National College of Naturopathic Medicine has been in the marketing of their own Nettles-derived allergy relief formula.  This product has brought about an increased demand for this plant.  Similarly, with the increased interest in herb-related treatments nationwide, more and more herbs will be needed to produce the necessary products.  Small local herb farms are limited in how much they can accomodate for this need.  Facilitating the production of these and other medicinal botanicals could be one major application of biotechnology in the decades to come.

The naturopathic school has shown us that a herbal medicine does have the potential of reaching a larger market– regional, and perhaps even nationwide.  The chance for this happening is usually quite small.  With few exceptions, the privately run businesses ultimately play a small part in the economic growth of the Pacific Northwest; examples of these include the local producers of herbal products, including soaps, cosmetics, nutritional products, alcohol-based tinctures and oil-based preparations.  In order to consider the greater economic potential of the Northwest we must recall those basic human needs which exist worldwide: food, shelter, energy, and medicine.

If the Northwest can bring about a significant impact upon any one of these areas, then the resulting economic gain could far outweigh the sum of all other gains achieved to date.

Considering ‘Shelter’, the value of the Northwest Timberlands, regionally and worldwide, need not be elaborated upon; except to mention the work of one local researcher, Dr. William Pengelly.  In his labs at the Oregon Graduate Center in Beaverton, Oregon, Dr. Pengelly works with a newly discovered genetics researchers’ tool– the Agrobacterium tumefaciens. Agrobacterium tumefaciens is a bacteria which alters a plant cell’s genetic make-up by infecting that cell and carrying with it foreign DNA which the host (plant) cells recognize.  One effect of the infectious process can be a cancellation of the inhibitory effect of hormones which the host plant naturally secretes.  As a result, we see a ‘burly’ deformation developing in many of Portland’s trees.  These burls form because dividing cells are not being inhibited by the processes which would normally prevent their growth and division; just as an uninhibited cancer cell grows within the human body.  Along with its own DNA, the Agrobacterium tumefaciens can carry with it any other genetic information that is linked to it; for example, the genetic information required to produce enzymes involved in unique metabolic processes can be carried into the host cell. Then, if that infected cell has the necessary precursors for the enzymatic reactions, these will occur following a recognition of the reactants by the new enzymatic/genetic material.  Depending upon the skills of the researcher, (and a little bit of luck in breeding and selection of the appropriate bacteria and host cell lines), new breeds of Agrobacterium can be bred to fulfill a wide range of needs.

Dr. Pengelly’s work utilizes Agrobacterium to effect fiber production of the native trees of Oregon, currently grown for pulp and paper production.  Yet, there are many ways in which Agrobacterium can be used; all with tremendous economic potentials.  Every plant cell line essentially becomes a miniature factory which can be applied to the production of medicinally and industrially useful substances. The two other major applications of plant material–Food and Medicine –shall also  involve extensive use of the Agrobacterium, in the years to come, once its applicabilities have been mastered by agrigenetic researchers.

The Rape plant demonstrates the impact of agriculture and biotechnology upon the Food Industry.  For decades this member of the Mustard Family has given us an oil which is very useful industrially.  It is typically not very edible due to a bitter principle it contains known as Erucic Acid.  Recent attempts in Selective Breeding by agronomists have resulted in a substantial reduction of the Erucic Acid levels found in Rape seed oil. Not only did this make Rape seed oil palatable–known in the trade as Low-Erucic-Acid-Rapeseed Oil, or L.E.A.R. Oil (pronounced “lear oil”) –it has also become one of the “healthiest” cooking oils ever to reach the supermarket shelves, for it contains a high percentage of the desired monosaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, and very low levels of the less-desired cholesterols and saturated fatty acids.  In fact it is far lower in cholesterol than any other cooking oil.

