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Herbal bitters validated to treat diabetes, hypertension, others

By Chukwuma Muanya
18 November 2021   |   3:04 am
Nigerian scientists have developed a blend of exotic herbs and species enriched with powerful immune strengthening benefits for the management and prevention of infectious

[FILES] Ginger. CREDIT: DiabetesUK

Mixture of ginger, Zobo, bitter kola, king of bitters, African black pepper, Aridan developed to protect against infectious, chronic diseases

Nigerian scientists have developed a blend of exotic herbs and species enriched with powerful immune strengthening benefits for the management and prevention of infectious and chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, cold, cough, catarrh and COVID-19.

The active ingredients of the herbal combo or rather IHP Bitters include Garcinia kola (bitter kola), Zingiber officinale (ginger), Piper guineense (black pepper), Hibiscus sabdariffa (Zobo), Andrographis paniculata and Tetrapleura tetraptera.

The indications of the product include: Normalises physical function, purifies the blood, controls blood sugar, energises the body, restores optimum health, manages high blood pressure, protect the liver and gall bladder, detoxifier and is rich in antioxidants.

Intercedd Health Products (IHP) is a subsidiary of Bioresources Development and Conservation Programme (BDCP)/ Bioresources Development Group (BDG). IHP produces and markets drugs developed by the International Centre for Ethnomedicine and Drug Development (InterCEDD), a Research and Development (R&D) centre based in Nsukka, Enugu State. IHP products are manufactured at the processing facility of Bioresources Institute of Nigeria (BION) Umuna, Okigwe, Imo State. BION is also a subsidiary of BDCP/BDG.

A professor of pharmacognosy and former Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Maurice Iwu, is the founder/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of BDCP/BDG. Iwu said the product would be inaugurated in Lagos and Abuja on Friday, November 19 and Saturday, November 20 respectively.

Until now, Herbal Bitters is traditionally an alcoholic preparation flavoured with botanical matter so that the end result is characterised by a bitter, or bittersweet flavour. Originally, numerous longstanding brands of bitters were developed as patent medicines, but now are sold as digestives, sometimes with herbal properties, and as cocktail flavourings.

Since cocktails often contain sour and sweet flavours, bitters are used to engage another primary taste and thereby balance out the drink and make it more complex, giving it a more complete flavour profile.

The botanical ingredients used historically in preparing bitters have consisted of aromatic herbs, bark, roots, and/or fruit for their flavour and medicinal properties.

Most bitters contain water and alcohol, the latter of which functions as a solvent for botanical extracts as well as a preservative. The alcoholic strength of bitters varies widely across brands and styles.

However, several local and international studies have validated the therapeutic potentials of these plants in treating infectious and chronic diseases.

Tetrapleura tetraptera
Besides its popular use in treating diabetes, hypertension, epilepsy and convulsion, a local spice, Tetrapleura tetraptera could be effective used in healing wounds.

According to a study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, the fruit of Tetrapleura tetraptera is frequently used in Tropical African traditional medicine for the management and/or control of an array of human ailments, including arthritis and other inflammatory conditions, asthma, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, epilepsy, schistosomiasis, and so on.

Tetrapleura tetraptera belongs to the Mimosaceae/Fabacae family. It is locally known as aridan among the Yoruba, osakirisa or oshosho among the Igbo, dawo among the Hausa, all in Nigeria, and is also referred to as prekese among the Twi people of Ghana.

Andrographis paniculata
Andrographis paniculata belongs to the plant family Acanthaceae. It is one of the most popular medicinal plants used traditionally for the treatment of array of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, ulcer, leprosy, bronchitis, skin diseases, flatulence, colic, influenza, dysentery, dyspepsia and malaria for centuries in Asia, America and Africa continents. It possesses several photochemical constituents with unique and interesting biological properties. Diterpenes, flavonoids, xanthones, noriridoides and other miscellaneous compounds have been isolated from the plant. Extract and pure compounds of the plant have been reported for their anti-microbial, cytotoxicity, anti-protozoan, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, immunostimulant, anti-diabetic, anti-infective, anti-angiogenic, hepato-renal protective, sex hormone/sexual function modulation, liver enzymes modulation insecticidal and toxicity activities. The results of numerous toxicity evaluations of extracts and metabolites isolated from this plant did not show any significant acute toxicity in experimental animals.

Also, Andrographis paniculata is one of the basic ingredients in Prof. Maurice Iwu’s COVID-19 formulation that is presently going through clinical trials.

Previous studies have shown that Andrographis paniculata is one of the plants used for treating febrile illnesses possibly due to malarial and bacterial infections in local communities in Nigeria.

It is locally called Jogbo because of its bitterness but popularly called Mejemeje (seven-seven) among Yoruba speaking natives in Nigeria because an average dosage comprises seven leaves eaten raw once or twice daily for about five days in the treatment of febrile illness or chronic debility and some herbalist also recommend it for treatment of hypertension.

The phyto-constituents of Andrographis paniculata plants which has been well elucidated include diterpenes, flavonoids, iterpenoid, lactones, alkanes, ketones, aldehydes, andrographolides (which is the major constituent), paniculides, farnesols, polyphenols, arabinogalactan, and several other sub-units of andrographolides.

