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Local herbal cures for malaria validated

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Neem (Azadirachta indica)


Several studies have scientifically validated a combination of Magnifera indica (mango), Carica papaya (paw-paw), Vernonia amygdalina (bitter leaf), Psidum guajava (guava), Ocimum gratissimum (sweet basil), Cymbopogon citratus (lemon grass), Azadirachta indica (neem), seeds of Citrus aurantifolia (lime), Nauclea latifolia and Morinda lucida to produce 100 per cent elimination of malaria parasites, even drug-resistant strains, in humans.

One of the studies was published in the journal Tanzania Health Research Bulletin.Morinda lucida belongs to the plant family Rubiaceae. It is commonly called Brimstone tree. It is oruwo or erewo in Yoruba, eze-ogwu or njisi in Igbo.Nauclea latifolia also is of the plant family Rubiaceae. It is called egbesi in Yoruba, uburu inu or mbitinu in Igbo, marga in Hausa.

Previous study demonstrated how hot infusion from the boiled green leaves of pawpaw combined with leaves of neem tree, lemon grass, guava, and stem bark of pattern wood drunk as one wine glass full three times daily provided effective treatment for drug-resistant malaria.

Indeed, several local plants have been validated for treating drug-resistant malaria. The local plants were identified by two recent but separate studies published in International Journal of Pharmaceutical Research and Bio-science and International Journal of Pharmaceutical Science and Drug Research.

The local plants include: Neem tree (Azadirachta indica), Pattern wood (Alstonia boonei); Tropical almond (Terminalia catappa); Pawpaw (Carica papaya); Akuamma plant (Picralima nitida); Pentaclethra macrophylla (African oil bean tree); Phyllanthus niruri (stonebreaker); Euphorbia hirta (asthma herb and eczema drug); Newbouldia laevis (Chieftaincy leaf).

Also, a herbal preparation made predominantly with garlic, ginger, onions, scent leaf, lemon grass, unripe pawpaw, lime/lemon, African pepper (Uda in Igbo), clove, Gongronema latifolium (Utazi in Ibo, arokeke in Yoruba) and West African Black pepper (Uziza in Igbo) has been effectively used to stop malaria and typhoid.

Meanwhile, a typical cocktail developed in 2009 by a plant taxonomist at the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) and Ebonyi State University, Professor Jonathan Okafor, consists of Morinda lucida, Nauclea latifolia, Cymbopogon citratus, Carica papaya leaves, Moringa oleifera, Mangifera indica, Garcinia kola, and Psidium guajava.74 years old Okafor, told The Guardian that he has successfully used the concoction for the last 25 years to treat malaria. “I have been developing this combination for over 25 years now. I hope to produce it in commercial quantities. I call it ‘malaria destroyer’.

“To prepare it you get the leaves of Morinda lucida. It is commonly called local cinchona, and Eze ogwu in Ibo. It should consist half of the whole concoction. Mix with leaves of Nauclea latifolia (ubulu inu in Ibo), Cymbopogon citratus (lemon grass), male Carica papaya leaves (pawpaw), Moringa oleifera leaves because of its high nutritional content and immune boosting properties, Mangifera indica leaves and bark (Mango), which boosts red blood cells, Garcinia kola (bitter cola) and Psidium guajava (guava) in equal quantities,” he said.

In the latest study, the researchers from Imo State University Owerri have scientifically validated local herbs used in malaria treatment.Two villages namely, Umuneke Ugiri in Isiala Mbano Local Government Area (LGA) and Odummara Obi-Orodo in Mbaitoli Local Government Area (LGA) of Imo State, Nigeria were involved in this study. A herbalist from each village was persuaded after being given enough monetary incentives to be understudied for a period of two weeks. A participant observation technique was used in this study. The herbs and roots used by herbalists were picked with the detailed instructions of the herbalists in the early hours of the mornings and late in the evenings. The preparation of the decoctions was strictly after the herbalist’s directions and under his direct supervision. The dosage was also strictly followed. Finger prick blood samples were taken from volunteer patients pre- and post- treatment. The blood samples were prepared as thick and thin smears, which were stained with Field’s stain B.

