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REPORT: Why alternative medicines may offer cure to Covid-19

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WITH over 1.2 million cases, 70,000 deaths and unprecedented global economic disruption reported in less than five months around the world, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome(SARS) also known as Covid-19 is threatening human existence.

It has ravaged 20 states in Nigeria with over 300 confirmed cases of which Lagos, Abuja and Osun are the worst hit.

While the importation of cases slowed down following the suspension the Nigerian airline operatio, land and sea entry ports, the disease continues to spread within the country.

However, while some drugs have been touted as having potentials to cure the virus including chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine which are still in the trial phase, there are warnings that they should not be referred to as a cure yet.

The Covid-19 has crippled global economy and potentially causing another economic melt down, the consequences of which might be too much for Africa countries.

The threat has made the search for the cure more intense.

Claims by monarchs and trado-medical experts

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As  search for the cure continues, some monarchs, trado-medical experts and traditionalists in Nigeria are already suggesting local solutions.

Prominent among those canvassing for use of alternative medicine to cure coronavirus is the paramount ruler of Ile-Ife, Enitan Ogunwusi, the Ooni of Ile-Ife who  ‘claimed’ to have a cure to the SARS-CoV2.

The monarch started the conversation on his Twitter handle on March 30 where he noted that the cure to coronavirus is  by putting natural elements together.  “It is about time to save the world now. Tomorrow may be too late. Let’s all keep safe,” he said.

He went further to expatiate in the tweets on his position, Ogunwusi maintained that his suggested cure has been tested which has been used for chronic corona patients with testimonials.

He shared two videos of how to prepare the herbs including an incense which according to him is needed to clean the environment.

PLEASE DO NOT TAKE THIS FOR GRANTED (The world did with the warning Last Year June). I also challenge researchers both in Nigeria and the world to make these natural herbs into clinical medicine and extract the vaccines from it,” Ooni wrote on his Twitter handle.

The Ooni of Ife also disclosed that he was currently working with a popular Nigerian herbal doctor, Yem Kem international for packaging and distribution around the world.

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He explained in the videos, how to put the elements together as well mentioning their local and botanical names

The elements to be mixed together include: Ewe-akoko ( boundary tree, botanical name: Newbouldia laevis), Dogoyaro ( nim tree or Indian lilac, botanical name: Azadirachta indica), Alubosa (Onion ,botanical name: Allium cepa), Ogirisako ( Forest anchomanes/Blume, botanical name: Anchomanes difformis), Aidan (Aridan fruit, botanical name: Tetrapleura tetraptera), Eeru or Erinje (African pepper, Guinia pepper, botanical name: Xylopia aethiopica), Ewuro (Bitter leaf, botanical name: Vernonia amygdalina), Iyin ojo (Sulfur).

However, the king received backlash on this acclaimed cure as he did not attach dosage and quantity of each herb to be used neither did he attach any scientific proof to it.

Also, Joseph Akpa, a professor and Provost of Luminar International College of Alternative Medicine, Enugu, also claimed to have a cure for the deadly coronavirus.

The Nigerian professor who challenged health institutions and agencies to bring any known case of Covid-19 to him and see how it would disappear in days claimed that he had already made energy health medicines superficially meant to boost the human immune system and others meant to directly attack the virus to ensure 100 per cent successful cure.

On March 30, Seyi Makinde, Governor of Oyo State tested positive for coronavirus, though he was asymptomatic. After spending five days in isolation, the governor came out on April 5 and tested negative. He claimed to have taken a mixture of black-seed and honey.

“My body temperature is 36.4 degrees. My very good friend and brother, Dr Muyideen Olatunji. He is the one in charge of the Primary Healthcare for Oyo State. He came to me and said, look, I am going to send to you this blackseed oil, it boosts immunity so I mixed it with honey and take one teaspoon in the morning and one in the evening. So, there are local solutions to boost immunity. So, our people should not fret. They shouldn’t fret. Just as I have been able to get the virus out of my system, so will it be for majority of our people,” the governor was quoted as said in a report by the Cable.

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There are other reported cases of patients who recovered from the deadly virus after the use of herbs

Despite heavy funding on alternative medicine, government yet to explore its potentials

According to Anthony Elujoba, a professor of Pharmacognosy and two-time acting Vice-Chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife, the Nigerian  government has shown little will in implementing the recommendation proffered by experts despite its huge financial commitment and heavy funding on research on alternative herbal medicine.