Meanwhile, in late December 2020, the government of Thailand approved a pilot study of the use of the southern Asian herb andrographis (Andrographis paniculata) to treat early symptoms and reduce the severity of COVID-19.

Researchers have established the anti-Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus type 2 (SARS-CoV-2) activity of Andrographis paniculata extract and its major component Andrographolide in human lung epithelial cells and cytotoxicity evaluation in major organ cell representatives.

In conclusion, the study provided experimental evidence in favour of A. paniculata and andrographolide for further development as a monotherapy or in combination with other effective drugs against SARS-CoV–2 infection.

Iwu told The Guardian: “We have already a NAFDAC listed product which we want to subject to clinical evaluation against COVID-19. The clinical trial titled: ‘Efficacy and safety of IHP Detox Tea (a special blend of Andrographis paniculata, Garcinia kola and Psidium guajava) for treatment of COVID-19: a pilot placebo-controlled randomized trial’. To be conducted by an independent research group led by Vice-Chancellor (VC) of Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, Anambra State.

The study was to be carried out in the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) COVID-19 isolation site in Lagos or another suitable site.

“The trial has been registered with the Pan African Clinical Trials Registry: at www.pactr.org with the registration number PACTR202004761408382 (Approval date: 15 April 2020). We shall then undertake the full clinical trials of Andrographolide, the Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API), which will be registered as a drug…”

Hibiscus sabdariffa
Botanically called Hibiscus sabdariffa (also called roselle or Zobo in Nigeria).
New research findings indicate that the flower and leaf extracts of Hibiscus sabdariffa could provide the next novel drug for hypertension and coronary heart diseases.

Nigerian researchers have confirmed that drinking tea made with flower extracts of Hibiscus sabdariffa (popularly called Zobo) lowered blood pressure in hypertensive patients.

Researchers have also demonstrated how the flower extracts of hibiscus could be used to reduce weight, prevent obesity and coronary heart diseases like atherosclerosis by lowering the blood levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) ‘bad’ cholesterol.

Atherosclerosis, which involves deposits of fatty substances, cellular waste products, calcium and fibrin (is a fibrous protein involved in the clotting of blood); and is the leading cause of illness and death in most countries.

However, a local study has found that although hibiscus leaf extract reduced blood pressure, the integrity of the kidney may be compromised if it is used in high doses for the treatment of hypertension.

Piper guineense
Piper guineense is commonly called West African Black Pepper or Ashanti pepper (Uziza in Igbo and Ata iyere in Yoruba).

Piper guineense is a West African spice plant with medicinal properties and is widely used traditionally in the treatment of various ailments. The phytochemical studies of the plant revealed the presence of proteins, carbohydrates, alkaloids, steroids, glycosides, saponins, flavonoids, tannins and phenolic compounds. It also contains vitamins, minerals and fat. Various studies have been done on the plant to determine its pharmacological and therapeutic properties such as antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, fertility, aphrodisiac, anticonvulsant and larvicidal properties.


Zingiber officinale

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a common and widely used spice and belongs to the Zingiberaceae family. It has been commonly consumed as a spice and herbal medicine for a long time. Ginger root is used to attenuate and treat several common diseases, such as headaches, colds, nausea, and emesis. Many bioactive compounds in ginger have been identified, such as phenolic and terpene compounds. The phenolic compounds are mainly gingerols, shogaols, and paradols, which account for the various bioactivities of ginger. In recent years, ginger has been found to possess biological activities, such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anticancer activities. In addition, accumulating studies have demonstrated that ginger possesses the potential to prevent and manage several diseases, such as neurodegenerative diseases, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, diabetes mellitus, chemotherapy-induced nausea and emesis, and respiratory disorders.

Ginger contains diverse bioactive compounds, such as gingerols, shogaols, and paradols, and possesses multiple bioactivities, such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties. Additionally, ginger has the potential to be the ingredient for functional foods or nutraceuticals, and ginger could be available for the management and prevention of several diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus, obesity, neurodegenerative diseases, nausea, emesis, and respiratory disorders.

Garcinia kola
Can eating at least a piece of bitter kola (Garcinia kola) daily be the treatment for low libido, low sperm count, erectile dysfunction and knee osteoarthritis?

Results of a study published in African Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology have confirmed that bitter kola possesses sexual enhancing effects on male rats as evidenced by the increased mounting (MF) and intromission (IF) frequencies with an increased number of subsequent ejaculations over the 20 minutes observation period.

Phytochemical screening of the extracts revealed the presence of some bioactive components like alkaloids, saponins, tannins, anthraquinones and cardiac glycosides. These components determine the antibacterial activity of the seed and leaf extracts. The results from this study provide scientific evidence that Garcinia kola has the capability of inhibiting the growth of pathogenic microorganisms; thus it will be useful in tropical medicine for the treatment of microbial infections.

Garcinia kola may be acting as an antioxidant to either inhibit or slowdowns the progression of symptomatic knee osteoarthritis. It could also act as a scavenger to remove the particles that have been observed on the surfaces of human articular cartilage following trauma and osteoarthritis. The particles contained calcium and phosphorus, which were identified only in structurally abnormal cartilage.