Worries over growing shift from orthodox to traditional medicine
In July 2014, the National Association of Nigerian Traditional Medicine Practitioners (NANTMP) made a passionate appeal to the federal government to expedite action on passing into law, the Bill on Traditional Medicine, which is still on the floor of the National Assembly.
The Association’s President, Chief Omon Oleabhiele, made this call during a courtesy call on the Minister of Health Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu.He said: “The populace will want to know the position of the law on what they are investing in.”While underscoring the importance of traditional medicine in improving the healthcare delivery system in the country, Oleabhiele called on the federal government to support the efforts of the association as it strives to add value to the healthcare system in the country.
“Traditional medicine has a lot to contribute to the economy as it will employ the teeming population of youths,” he said.According to him, Nigerians should be given the opportunity to choose between western medicine and traditional medicine just as he added that good results could be achieved if there is a synergy.
Responding, the Minister Of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, said everything is being done for the passage of the Traditional Medicine Bill into law. He said soon medical schools would begin to offer herbal medicine.He also assured the association that a working body comprising of all the necessary stakeholders would be put into place for the export of traditional medicine, and that there will be a strategic plan for the implementation of the traditional medicine policy in the country.
Good as the promises by the government sounded then, nothing much had been done in that direction by the government almost four years after. But despite this, it seems many Nigerians are increasingly shifting patronage from orthodox medicine to tradomedical. Reasons for this development are numerous, ranging from affordability, availability, ignorance, poverty, religion, traditional beliefs, culture and others.
It would be recalled that trado-medical practice is as old as human life, but the development in science and technology brought about the introduction of orthodox medicine, which many believe is more reliable and safe.
But even at this, many Nigerians would be quick to complain that orthodox medicine is being faked and adulterated and regulatory agencies appear not to be doing enough. So for this obvious reason, people appear to be resorting back to trado-medicals which some of its products are certified okay by the regulatory agencies, while others are not.‘Nigerians Are Patronising Tradomedicine Out Of Ignorance, Poverty’
From Lawrence Njoku (Enugu)
Johnson Ugwu is a medical practitioner based in Enugu, who has been in practice for 10 years.He told The Guardian that Nigerians who patronise tradomedicine over orthodox medicine are doing so out of ignorance, poverty among other beliefs.He stated that orthodox medicine has proven to be reliable, adding, however, that high cost of obtaining adequate medicare was chasing Nigerians to the tradomedicine practitioners.He said that while orthodox medicine can effectively identify one’s state of health as well as prescribe how a sick person could be cured, such was not obtainable in tradomedicine.
“I know that the problem of effective healthcare in Nigeria has to do with several issues that include availability of drugs, poverty, ignorance and what have you. You see in some parts of the world, medical bills are being handled through insurance; but in Nigeria you pay from your pocket. It is a problem because not many people can afford the cost of drugs. There is an injection that you can take for one’s ill health that can cost as much as N10,000 per dose.
When you are expected to take such injection twice a day, I don’t know how many families that can afford it. That is a problem. Then you talk about drug availability in some health facilities, qualified medical experts and facilities that could effectively take care of a sick patient, where these are lacking gives room for people to patronize tradomedicine practitioners.
“To curb the trend, government must brace up to its responsibilities, give adequate support to the medical practitioners to excel and provide other necessities that has to do with electricity, water supply, security and what have you. I believe that medical practitioners are doing their best given the challenges at the moment. However, I do not encourage anybody to start patronising tradomedical practitioners, when you have not been able to diagnose the cause of your problem’, he said.
He agreed that several drugs that are sold in the market which are derived from leaves and roots are potent. He, however, believes that identifying the cause of sickness is very paramount and saves unforeseen occurrences that may result from improper treatment.But Christopher Onyema, said he prefers tradomedicine to orthodox medicine based on the experience he had recently when he took ill. He said he visited the hospital severally to ascertain the cause of his ill health, where various tests were conducted without any reliable result.
“I spent money my brother. Doctors would refer me to this test today and when they examine the result they will say they did not see anything, yet I was dying. I became so pale that many thought I had HIV infection. But I was saved by the tradomedicine practitioners, who used leaves and roots to cure my sickness. For several months, I was taking their drugs and today I can tell you that, I have fully recovered. So to me, trado-medicine is the way,” he said.
He disclosed that the attitude of medical practitioners in the country has compounded the problem of orthodox medicine stressing that they are not committed to their job. They are interested in money and how to run their private clinics.Herbal Consumption On Increase In Edo, Medical Expert Calls For Caution
From Alemma-Ozioruva Aliu, Benin City
At every nook and crannies of Benin City, Edo state capital and other growing cities and villages, consumption of locally made herbs mixed with all manner of particles with either water, soft drink or gin is growing by the day. In banks, motor parks, streets even in government offices, the patronage for these concoctions that come in different forms is very visible. Even journalists, lawyers, academia, politicians and all class of people are not left out in the patronage.
