Nature's Pharmacy

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Pacific Yew

Pacific yew
In 1958, the National Cancer Institute commissioned a study of over 30,000 plant species in hopes of discovering cancer-fighting compounds. Scientists found one in the bark of the Pacific yew, a conifer native to the Pacific Northwest. Yet it took extractions from six Pacific yews to yield enough of the anti-tumor compound paclitaxel for a single patient. Eventually, researchers learned how to convert a compound from the tree's needles into paclitaxel, which doctors now use to treat lung, breast, and other cancers.

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