Chewing on ginger root or mint leaves can ease an upset stomach, and hemp can be used as a source of fuel or to make clothing. These are just a few examples of the benefits plants can provide, and scientists are discovering more advantages of new plants in places like the Amazon rainforests every day.

A group of Yale University students and professors were visiting the Amazon rainforest during the annual Rainforest Expedition and Laboratory program when they discovered a fungi that might be the answer to the growing global waste problem. The researchers identified two variations of Pestalotiopsis microspora that can survive by eating polyurethane, which is one of the major contributors of garbage on the planet.

This discovery could lead to the development of new methods to handle waste, and the scientists believe these fungi are just the tip of the iceberg of what the rainforests have to offer. Many jungle plants have already been found to carry medicinal properties and other useful characteristics, and there are still an unknown number of undiscovered and untested plants that may hold secrets that could potentially change the world.

Indigenous tribes in the Peruvian Amazon have long known the benefits that some endemic plants can provide, and one such plant may well be the latest weapon in the war on tooth pain. Dr. Francoise Barbira Freedman first got wind of the medicinal plant when she was living among the Keshwa Lamas tribe in 1975.

"We were trekking through the rainforest and I was having terrible trouble with my wisdom teeth," Freedman told the news source. "One of the men with me noticed and prepared a little wad of plants to bite onto. The pain went away."

Freedman included the plant on a later report as an afterthought, but it caught the attention of other researchers and has since been developed into a painkilling gel. As of now, the gel is advancing from successful initial clinical trials and could be available to consumers within two years.

These are just a few of the many different Amazon plants that could contain properties to heal the sick and solve global problems like that of excess waste. You shouldn't go around chewing on the leaves of any plant you come across on International Expeditions’ Amazon River cruises, as you might wind up munching on something toxic. However, the truth remains that there is a lot of potential in these South American jungles, which is why protecting them is so important.