Rapeseed is already one of the twenty most important industrial crops in the world.  Enhancing its palatability and applicability as a food crop would substantially improve its worth to a country whose economy depends upon its export.  The marketing of this new product, “Canola” Oil, exemplifies how stereotypical ideals play a role in effecting what the consumer believes regarding a new product.  The advertising campaign shows a brilliant yellow field of what one would assume to be grain, yet in fact this is really a field of Rape plants in full bloom. Be it through Grafting, Hybridization and Cross-breeding, or through Genetic Engineering, the act of producing a new variety of food plant is not new.  Only the techniques have change as we become more precise in our ways and begin digging deeper into the understanding the phytogenetic code.

By domesticating many of our fruit-bearing plants, their quality has been improved.  Selective Breeding has allowed agronomists to produce thick-skinned oranges (for protection during shipping), larger apples, and round pears.  We have produced plants that are more resistant to herbicides, pesticides, and freezing temperatures.  Yet, by selecting for a particular characteristic, we have negated generations of naturally-bred features that are more important than shape, size, color, and moisture content.  Such features include climate tolerance, and the multitude of natural pest resistancies.  It is now the goal of a few agrigenetic researchers to bring back these natural resistances in rapidly propagating fruit plants such as Strawberry, Raspberry, Blackberry, Blueberry, and Currants.  This would eliminate the need for excessive spraying of chemicals onto their growing areas.

In consideration of the applications of plants to medicine, it is important to briefly reflect upon some related history. There was a time when what we now view to be the simplest and most basic of discoveries were actually landmarks in the developing understanding of normal and disease-related processes in the human body.  One such discovery was made by Dr. James Lind in 1738, when he realized that a lack of citrus fruit in the diet of sailors in the British Navy was causing them to become ill. This discovery turned one of the most common disorders of that period, Scurvy, into one of the most treatable and preventable disorders of the Eighteenth Century.

Another epoch discovery was made by the Eighteenth Century physician William Withering who accepted as truth the testimonials made by seemingly untreatable patients who claimed that their illness was reversed by drinking an herbal tea made by an old Shropshire lady.  When he investigated this woman’s work, he concluded that the common garden and woodlands plant, Digitalis or Foxglove, was effective in treating their weak and failing hearts.  Since Dr. Withering’s discovery, millions of people in the United States have benefited from the Digitalis- related glycosides.

Next came the major discovery that the Mexican Yam contained an impressive amount of chemical compounds bearing a steroid skeleton– a complex molecule made up of four interlocking rings which was practically induplicable in chemical laboratories. This discovery enabled pharmacologists to replace the old prescriptional steroid products, made from concentrated animal tissue, with a purer, less costly, and more reliable product. The assortment of new steroidal medicines we now have include: Cortisone, the Day-after Pill for rape victims, and the Birth Control Pill.

In the 1980s we discovered the anti-cancer, anti-leukemia, and anti-Hodgkin’s Disease compounds found in American Mandrake, and the Madagascar Periwinkle.  Each has given researchers a new chemical tool, and clinicians a new form of therapy.  Very careful consideration is now being given to the potential anti-carcino­genic potentials of a native tree of the Pacific Northwest, the Yew Tree–The Tree of Immortality–an item of special interest which will be discussed later.

To some researchers the time has come to see if there are any strong anti-viral compounds capable of fighting the complex viruses such as the AIDS virus.  Not too surprisingly, the highly complex Plant Kingdom does in fact produce these.  Castanospermum australe, or the Black Bean of Australia, produces a toxin which selectively prevents certain viruses, including AIDS (HIV), from forming their protective outer coating.  This toxin, Castanospermine, has potential for use in the treatment of AIDS patients.  The U.S. native Water Hemlock (Conium maculatum) contains a similar compound, gamma-coneicine, which is not related to its famous and more deadly toxin–Coniine.  Gamma-coniecine could theoretically be extracted, and/or efficiently synthesized in the plant cell following proper exposure to a specific Agrobacterium which inhibits Coniine production without altering the production of Gamma-Coneicine. Saint John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) and Simple Oats have been found to contain a unique class of molecules used for researching the AIDS virus, and have been considered a source for a potential drug in the future.