The herbal plants used by the herbalist from Umuneke Ugiri were identified as Uvaria chemae locally known as “mmimi – ohia” (used as leaves), Strophantus hispidus locally known as “osisi kaguru” and Acioa barteria locally known as “ogbodo” (used as roots). The roots and leaves were first washed thoroughly, and then cut into tiny pieces. These were soaked in water for about two hours to bring out the active ingredients, and then heated for about two minutes. Care was taken not to expose the mixture to too much heat, as heat would destroy the active ingredients. The herbs were then allowed to steep in the water for about three minutes after which the resulting concoction was ready for use. A glass (200ml) of the concoction was to be taken twice daily for three days.

The herbal plants used by the herbalist from Odummara Obi-Orodo were identified as leaves of Citrus sinensis (sweet orange), Magnifera indica (mango), Carica papaya (paw-paw), Vernonia amygdalina (bitter leaf), Psidum guajava (guava), Ocimum gratissimum (sweet basil), Cymbopogon citratus (lemon grass), Azadirachta indica (neem) and seeds of Citrus aurantifolia (lime).

The leaves of guava (P. guajava), paw-paw (C. papaya) lemon grass (C. citratus), neem (A. indica) were all washed thoroughly and boiled together without cutting them into tiny pieces, until there was a colour change. The liquid (decoction) was strained into bottles ready for use. This concoction is called “agbo iba” in the local language. A full glass (200ml) of the decoction was taken three times daily for three days. When the malaria fever appeared severe, with the patient very weak, the roots of A. barteria and M. lucida were boiled together with the above concoction (to increase the patient’s blood level – according to the herbalist). The dosage remained the same.

In cases of very high fever, dried fallen leaves of paw-paw (C. papaya) were put in cold water, and the patient asked to take a cold bath with the water. This is in addition to the oral therapy. Different roots were mixed with leaves in the preparation of a decoction in relation to the symptoms presented by the patients.

In mild malaria, leaves of V. amygdalina (bitter leaf) and O. gratissimum (sweet basil/nchuanwu in Ibo, effirin in Yoruba) taken in a handful were macerated in 350ml of water, and the liquid strained ready to use. A glass (200ml) of the stained liquid was taken twice daily for two to three days.

A total of 75 persons volunteered to have their blood taken from Umuneke Ugiri and 265 from Odummara Obi-Orodo. An infection rate of 49.3 per cent (37/75) was noted amongst the volunteers from Umuneke Ugiri, while 61.5 per cent infection rate was recorded for volunteers from Odummara Obi- Orodo. Only 13 persons returned for a post– treatment blood assignment from Umuneke Ugiri, while 149 persons from Odummara Obi-Orodo came back for post-treatment blood sampling. There was a 100 per cent clearance of malaria parasites in the blood of the 149 persons from Odummara Obi-Orodo while four persons (31 per cent) from Umuneke Ugiri still had malaria parasites.

The herbalist from Odumara Obi-Orodo appeared to have more therapies for the different forms of malaria, depending on the presentation by the patient unlike that of Umuneke Ugiri. This may explain why the curative rate of the former was higher.

The findings of this study are in line with that of Ekanem (1978), who used the same decoction from the leaves of guava (P. guajava), paw-paw (C. papaya) lemon grass (C. citratus) and neem tree (A. indica) on chloroquine sensitive strains of Plasmodium berghei in mice. Okpanyi & Ezeukwu (1981) furthered this finding in showing that the extract from the leaves and bark of the above plants had some antipyretic effects.

Another study published in Annals of Biological Research has shown the effectiveness of some medicinal plant decoction in the treatment of malaria in Nigeria.The researchers led by Godwin Avwioro of the Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences, Delta State University, Abraka, Nigeria, scientifically validated that medicinal plant parts obtained from Psidium guava, Azadirachta indica, Carica papaya, Magnifera indica, Tilia europoea, Anacardium occidentale and Cymbopogan citratus are very effective in the treatment of chloroquine resistant malaria.


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