In fact these herbs popularly called roots is what a prominent politician will first bring to entertain his guests when they visit. Many of the women who hawk these concoctions around which they say cure all manners of ailments including waist pains, dysentery, reduction of high sugar in the body prolonged erection are mostly from the southwest states of Ogun and Kwara States.
At the time of filing this report, a journalist was expecting some mixture of herbs from Ijebu-Ode in Ogun state which he said has relieved him of waist pain. There is a particular brand of the herbs that is produced by a university in one of the universities in the state.
Many of the consumers do not see anything wrong in the consumption, even though there is no provision for dosage and arguments by medical practitioners that these herbs should be subjected to scientific analysis.
”The agbo is very good for my body. I hardly feel feverish which was very regular in my system. Before now, I treat malaria almost every fortnight but for the past eight months since I started taking it” a middle aged man who does not want his name mentioned told The Guardian at the Oba Akenzua Cultural Centre.
A vendor who gave her name as Kafaya from Offa in Kwara State said she has all kinds of the concoction depending on ”what you want and I will mix it for you. We have for jedijedi (pile) waist pain, fever, high sugar level, manpower and others. So if you tell me, I will mix it for you either with water, sprite or ogogoro”
However, a medical expert, Dr Philip Ugbodaga, said there was need for the government to regulate the consumption and subject the contents of local herbs to scientific analysis for the safety of all.“It is of grave concern that over the past years, we have been getting reports of especially young men getting involved in the consumption of concoctions whose scientific and medicinal and even health benefits have not been ascertained.” Continuing, he said: “I have personally quarrelled with people patronising tradomedicals. One of the worry is that such concoctions have not passed through any scientific assessment to pass the test necessary for certification as either beneficial for human consumption or have the potency to cure acclaimed ailments. The danger in consuming those concoctions wholesale is that there may be a lot of impurities in those concoctions that will be consumed alongside the possible benefits of the contents.
“Therefore I am very quick to discourage such consumption because we do not have enough study to justify their benefits and it is possible that in future, a lot of these people will begin to manifest certain strange ailments that we are unable to determine at this time. So my further advice is that government agencies saddled with the responsibility of ascertaining, verifying, certifying and satisfying drugs and other substances for human consumption in Nigeria must immediately swing into action and ensure that we do not put the health of the people in jeopardy.”
‘Tradomedicine Is Better Than Orthodox Medicine’
From Ahmadu Baba Idris (Birnin Kebbi)
The Chairman Local Traditional Bone Setters in Kebbi State, Alhaji Mohammed Aliero, has said that he treated 20 to 30 affected bone accident patients in a month.He told The Guardian that some hospitals in Kebbi and other nearby states usually transfer critical accident cases that involved bone to his place for treatment.He expresses dismay with the orthopedic medical doctors for not doing their job very well.
“If they take an accident patient to them and the case was so critical they would either cut the patient hands or leg, but in our case, we use traditional medicine to cure the victim.”He further pointed out that he as a local clinic where he used to admit patients and discharge them without paying much money. I have been in this job for more than 30 years. It was God that gave me the knowledge of it. I gathered local cream, leaf and hold my prayer and God always answers my prayers,” he said.
When contacted one of the medical personnel at the Federal Medical Centre Birnin Kebbi, Dr. Mustafa Idris, said that some local medicine used to cure some patients that they did not discover anything from after the diagnosis and they would asked them to go back home and pray.Also speaking, one of the patients Issa Saidu said that he had an accident last year along Kaduna- Zaria road, where he was taken to Dala Orthopedic hospital and they demanded over N200,000 for medical operation which he does not have. He said that somebody directed him to Aliero for local bone repair and he spent just only N20,000 and is now okay.
‘The Reasons For Shift Are Affordability And Availability Of Local Medicine’
From Isa Abdulsalami Ahovi, Jos
A medical expert in Neurology, Dr. Seriki Adinoyi, said that it is not that patients patronise traditional or native doctors more than the orthodox doctors. According to him, “Worldwide not only in Nigeria, it was recently recorded by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that 80 percent of the world population tends to look for traditional remedies for their sicknesses. This is not because the people don’t have confidence in orthodox medicine.
“The reasons are affordability and availability of medicine. In rural areas, for instance, you find out that these herbs are easily available for traditional purposes. You see, people go to their backyards, pick some herbs and use them as “Agbogiri.” Some you get concoction also from such herbs. They are available first of all. Again, they are quite affordable, unlike where you have to go and buy a sachet of Ampiclox for N500. But in traditional way, the whole treatment for your ailment could cost not more than N100 or N150.
