The Other Side of Herbal Medicine

The rain had just subsided. Johnson (not real name) who had just arrived Port Harcourt after a long journey disembarked from the vehicle. He had been battling with Hermorrhoids for some months.

The showman appeared from nowhere, advertising his herbal products.

“Doctor Cure It All” – that was the name he called himself – said: “Just a bottle for N200 and your entire gonorrhoea, malaria, dysentery, pile, ulcer, diabetes, syphilis and all kinds of nyama-nyama (bad) disease go vamoose.”

His voice echoed to the entire perimeter of the motor park, drawing attention of pedestrians and motorists alike. Johnson, mesmerized completely, moved close to Doctor Cure It All, to buy a bottle of the concoction. He hurried home to share the liquid with his family. After he took the concoction, he found himself in the hospital the next day. Johnson had a deadly gastroenteritis. But for the quick intervention of his family physician, he would have kissed the world goodbye.

This is one incident out of many, indicating the danger inherent in the use of herbal mixtures, whose contents are not clearly spelt out. It also shows the unwholesome practice by some of the practitioners. Many have been as lucky as Johnson; they are dead as a result of the poisonous herbal products.

It is common knowledge that anything called drug is meant to heal or kill as the case maybe. For the drugs that heal, utter caution must be observed in their production, packaging, distribution, sale and general handling. This reason disqualifies the consumption of certain forms of herbal mixtures for the treatment of diseases because there is a deviation from this standard.

“Doctors” in herbal practice always say “where the rarity of modern medicine has failed, the potency of herbs should hold sway” (the expression is for those who pay attention to them). They are known to treat patients with herbs in preference to pharmaceutical drugs.

Herbal mixtures are derived from plants-roots, leaves, stems, fruits, seeds, shells, bee products, mineral and certain animal parts.

The success of herbal mixtures in our contemporary society is unparalleled and this venture has attracted both the quacks and derelicts who claim they inherited the skills from their parents or grandparents. These quacks have brainwashed many unsuspecting people with claims that their concoction is multi-functional but does that have an iota of truth?

Some herbal medicine practitioners have peddled falsehood for decades, making people to believe that all herbal products are good. It is necessary to note that not all fruits or tree bark you are edible. Some could be poisonous. Majority of herbal medicine in circulation today are poisonous concoctions.

Every medicine has adverse effects; that is why an overdose of any drug has grievous consequences. In drug administration, precision is the watchword when it comes to dosage. What could be safe for an under 10 years may not be the same for an adult. What would be considered safe for a pregnant woman may not be safe for another above 60.

Dosage in most herbal medical practice is not guided by scientific precision. Therefore, most of the herbal concoctions are unsafe for human or animal consumption.

Research has linked cancers, renal failures, cardiac disorders, and liver cirrhosis to the consumption or intake of toxic substances over a period of time. It should be noted that some of the herbal mixtures’ components are extracts that could be toxic to the body.

Neem Tree (Azadirachta indica) commonly called Dongo yaro is a herbal tree, which has been effective against plasmodium falciparum but a certain research by a Nigerian professor of pharmacology, Maurice Iwu, and his colleagues in 1987 at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka found that an overuse of Dongo yaro concoction could be lethal in laboratory rats and rhesus monkeys.

It is about time excesses of herbal practitioner are curbed, especially those with no scientific backgrounds. They should have sincerity of purpose for whatever that is worth doing is worth doing well. Today, China exports their herbal medicine to the United Kingdom and other countries because it produces quality herbal medicine. Chinese are not into it to line their own pockets but to contribute their own quota for the general wellbeing of humanity. Same should be replicated in this part.

Regulatory agencies, such as National Agency for Food, Drug and Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Traditional Medicine Practitioners Association of Nigeria and Council for Alternative Medical Practice in Nigeria should rise to this challenge. They should ensure that all herbal products are registered and their distribution, regulated.

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