By Maria Famakinwa
Herbal medicine is an important and significant part of alternative medicine. It’s part of alternative treatment methods. It involves the use of different plants that have medicinal properties like the leaves, stem, fruits, seeds, flower and roots for treatment of different ailments. It can both be preventive and curative.
Herbal medicine has been used for thousands of years. It is estimated that 80 per cent of the world’s population rely on traditional herbal medicine for primary health care. In recent years, herbal remedies have been considered as dietary supplement for disease prevention and as alternative/complementary medicine.
With the rising utilisation of herbal products, safety and efficacy of herbal medicine have become a public health concern. Adverse health effects associated with herbal products could be attributed to both inherent toxic effects of herbal medicine and toxicities induced by adulterants/contaminants. The Hope spoke with people on their views about herbal and orthodox medicine.
A trader, Mrs Adebimpe Pelemo, explained that she preferred herbal medicine to the common drugs which most medical doctors prescribe at the hospitals. Her reason was that the quality of some of the drugs produced today have been compromised, unlike what obtained some years back.
Her words: “Although, I am not disputing the fact that the orthodox medicines are good, what I am saying is that the native medicines are complementary. From my experience over the years, I found that when I have malaria, after administering the doctor’s prescription, the ailment persists. But when I now supplement the medicine with the local one, popularly called “Agbo”(Local herbs), I feel relieved. I do not share the view of some people that the local herbs are over dose, after all, our parents used them for treatment and had no problem.”
Sharing a similar view, a commercial driver, Mr Kayode Ajanaku, also believes that herbal medicine is more effective than orthodox medicine. The man who hinted that our fore-fathers used herbal medicine during their days and lived longer blamed the use of orthodox medicines for the rising cases of strange diseases.
He said: “Most of the diseases like coronavirus, Monkeypox and other terminal ailments which are rampant today were not known in the 50s -70s and hospitals were not as common then as we have today. They relied solely on herbal medicine and they were strong and enjoyed good health. That is to tell you that herbal medicine is more effective than orthodox medicines. If you are treating malaria with drugs, it can only give you respite for days before it shows up; but herbal medicine will flush it out from the system. Many modern drugs were originally extracted from plant sources, even if they are now made synthetically. Herbal treatment is very cheap and remains the only cure to some ailments whose cure cannot be found in orthodox medicine, “ he said.
In a different reaction, a businessman, Mr Christian Onuoha, who disclosed that some people had lost their lives for taking herbal medicine, warned people against relying on herbal medicine.
He said: “Ignorance, poverty, illiteracy, sociocultural beliefs and limited access to modern healthcare services are the major reasons many Nigerians prefer seeking the services of traditional health care practioners. At times when I see people gathering different leaves together in order to use for the treatment a particular ailment, I wonder how they toy with their lives. How can a knowledgeable person subject him/herself to herbal medical treatment without medical tests to confirm if what they are taking is the cure for the ailment ?
“Besides, there is nothing to measure the quality and quantity to be taken. I have heard about the deaths of some people after consuming herbal medicine. This is because they are not subjected to close scrutiny. We need to be properly guided, so that we don’t create more problems while trying to solve another. Majority of herbal medicines affect terminal organs which is why terminal disease is now on the rise. Anyone who is sick should visit the hospital,” he advised.
In his contribution, a trado-medical practioner, Rasheed Olugbemileke, expressed strong belief in traditional medicine for curing all forms of ailments, which according to him may not be cured by any scientific approach or orthodox medicine. He said traditional medicine remains the best as far as African culture is concerned. He, however, condemned people’s attitude towards herbal medicine which he described as the quickest method of finding solution to any ailment.
His words: “Back in the days of our fore-fathers, before the white culture was injected into our society, the only method that was used to cure any ailment was through collection of herbs. This was working well for us and everyone appreciated it. It was cheap and effective. The trado-medical practioner also revealed that many orthodox doctors in the society today, despite their criticism of herbal medicine, still recommend traditional medicine for their patients whenever they discover that an ailment persists. According to him, there are some diseases like syphilis, gonorrhea, sexually transmitted Diseases (STD) thyroid, malaria and fibroids among others that may not be well treated by using drugs.”
Speaking on meeting NAFDAC requirements, the herbal doctor said that before, there was a large number of traditional medicine practioners but NAFDAC helped to screen some of our products, which meet international standard and that this had brought a lot of improvement to the packaging and production of these products to compete with other orthodox capsules for the use of patients.“Herbal medicines can now be found at different pharmaceutical shops which is to tell you public acceptability,” he said.
A pharmacist, Mr Olufemi Ibitayo, disclosed that orthodox medicine remains the best option for patients. He added that before a particular medicine is prescribed, the patient must have been subjected to series of medical tests and examination to determine the drugs to be given.
He said: “Testing patients medically and treating such based on the test results make orthodox medicine preferable and more effective than herbal medicine. Can any herbal practioner carry out major operation during emergency to save a patient life? What they do is to refer them to the hospital when they can no longer handle the situation, because herbal medicine has its limitation.
“There is no single herbal medicine that has gone through full clinical trial. Lack of systematic observation has meant that even serious adverse reactions, such as the kidney failure and liver damage caused by some plant species, have gone unrecognised, until recently when peoples are getting better sensitized on some of the negative effects of using herbal medicine. Some are battling different ailments, including terminal diseases today, due to the consumption of herbs. The general public need to be better sensitized against dangers of taking herbal medicines because some are fond of cooking different leaves and consuming to treat ailments without being mindful of its adverse effects,” he said.
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