The history and ecology of the Northwest support its enormous potentials for impacting the field of Biotechnology. There is an extraordinary variety of plant-life due to its wide range of ecosystems: scrub plains, deserts, glaciated mountain peaks, volcanic pyroclastic flows, impenetrable rain forests, cultivated floodplains, estuaries, and marine tidal pools; all within the border of the State of Oregon.  Following its exploration by pioneers, the Pacific Northwest soon became known as “the Garden of the West”, growing and establishing its first major cities around the middle of the Nineteenth century.  The City of Portland began as a pre-statehood settlement around 1850, and later became heavily urbanized, laying down its present roadways and concrete sidewalks at the turn of the century.

Concurrent with its exploration, the Northwest’s flora was being catalogued by famous botanist-naturalists such as Asa Gray, Edward Greene,  Thomas Howell, William C. Cusick, and William Suksdorf.  Cusick and Suksdorf would become known as the noted taxonomists for cataloguing Northwest plants, and more famous botanists like Asa Gray, wrote about their findings.  Much of the information on Northwest plants came from Trask River, Willamette River, and Pacific Railroad Survey specimens gathered by the Howell Brothers around 1883.  Several decades would pass before special attention would be given to the uniqueness of Northwest ecosystems.  The Northern California–Oregon surveys made by Engelmann and Parry in 1880 led them to conclude “Three Sisters would be the best locality to study the whole Oregon and Northern California forest range better than the known localities of Mount Hood.”  This led botanical explorers to suspect that there was nothing new to be found.  The Northern United States, across into Canada and then to Alaska, would soon be explored, before the rest of the Pacific Northwest would again be taken seriously and explored for its unique ecosystmes; its potentials had yet to be discovered.

Unfortunately for the Northwest, Penicillen was discovered, for following the initial cataloguing of Northwest flora, the discovery of Penicillen changed the emphasis of natural products chemistry research, replacing plant extraction experiments with chemical synthesis experiments being carried out solely within the chemists’ laboratories.  Furthermore, stress was placed upon the health care field by the two world wars.  As wartime typically exerts a significant effect upon the growth of the medical field and its research efforts, this time these efforts were centered on the prevention and treatment of life-threatening infections following battlefield injury.  New anti-microbial drugs came into being, not from the testing of newly discovered potentially medicinal plants, but instead through the chemical modification of previously known therapeutic substances with the hopes of obtaining a patentable, and perhaps more effective drug.

Due to the cost-benefit analyses, more researchers were being drawn away from the outdoor environment and into the hearth of their test tubes and petri dishes.  It appeared as though the need for working long and hard hours, tediously extracting plant substances, and achieving less than predictable results from trial and error methods, would soon be over.  The interest in medicinal plants had bottomed out.

As a result, many of the newly catalogued plants of the Pacific Northwest did not receive the same full attention and scrutiny by plant chemists that nearly all of the plants of the Eastern United States had received.  This is most noticeable when reading about these plants.  Most of the information regarding the medicinal value of the Northwest’s plant life is in the form of folklore handed down by the American Indians and early settlers, which contrasts greatly with the information found on Eastern North American flora where there is not only a vast collection of folklore, but also information based upon the results of late 18th and early 19th century research done on plant chemistry, toxicology, and pharmacognosy.

The Northwest’s vast botanical resources have become lost and forgotten, and continue to be ignored in respect to their economic and medicinal potential.  We have here plants with an incredible economic potential which have yet to be properly developed, or better yet, discovered.  Billions of dollars are now being spent in a massive attempt to recover new and unusual drugs from the tropical rain forests.  These tropical zones have already been plundered of their best flora, so attempts are now being made to reach southwards and across to other continents for new drug sources.  A large portion of these efforts should now be re-directed into the biologically-rich regions of the Northwest; for example, into its rain forests.   Our rain forests alone contain a considerable amount of biomass, with great variation in its metabolic processes.  There must certainly be new plant species with their own unique chemistries and therapeutic potentials waiting to be discovered .