“The affordability and availability of these herbs is one thing that has encouraged patients to rely on the traditional way of treatment.”On the challenge of traditional medicine, Adinoyi argued that unlike in orthodox medicine where doses are measured, “in traditional medicine, you just take one herb, prepare the concoction and give it to the patient to take. The patient does not know what dose he is taking, what has become and over-dose and what is an under-dose.
“They will just prepare it for you in a bottle with the instruction that you should take one cup in the morning, one in the afternoon and one in evening. What is the volume of the cup? This depends on the cup the patient has in his house and that determines the volume of cup. So, there is no dosage. Actually some of these herbs actually work, the challenge now is that you don’t know what dose you are taking because the man does not say take five milligrams in the morning, take five in the afternoon or in the evening. He just says take one cup in the morning, one in the afternoon and one in the evening.”
“What volume are you taking? And then what volume is sufficient as an appropriate dose? Or what volume will you take that has become an overdose that will in turn have an adverse effect on you? It is one thing to want to treat a disease or an ailment and is another thing to treat it and not leave another side effect in your body because you didn’t know what quantity you should take and not take.”When you take a herb, this herb has what we call phytochemical constituents. They are the chemicals that are in that herb. It is not just one. In orthodox medicine what you do is to refine those constituents, see the one that is useful to treat that ailment and throw away the one that could have adverse effect on the body.
“But in the tradomedical, when they just cut the herb, they don’t have the means to separate each constituent to be able to throw away the one that is useful or the one that is harmful to the body. All they do is, as long as what can treat that ailment is in that herb, they give you the entire herb. So, you take what will take care of the ailment and take what will still have adverse effect on the body. That is why some people will treat one disease and then come up with another. There are some herbs you take to treat malaria but will leave ulcer with you,” Adinoyi said.
“At the end of the day, you are treating one disease, but you are taking in another one. So, these are the two major side effects of patronising traditional medicine.”“Tradomedical experts should go beyond just knowing that this herb is useful for treating this or that ailment and stop there. No.“The pharmaceutical industries and companies are open to them. When you realise that this herb is useful to treat this, take it further than that. Take the herb to the laboratory, try to get what phytochemical constituents are there inside the herbs that you will be able to separate them and know what is specifically useful to treat that ailment and what will cause an adverse effect on the body so that such will be separated and their work now will become more effective instead of swallowing every herb just because you find out that a constituent of it can treat an ailment.”
A resident of Jos and a parent, Mr. Yeni Kosoko, does not believe completely that there is a major shift in orthodox medicine to traditional medicine, adding that he believes in the efficacy of the two.According to Kosoko, “In as much as I believe in the tradomedicine and also in the orthodox medicine. I believe that the two should be able to work side by side, because they both have their relevance in the society.
“However, the challenges of the tradomedicine are due to lack of proper laboratory analysis in terms of dosage, the potency of the various herbs has not been analysed. But we discover that from time immemorial, we inherited some of these things which have been effective for us as Africans especially tradomedicne before the advent of modern medicine.”
I Used Traditional Medicine In Delivering All My Children, Says Evangelist Ekanem
From Tina Todo, Calabar
A Psychiatric Consultant with Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital in Calabar, Dr. Michael Olutoki, countered the claim that Nigerians are massively shifting their patronage from orthodox to traditional medicine, saying people only patronise tradomedical because they lack knowledge and some of them where force to do so because they could not afford hospital bills.He said most of the tradomedical attendants, whom he described as herbalists, are there to deceive their patients or client to get money out of them.
Describing it as false, he said: “I totally disagree with the fact that some people are leaving orthodox medicine for the tradomedical. Have you been to hospitals to see people that are seeking for treatment? Go to the psychiatric hospital, go to teaching hospitals and the private ones, you will see patients waiting to be attended to, so it is not true that people are leaving the orthodox for the tradomedical.Also speaking Evangelist Justina Ekanem, said she has been using traditional medicine to deliver her children and nurse them and it has been very effective for her and her family.
The Evangelist who is popularly known as Eka Mercy, said: “I have benefited from the local herbs in many ways, as I am sitting down here before you, I delivered my babies myself right from the first to the last one. There is a tree that I know of that you can use the stem to cure so many things.
“When I was pregnant and I had cough and used orthodox medicine, it would not go, but as soon as I chew the stem of that tree, the cough will just disappear and also when I delivered my baby and the placenta refused to fall off, it was that same leaf that I will chew and the placenta will just fall off immediately. Then right from day one, to when my babies grew, it was this native roots that I used. There is what we call bitter cola, it is good for healing of the navel or the male genital balls. And when a child has jaundice, there is this flower that you squeeze and give the baby and the baby will excrete and the jaundice will go but if it is treated in the orthodox way, it will take long for it to be treated and the child might even die on the way to the hospital.”