“Ghana now has a parallel unit in some general hospitals in their country where all they do is to prepare herbal medicine for the patient there,” Elujoba said in an interview with TheICIR.

He disclosed that the Federal Government in 2013 sent a team in which he was a member to Ghana to understudy them.

“They sent us to United Kingdom, two universities are teaching herbal medicine there at degree level. And we got to Ghana, it was the Ghana model that we recommended for the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health,” he said.

“So in Ghana, when a patient comes to the general hospital, he will make a choice of whether going for herbal medicine treatment or orthodox medicine. That started around 2012 and it is still in practice till date in Ghana,” he told The ICIR.

“Our government has what it takes to try herbal medicine, because the government has also committed funds into the study and use of herbal medicine. For example, there is a book we call Pharmacopoeia. The book contains drugs that can be used safely in any country. This government has committed funds to bring it out. ”

Speaking further, the university don noted that  the book which is now published has medical plants that can cure respiratory problems.

“In 2008, that book now is a an official book, and medicinal plants that are inside are official. Many of these plants can cure what we call malaria today,” he said.

The Pharmacopoeia book, Elujoba said contains names of  plants that can cure respiratory problems noting that many of these plants are immune system modifier.

“This particular book that was launched in 2008, contains immune stimulant that can now be formulated for people that have the virus to boost their immune system, to cure their fever, diarrhea and many other symptoms we have seen of the virus,” he disclosed.

He however wondered “Why the government is still not doing anything, having committed a lot of money. As I am talking to you now, there is a national committee that is reviewing that Pharmacopoeia to have the second volume.”

“The government is spending money to keep us, the members of the committee each time we meet. There are two other committees that came up recently and we have met. The second one is what we call medicinal plant drugs that are approved to be used, we are compiling that now as essential plant drugs that can be used in the hospital.

“This same Federal Government has set up a national committee which I am a member. This committee contains experts, both traditional healers and intellectuals in medicinal plant science and we are recommending medicinal plants for different diseases that can be made official that people can use to compose medicine to finished product level which can be listed by NAFDAC and be used by our people.

“We have met only once but that once, we met for three days and we have brought out beautiful things. In fact, we spoke to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health that day and we also deliberated on Covid-19 and how much herbal medicine can do to reduce a lot of importation. We have gotten several areas of traditional medicine that can be made use of sometimes better than orthodox.”

He submitted that as the Federal Government is spending, same as the international organisations.

According to his explanation, the West African Health Organisation has also committed a lot of money to funding research on alternative medicine.

There are herbal medicines that can ‘cure’ and challenge the symptoms of the present pandemic Elujoba

Women selling traditional medicines look at piles of leaves, vines and other herbs for sale at Jankara herbal market in Lagos, Nigeria. Photo credit: https://qz.com/africa

The professor of Pharmacognosy maintained that the herbal medicine is not as useless as the government ‘tagged’ it. He believes that there are herbal medicines that can ‘cure’ and challenge the symptoms of the present pandemic.

“As far as my exposure is concerned in the practice of herbal medicine, its research and development, herbal and complimentary medicine is not as useless as people think,” he said.

Elujoba stressed that there are medicinal plants that can challenge most of the symptoms of’ all these deadly diseases.’

“I’m not just talking in abstract, I am talking in practice, I am talking in experience, knowledge, intellectualism, I am not a traditional healer neither a native doctor but I am a scientist of traditional medicine, scientist of herbal medicine. I don’t know why the government is not looking at that side at all, I can not state for the government,” he said.

Elujoba disclosed that there are many medicinal plants that have been tested and used  to boost human immune system which, he said can be devised to cure Covid-19.

“In herbal medicine science, we have many plant that can de-congest the airways,whether those plants will kill the virus or not, we cannot ascertain, since we are yet to apply the possible cure,” he said.

“I know many medicinal plants in Africa that can resolve fever. We do not need to buy many of them, even without paying a kobo that (the plant) will resolve malaria instantly without using chlroloquine. It is in the plant that chloroquine resolve itself during synthesis.”

“There are multitude of medicinal plant in our bush that can boost immune system to the surprise of orthodox practice. And most of these plants also have so many other activities that will resolve symptoms of Covid-19 or any other emerging diseases that we have gotten.

“We had Ebola in 2014, and I was asked by Punch if we can find plant to resolve Ebola. I said yes and no. Yes because some of the medicinal plants for Ebola, we have plants that can cure it. But can it eradicate Ebola virus, I would not know, because our system has not provided laboratory to test our medicinal plant extracts directly on the viruses.