Recently, estimates have been made that approximately one out of every 125 fully researched plants has economic potential as a medicinal, and that one out of every four prescriptional products is botanically-derived.  These estimates have been made based upon the limited number of plants currently used in prescriptional drugs and do not account for the other 60 or more “non-pharmacological” plants which are used in the manufacturing of nearly all prescriptionals, (for example, gums, gels, resins, etc.)  Nor does it consider the vast assortment of “nutritional” herbs for which there is at least a $250M annual market.

Approximately 400 species of plants are now being sold as nutritional supplements, which are obviously bought for self-medicating purposes.  Most of the plants which have undergone laboratory testing been tested for one sole purpose–for their cancer fighting properties.  One can only guess how useful these plants might be in fighting other diseases of the human body, for example, Epilepsy,  AIDS,  Herpes,  Skin conditions, and the variety of Blood Coagulation Disorders.

An estimated $40B is spent annually on drugs in this country; considering that roughly one-fourth of all prescriptional medicines are plant-related, the estimated value of our forty prominent plant-derived medicinals is $10B.  Divided amongst the 40 plants, this makes each plant worth at least 250 Million dollars to the manufacturer. These figures were proposed several years ago by Norman Farnsworth, one of the world’s foremost experts on Economic Botany .  Due to certain factors missing in his calculations, the actual worth of any plant-derived medicinal substance can actually be found to be around $465M.  Unofficial estimates are that a substance has to be worth $500 M to $2B dollars in order for a drug company to consider testing, producing, and then marketing it on a nationwide scale.  Many of these substances in pure crystalline powder form cost the patient $1000 to over $10,000 per ounce dry weight, and only a few granules may be all that is necessary to produce a therapeutic response in an individual.  To the representative drug company it is important that each newly marketed substance be able to capture a considerable portion of the massive prescriptional sales market; estimated to be over 2 Billion Rx’s, with and average cost ranging at $12-15 each, to $20-40 each for some of the more common “exotic” prescriptions.  Subsequently, the cost for chemotherapy can go beyond the several thousand dollars mark per day!

Many of the new drugs we see due to the current system of research and development are “Exotic”.  They are typically used to treat afflictions such as hormone imbalances, cancer, leukemia, Hodgkin’s Disease, high blood pressure, and certain heart afflictions.  One major role of biotechnology might be to reduce the cost of their production and increase their availability through well-designed programs in clonal propagation, genetic alteration, and plant tissue culturing.  It is important that all of these procedures be understood because they will be used extensively to solve many of the problems of the 21st Century regarding starvation, malnourishment, poor health and disease, and the restoration of our endangered botanical resources.

Biotechnology offers us a better chance for dealing with our botanical resources in a controlled manner.  It provides us with the means to better utilize them for economic gain for the entire Pacific Northwest.  Examples of local flora within their ecosystems describe how this might be done.


Tidal pools demonstrate the tremendous amount of the speciation and specialization that is occurring.  Each tidal pool is a miniature ecosystem whose energy conversion rates and levels of biomass reach incredible proportions.  The energies associated with the sun and the ocean are continually being absorbed and converted into a form which are better utilized by the local fauna and flora.  One effect of this is the rapid conversion of energy into the production of biomaterials, which typically become segregated into visible layers known as growth zones.

Zonal gradation, or stratification, of the Northwest’s shores can best be seen in its tidal pools.  Different types of barnacles grow best at different levels, which are different from the levels at which the starfish, sea anemones, and sea urchins grow.

There are different forms of Algae plants which also display these growing habits.  Each chooses its depth according to what it has become best adapted to in shape, size, strength, color pigmentation, resistance to turbulence, and the absorption of reduction of sunlight due to water turbidity.

Algae such as Kelp have provided the Orientals with food for thousands of years, but only recently have we begun to take a serious look at its nutritive properties.  Algae have given us useful gels which serve as thickeners and stabilizers in many foods.

One particular example is the Red Algae Chondrus crispus.  It is utilized extensively for its Carageenan in the manufacturing of cheese-cakes and ice creams.

Dulse and Laver are used in the preparation of soups.  The Kelp, a form of Brown Algae, doesn’t give us any overly useful food substances, (aside from the nutritional supplement tablets people often take) but it can be used for the production of other biomaterials such as ethanol for fuel.

