By Itodo Ewaoche
With a background of knowing Herbal medicine as a pharmacy, getting the herbs from the bush is a branch of pharmacy known as pharmacognosy; taking it to the laboratory and analyzing is called pharmacology where you test the toxicity.
You then move on to pharmaceutical-chemistry where you now test the whole component and then to pharmaceutics where you compound into different formulation and then to the clinical aspect of pharmacy.
To start with, the history of natural products is inextricably intertwined with that of modern medicine. Many drugs listed as conventional medications were originally derived from plants.
For example :Vitadox, one of the leading cancer drugs use in Cuba was derived from rhopalurus junceus, a scorpion venom; Salicyclic acid, a precursor of aspirin was originally derived from white willow bark and the meadowsweet plant; Cinchona bark is the source of malaria-fighting quinine;Vincristine, used to treat certain types of cancer, comes from periwinkle;The opium poppy yields morphine, codeine and paregonic, a treatment for diarrhoea.In the global perspective, there is a shift towards the use of medicine of herbal origin, as the dangers and shortcoming of modern medicine are getting more apparent.
Due to poverty and limited access to modern medicine, about 80% of the world's population, especially in the developing countries uses herbal medicines as their source of primary healthcare.
The WHO reports NCDS to be by far the leading cause of mortality in the world, representing over 60% of all deaths. Out of the 35 million people who died from NCDS in 2005, half were under the age 70 and half were WOMEN. Of the 57 million global deaths in 2008, 36 million were due NCDS.
That is approximately 63% of total deaths worldwide. Examples of NCDs are cardiovascular diseases: hypertension, myocardial ischemia, infarction etc, diabetes, cancer, stroke, chronic kidney disease. Cancer for example is a debilitating disease that has afflicted a good proportion of the world population in all generations.
According to recent estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO), yearly cancer incidence in sub-Saharan Africa is 551,200 with a mortality of 421,000.
Cancer is the second cause of death all over the world; therefore, it is necessary to look for new therapeutic alternatives mainly from natural sources. Cancer arises from uncontrolled proliferation of cells, basically cells grow and die, but in the case of cancer cells there do not die.
In doing that there tend to invade other tissues, however, not all uncontrolled proliferation of cells are cancerous. For example fibroid is not cancerous but the cells grow uncontrollably, this is term benign. However, malignant growth of cells is capable of causing cancer. Some cancers are basically predisposed by communicable diseases for example, in the case of cervical cancer; it is caused by human papilloma virus type 16 and 18. Hepatocellular carcinoma is caused by hepatitis B virus.
Hepatocellular Carcinomal ( HCC) is the second leading cause of cancer death worldwide, killing about 1.2 million persons every year. Other causes of cancer include tobacco, alcohol, carbon monoxide and the conventional orthodox drugs such as paracetamol, flagyl chlorambucil, postinor 2 etc
After rigorous research on cancer and its attendant conventional therapy, natural products have proven to be the best alternative with no or less side effect.
In fact, chronic diseases or non-communicable diseases are better managed with natural medicaments, because since there are diseases of long duration and slow progression, it is better to administer herbal medicine with no side effects compare to the conventional drugs with lots of side effects after prolong use.The need for standardization cannot be overemphasized given the fact that most African have come to trust traditional medicine.
We believe that traditional medicine is not inferior by the mere fact that it is African giving that 85% of Africans utilize traditional medicine practices and products; we equally recognize that a lots of its practices need to be improved to make it up to the current standard in healthcare.
The aim is to find ways of keying into the herbal renaissance blooming across the world with a view of enhancing our capacity for delivering a new herbal and agricultural products to the international markets especially the EU and the US market under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), and thus diversify the export base of the local economy.
There is increasing awareness and general acceptability of the use of herbal drugs in today’s medical practice. Although, most of these applications are unorthodox, of the world population it is however a known fact that over 80% of the world population depends on herbal medicines and products for healthy living. This rise in the use of herbal product has also given rise to various forms of abuse and adulteration of the products leading to consumers’ and manufacturers’ disappointment and in some instances fatal consequences. The challenge is innumerable and enormous, making the global herbal market unsafe.
With practical examples; Nifedipine which is one of the drugs used I the management of high blood pressure has been proved to cause congestive heart disease when taken for at least ten years. This is possible because high blood pressure being a non communicable disease and persists for a very long period of time often requires such length of treatment and A female inmate being treated for an unknown illness in Calabar prison. Upon a closer look at her medical report I discovered a massive destruction in the liver as it is evidence in the astronomical increase in the transaminases and a palpable discoloration in the scleral. I quickly conducted HBsAg and HCV test but to my chagrin there both came out negative.
At this point I became more inquisitive as to what could be central to that. To spare the lucid detail, her abnormality stemmed from the side effect of the ARV she was on. We quickly swapped the ARV with an alternative drug, after one month the lady became better than bitter as her appetite greatly increased, transaminases dropped and the discoloration disappeared and she has been living a free flowing robust life since then.
It may interest you to know that the orthodox treatment for cancer utilizes chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Chemotherapy is the administration of anti anticancer agents. Radiation involves the use of heat or extreme cold to disolve cancer cells. Example is the use of LEEP, cold knife conization etc. Finally, surgery, which is the surgical removal of cancer cells, tissues or organs, is not a guarantee, because in most cases the cancer cells grow back.