“I am a scientist of herbal medicine not a traditional healer not a native doctor, I can only say what I have tested and gotten positively, as a scientist, I can not say what I have not tested in the laboratory, and in practice, until a clinical trial has been done in the hospital.”

“In terms of symptoms we have many medicinal plant that can cure it. Covid-19 has three major symptoms that can trouble those that have gotten it.

One is the respiratory problems, and it is a problem that can heal fast. Anyone that does not breath within seven minute is dead. And we have been told scientifically that this virus blocks the airways, and wont allow people to breath.”

It could be recalled that The ICIR exclusively reported how six patients out of 127 persons under quarantine in Osun State escaped from the isolation center to seek native herbal medicine to cure the Covid-19.

What NAFDAC is doing to bring herbalists and researchers together Adeyeye

NAFDAC-DG Mojisola Adeyeye Source: TheSun newspaper

Mojisola Adeyeye, the Director-General of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has said that the agency is cooperating with the local herbalists and experts in the field of alternative medicine to have a sustainable and harmonised Nigerian made drugs without heavy importation from China.

This, Adeyeye said, will help conduct enough researches on the acclaimed effective drugs.

“NAFDAC started thinking about alternative medicine about a year ago in terms of general needs not even related to Covid-19,” she said in an interview with The ICIR.

She revealed that the agency started a herbal medicine product committee which brought local herbalists or practitioners together with University professors or researchers all over the country.

The meeting which held in March 2019 had about 72 participants.

“We are doing this in NAFDAC because we have a lot of herbal medicines that work. However, enough of research has not been done on them,” Adeyeye said.

“The herbalist or the practitioner know that some of this medicine or even many of these medicines work, but they can not explain.  That is where the researcher comes in. The researcher can do the research, explaining why this is doing this, you know in terms of making the patient better.”

She noted that Nigeria would have made significant impacts with herbal medicine but mistrust between local herbalists and the academic community has been the bane of the progress.

“There is a mistrust between the local herbalists and the academic community or research community,” she said.

“And that mistrust resulted in us not moving forward as a country and Nigeria has lost a lot of money even in the protection of intellectual property. And you know how to make it but we don’t know or we don’t respect intellectual property.”

“Ewuro is now being sold, chewing stick is now on Amazon , you know, Nigeria has lost so much because we turn everything into politic.”

Adeyeye explained that NAFDAC under her watch is bringing the two sides together to forge a way forward in herbal medicine.

“So the reason for starting that is to make sure we consolidate on the effort of our grandfathers, grandmothers and what many of them handed to to us.

“Many of them died with a lot of information in terms of herbal medicine. But in any case, we had another meeting towards the end of the year and what NAFDAC is doing right now is to midwife the coming together of these two groups.”

Light at the end of the tunnel

Osagie Ehanire, Nigerian Minister of Health, has said at a press conference the held in Lagos recently by the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 that the Federal Government would consider “serious” stakeholders in traditional medicine in the treatment of the pandemic.

He said those who are serious with the use of local herbs and concoctions would be considered.

“We will look into every assertion. Some people say they have herbs and some others say they have concoctions. Only for those that are serious, the Department of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the Ministry of Health will look into their claims and we will not throw away any suggestion,” he said.

“The efficacy and efficiency of these medicines have to be proven first before it is recommended for people.”

He added that different trials are taking place such as “the use of convalescent plasma, which is taken from people that had coronavirus that have been treated successfully.”

The Minister said “these trials are being reviewed and a confirmation will be passed as time goes on.”

“The same goes for hydroxychloroquine. It had been found in some tests to work outside the body, that is ‘in vitro testing’, but the chloroquine that people can swallow needs to be tested to see if it works the same way with the one taken outside the body,” he added.

The minister said the Federal Government is also depending on the World Health Organisation (WHO) like other countries for recommendations on the use of proper medicines to treat coronavirus.

However, stakeholders have continued to question the Federal Government on how soon this consideration will become a reality.

Despite this promise, the Federal Government received medical doctors from China to help in the war against Covid-19

The ICIR reported that these set of 15 Chinese doctors came with drugs, equipment and vaccines. This has generated criticisms from the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) which called for the overhauling of the Nigerian healthcare system.

Author profile

Samad Uthman is a multimedia journalist with the International Centre for Investigative Reporting. He tweets @sarmerdk2 and can be shot through suthman@icirnigeria.org

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