Traditional Vs Herbal Medicine
Traditional medicine involves using natural materials to cure illnesses. These natural materials include herbs(leaves), roots, knots, or any other elements. Whereas herbal medicine involves the cure of diseases using leaves (herbs) only. Some people ask questions like what are the inspirations or boundaries that guide the practice of traditional medicine.
It’s not a well-outlined process like science or normal medicine is. Herbal medicine is a gift still untapped. As a herbalist, you are gifted with inspiration from the supernatural to know what quantity, type, and mixture of leaves and what type of treatment will cure the condition of the person who is seeking answers.
Herbal medicine is an important part of traditional medicine in Nigeria. And it has been used for centuries by various indigenous communities to treat various health conditions that seem impossible. Nigeria is home to a diverse range of plant species, and many of these plants are used in the production of herbal medicines.
The use of herbal medicine in Nigeria is not limited to rural communities, as it is also common in urban areas. Many people prefer it to conventional medicine due to its affordability and perceived effectiveness. Traditional healers, also known as herbalists or “babalawos,” play a significant role in the use of herbal medicine in Nigeria.
There are common and uncommon holy leaves used in herbal medicine. The common as the name implies are herbs we are familiar with while the uncommon is not always in our immediate environment but are still herbs sometimes only found in the forest or deep vegetation. Some examples of common herbs in Nigerian traditional medicine include:
- Neem: Neem has antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. It is for treating skin conditions, respiratory infections, and fever.
- Eucalyptus: Eucalyptus is used for its antiseptic and expectorant properties. It is for treating respiratory infections and relieving coughs and colds.
- Aloe Vera: Aloe Vera is for its moisturizing and healing properties. It is also for treating skin conditions, wounds, and burns.
- Turmeric and ginger: you can use them individually or together for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Herbalists use it for digestive problems, arthritis, nausea, digestive problems, and skin conditions. It also boosts the immune system.
- Hibiscus: there are certain testimonies on how the hibiscus flower was used to make herbal mixtures for curing certain conditions.
It is important to note when using herbal medicine, that it doesn’t have any government regulation. And there is a risk of adulteration, contamination, or even overdose of herbal products (meaning there could be allergic responses too). It is important to seek guidance from a qualified herbalist or a healthcare professional before using herbal medicines.
Process of Diagnosis
Consulting with a herbalist is just like consulting with a doctor. The herbalist questions the person consulting to find the root cause. The herbalist may even go far as asking the patient to get laboratory results in situations where the root cause is not spiritual but a normal health anomaly. Once the herbalist determines the condition and its cause, he/she can now make certain divination or consultation to reveal the cause of action for the treatment.
PS; not all conditions are mere health anomalies, some have a spiritual, ancestral, or foundational root cause. But just like in western medicine, once he/she discovers the cause the treatment is almost sure. It’s a collaboration of cause and effect.
Challenges of Herbal Medicine In Nigeria
While Nigerians use and appreciate herbal medicine, it also faces several challenges that affect its quality, safety, and effectiveness. Some of these challenges include:
1. Lack of Trust
Health Organizations and regulatory bodies don’t exist for herbal medicine yet in Nigeria. And with the risk of familiarity with the herbal system in our surroundings, it’s difficult for people to trust completely what herbal medicine has to offer. Also, the packaging of herbs doesn’t make it easy to trust. Packaging attracts people, that’s who we are. As such it is difficult to sell the person the efficiency or potency of the herbs against the regular over-the-counter or doctor’s prescription.
2. People favor western or foreign options
This is not new. A lot of people already think based on track records, once it is foreign it must be authentic and potent. It’s not an entirely faulty mindset and looking at how they have dominance in the market it will take years of unwavering revolution to restore our people’s faith in herbal or traditional medicine again.
3. Lack of regulation
Government or regulatory bodies don’t control herbal medicine in Nigeria. And there are no standard guidelines for the production, quality control, or labeling of herbal products. This lack of regulation can lead to the production and sale of substandard and adulterated herbal products, which can be harmful to consumers.
4. Limited scientific evidence
Although many herbal remedies are common in Nigeria, there is often little scientific evidence to support their efficacy and safety. This lack of scientific evidence can make it difficult for healthcare providers to recommend herbal remedies and can lead to misuse or overuse of certain remedies.
5. Limited access to information
Many Nigerians lack access to reliable information about herbal medicine, including its benefits and risks, and how to use it safely. This lack of information can lead to the inappropriate use of herbal medicines and potential harm.
6. Poor infrastructure
The lack of adequate infrastructure, including research facilities and quality control laboratories, can hamper the development of herbal medicine in Nigeria. This can limit the ability of researchers to conduct scientific studies on herbal remedies and ensure their safety and efficacy.
Healthcare providers and the general public, view it as primitive or unscientific. This stigma leads to the underestimation of the value of herbal remedies and hinders their integration into mainstream healthcare.
Overall, addressing these challenges will require a combination of efforts from the government, healthcare providers, and the herbal medicine industry to promote the safe and effective use of herbal medicine in Nigeria.
The Future of Herbal Medicine in Africa
The future of herbal medicine in Nigeria is promising, as more people are accepting the benefits of traditional medicine and seeking out natural remedies for various health conditions. With the right investments and support, herbal medicine has the potential to contribute significantly to the healthcare system globally.
Some of the ways that herbal medicine in Nigeria can grow and improve in the future include:
1. Increased research
Research is needed to prove the efficiency and safety of herbal remedies. And also to identify potential new remedies. Investment in research will help to improve the quality and credibility of herbal medicine and will support the integration of herbal medicine into mainstream healthcare.
2. Set standards and regulations
The government can establish boundaries to guide the production, quality control, and labeling of herbal products. This will help to ensure that herbal medicines meet specific standards for safety, and will improve people’s confidence in this industry.
3. Integration into general healthcare
Healthcare providers can play a role in promoting the safe and effective use of herbs by integrating them into their practice. This can include working with traditional healers and herbalists to ensure that their treatments are safe and effective. As well as adding herbal medicine into clinical practice where needed.
4. Awareness campaigns
Awareness campaigns can help to increase public knowledge about this form of medicine and its benefits and risks. This will help to reduce the stigma associated with herbal medicine and promote its safe use.
5. Quality Investments
Investment in research, quality control laboratories, and other facilities will support the development and production of high-quality herbal products. This will raise its standard in the Nigerian herbal medicine industry and will ensure that people have access to safe and effective cures.
Overall, the future of herbal medicine in Nigeria is bright, and with the right investments and policies, it can play a big role to better the health of Nigerians and Africa as a whole.
This article is based on consultation with a qualified and trusted source. Matron Ngozi Nnaeme, CEO of Immaculate Herbs at Immaculate Conception Maternity Home, Lagos, Nigeria.