Is Nigerian herbal medicine better than orthodox medicine? It’s important to know that traditional herbal medicines are naturally occurring, plant-derived substances with minimal or no industrial processing that have been used to treat illness within local or regional healing practices.
Traditional herbal medicines are getting significant attention in global health debates beyond Nigeria or Africa.
In China for instance, traditional herbal medicine played a prominent role in the strategy to contain and treat severe acute respiratory syndrome commonly known as SARS.
However, higher per cent of African populations with Nigeria included, use some form of traditional herbal medicine and the worldwide annual market for these products has increased significantly.
With that said, the ancient tradition of herbal remedies is making a resurgence and finding its way back not only onto the market, but more especially into the hearts of many people who, despite the availability of orthodox medicine, are redirecting their healthcare towards the raw provision of nature.
Herbs come in various forms ranging from local gin and herbs such as Agbo, Gbogbonise, Sepe and Paraga, Opa eyin, Sapele water, Atato, Opelebe, Dagrin, Kainkain, Jedi and Karaole, among others.
The growing of herbs for medicine in Nigeria and beyond is fueling and is to some extent fueled by increasing scientific interest in herbal medicine recently.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that of the 35,000-70,000 species of plants that are used for medicinal purposes around the world, some 5,000 have been submitted for biomedical scrutiny.
Scientific evidence of the efficacy of medicinal herbs is beginning to emerge from randomised, controlled trials in which herbs compare favourably with orthodox medicines.
Another reason for the growing popularity of herbal medicine is that many people believe they are safer and more natural than orthodox medicine or pharmaceuticals.
However, studies have shown that not all natural products are safe; some poisons are also natural.
The status of herbal medicine in Nigeria and some African nations has a rich tradition of herbal medicine.
With its diverse culture and traditions, Nigeria is rich in traditional medicine and eminent and respected traditional healers are involved in taking care of its teeming population.
In Nigeria, traditional medical practices are a main source of livelihood for a significant number of people who depend on it as their main source of income.
A high population growth rate of 2.8% annually and poverty, coupled with dwindling economic reserves in the country, have lead Nigerians to resort to more affordable health treatment.
As the population increases, the demand for traditional medicine will increase. In order to provide affordable health care, especially to those who cannot afford orthodox medicine, several state governments have sponsored tradomedicine fairs and exhibitions which seek to enlighten the public on the possible cures from this kind of traditional medicine.
Nigeria has established national and state traditional medicine boards for the regulation of herbal medicine practices and to promote cooperation and research.
The Federal College of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Lagos, is used by the federal Ministry of Health to train herbalists.
The effects and side effects of herbal medicine Herbal medicine has long been a cultural feature of many communities in Nigeria and the world over.
Herbs have been used for medical purposes since long before orthodox medicines were developed, and the use of herbal medicine is again becoming widespread throughout the world.
Indigenous cultures in Africa and around the world use herbs to reduce inflammation, control pain, relax muscles and improve digestion and elimination, as well as to boost appetite.
From the herbal bitter to the herbal soap, toothpaste, cream, and even tea, herbal medicine also includes all kinds of folk medicine, unconventional medicine and indeed any kind of therapeutic method that has been handed down by the tradition of a community or ethnic group.
Herbal medicines are sold as tablets, capsules, powders, teas, extracts, and fresh or dried plants.
They are used for chronic illnesses such as back pain, or to treat stress-related conditions which may appear very difficult to manage.
Beyond the use of herbs to improve health, however, many now use herbs to solve sexual problems.
However, this is not new in Nigerian society.
Body energizers or action pills have been with Nigerians from the time when women went about with calabash on their heads selling a powdery substance to enhance manhood, or when the Hausa/Fulani men went around with a particular root called Burantanshi or Ogun Aleko by the Yoruba herbal sellers of western Nigeria.
Sexual boosters are becoming increasingly popular among sexually active young adult men to boost their sexual powers.
The growing influx of sellers indicates that the sale of libido enhancers is an emerging booming business in Nigeria, with users increasing in number every day.
While the targeted consumers of these hawked herbs are mostly fairly uneducated people from low income groups such as bus drivers, mechanics, and labourers, the packaged variants reach out to the elite and to upwardly mobile individuals across working class professional sections of society.
Nigerian herbal medicine, however natural it is, can cause serious illnesses such as allergic reactions, liver or kidney malfunction and cancer, and even death.
Most herbal products on the market today have not been subject to a drug-approval process to demonstrate their safety and effectiveness.
Some of them contain mercury, lead, arsenic and corticoids and poisonous organic substances in harmful amounts.
Hepatic failure and even death following the ingestion of herbal medicine has been reported.
Research has shown that 25% of the cases of childhood blindness in Nigeria and India is associated with the use of traditional eye medicines.
While the side effects of some medicinal plants have been reported, perhaps the biggest problem in Nigeria concerning herbal medicine is a lack of STANDARDISATION and FEW SAFETY REGULATIONS.
The standardisation of Nigerian herbal medicine that may contain hundreds of chemical constituents, with little or no evidence indicating which might be responsible for the presumed or proven therapeutic effect, is not an easy matter.
With that said, is Nigerian herbal medicine better than orthodox medicine? Drop your comment and share……