Chlorella, a form of green algae, is now being sold for its highly nutritious qualities.  Estimates have been made that we can grow as much as forty tons of Chlorella in the same area required to grow one ton of Soybean, or to serve as grazing land for 250 pounds of beef!

A low cost means for the production of algae now exists utilizing aquaculture.  Theoretically, on the shores of the Pacific Ocean we could develop growing beds or isolated pools in estuarine areas, causing little or no environmental effect upon the shorelines’ appearances and ecology, and make better use of this continuously active energy source.


Estuaries are necessary for many different forms of wildlife to exist along our shorelines: from the algae and shellfish, to the sea mammals, fish and birds.    One environmental effect of our vast logging operations in the Northwest is the production of waste materials in the form of driftwood, bark chips, sawdust, and processed pulp remains.  Much of this material is thoughtlessly dumped into the estuarine environment, thereby ruining the ecology of this ecosystem.  Wood debris, especially particulate matter, along its shorelines, drastically alters the natural chemistry of this area due to the its slow decay in the estuarian environment it.  Chemically-treated wood pulp creates even more havoc in the delicate balance that nature provides.

The process of wood decay has been studied by Dr. Gold of the Oregon Graduate Center.  His work has shown that one particular wood decay fungus–Phaenerochaete chrysosplenium–the White Rot fungus seen on some cut logs, is important to the degradation of the sturdy wood fiber, lignin, into its smaller chemical components.  By degrading lignin the remaining inner portions of the woody materials are exposed to the environment allowing further decomposition to occur.   A special technique in genetic engineering known as Protoplast Fusion has been used to produce unique varieties of this fungus and shows promising effects upon the delignification of decaying wood debris.  In theory, the careful manipulation of this fungus could result in a more efficient decay system, useful for chemically degrading wood debris so that it can be utilized economically for fuel, chemical and paper production, rather than be simply disposed of into the environment.


Travelling inland, we come upon the grassy and marsh-like areas where Western False Hellebore (Veratrum californicum) grows.  Western False Hellebore has been of major interest to livestock growers and toxicologists due to its effect on grazing cattle and sheep.  It causes fetal-embryo malformation syndromes, often referred to as the Congenital Monkey-faced Syndrome, following their exposure to Veratrum’s toxins during development in the womb.  Newborns are characterised by severe limb deformities and the displacement of key facial features, including fusion of the eyes.  Due to the overwhelming number of known and unknown toxins in Veratrum, little could be done to isolate the steroidal toxin(s) directly responsible for this.

With today’s increased chemical and technological capabilities we are now able to isolate and identify them.  Toxins of such a selective nature make excellent research tools in the search for more answers to questions regarding the development of the embryo. Their effects on embryogenesis occur during specific stages of pregnancy, which implies that tissue production is probably being effected by the poorly understood steroid-based growth hormones. Considering the number of different toxins in this plant, another potential chemotherapeutic drug might exist within this plant’s

tissues as well.



Travelling inland Cascara Sagrada (Rhamnus purshiana) can be found.  Ever since the nnineteenth century, Cascara’s fame has been extensive; its primary use being as a laxative.  Cascara owes its strong laxative properties to some rather complex chemical compounds found primarily in its bark and roots.  Buyers for Cascara live along the roadsides between Western Washington and Oregon.  Freshly-bought material must be allowed to age for a few years before it can be re-sold to natural products chemists who’ll extract the bitter Cascara resin.

The Yew Trees (Taxus baccata) and a number of other gymnosperms in the Pacific Northwest offer chemotherapeutic potentials.  The most important of these are Taxus with its taxol and Libocedrus decurrens (Incense Cedar) with its epipodophyllotoxin, the oldest plant compound used to treat cancer that also possessed a very cancer cell specific pharmacological effect.

The last potential source for a chemotherapeutic  medicine worth mentioning is the local Meadow Rue or  Thalictrum species.  These produce thalictrine alkaloids and their analogs show to be potentially useful as cancer drugs.

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