‘Herbal Products Can Be Used If Registered By NAFDAC’
By Daniel Anazia
According to foremost Pharmacist, Dr Michael Oyebanjo Paul, Chairman/CEO of Mopson Pharmaceutical Limited, so many things have happened to our herbal heritage, especially in the religious area, adding that some people acquired it by inheritance from their forefathers.He stated that Nigeria with its diverse culture and traditions is rich in traditional medicine, eminent and respected traditional healers are involved in taking care of its teeming population, adding that traditional medical practices in Nigeria is a main source of livelihood for a significant number of people who depend on it as their main source of income.
He said: “From herbal bitter to soap, toothpaste, cream, and even tea, herbal medicine also includes all kinds of folk medicine, unconventional medicine and indeed any kind of therapeutic method that has been handed down by the tradition of a community or ethnic group.” “Some people acquired it by inheritance from their forefathers. I was once a member of the herbal committee organised by the federal government, and in the course of carrying out our function we came across an old man who goes into the forest to gather herbal roots for his patients,” he added.
“I know of a man who’s currently in Abuja, he developed a way of curing sickle cell with the use of herbal mixture, and it has tested and there is proof that it truly cures the ailment. It has been produced into a capsule form and is called Esomahon. This is a form of development in herbal medicine,” he added.
In a bid to encourage alternative medicine, and promote cooperation and research in the country, government established the national and state traditional medicine boards for the regulation of herbal medicine practices. The Federal College of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Lagos, is one of such and it used by the Federal Ministry of Health to train alternative medicine practitioners.
“There is this consciousness about herbal drugs (locally known as Agbo), and the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) and the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) have tested them and found out that they contain some of the ingredients in the pharmaceutical products.
Maintaining the effectiveness of traditional medicines, President General of World Research and Documentation at Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, Idi- Araba, Dr. Jideofo Azugbo, who doubles as Chairman of Africa Congress of Traditional and Alternative Medicine (ACUTAM), explained that right from inception, herbs and leaves were used to cure diseases like sickle cell, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), impotency and barrenness, liver and kidney problems and other chronic diseases.
He said, “In the ancient days, our forefathers did not take modern medicines. They used to take herbs and leaves and that is why they lived longer and stronger. None of them go to the hospital, instead they used traditional medicines. Orthodox just came and people are so addicted to it.”
“That is where and how traditional medicines are more secure, effective and stand out than modern medicines and treatment. Traditional medicines are stronger than any orthodox medicines, because all tablets produced as orthodox medicines are just to help temporarily but not curing totally while herbs and leaves cured immediately and wipe diseases and ailments away,” he said.
No Medical Doctor Can Beat Me In Area Of Childbirth, Says Iya Agbomola
By Tobi Awodipe
MRS. Blessing (surname withheld) is lying on her sick bed, looking frail and very ill; her words can barely be heard as she struggles to piece them together so this reporter could understand her. Looking a shadow of her former self, her appearance is still surprising to her friends and loved ones as they insist that she is under a spiritual attack. It is, however, no spiritual attack as she is sadly a victim of a traditional doctor.
Just last year, in the prime of health and life, she decided to visit the traditional doctor in her quest for a child.“He said he would wash away the impurities and the things blocking my womb, preventing me from conceiving. He gave me some agbo (herbal concoction) to drink, morning and night. He warned me already that I would purge all the ‘dirt’ away so when I started purging, I was happy, thinking it was working. I started losing weight and I was doubly happy as he told me that my weight was part of the reason I wasn’t conceiving. After several months of use and thousands down the drain, there was no sign of pregnancy but he told me not to worry.”
A few months ago, she said she collapsed in the market and was rushed to a nearby private hospital, where she was informed that her stomach was badly eroded. She said she has since thrown away the rest of the herbal concoction and is chalking it up to a ‘bad experience.’
Because of the nature of rural and developing suburbs like Ikorodu, agbo sellers and traditional doctors and birth attendants are still very rampant and in use. Speaking with The Guardian, Khadijah Buraimoh, a mother of three said it was a waste of money and time going to the hospital. “These traditional doctors that most people look down on are even better that the orthodox doctors, more knowledgeable and experienced. I had my three children in a local home and I developed some issues with my last pregnancy. If not for the experience of Iya Agbomola, either my baby or even myself might have died. At the orthodox hospitals, they are always so quick to operate and many people die from operation,” she said.
This idea of people dying in orthodox hospital is not peculiar as this is the opinion held by many. Agbomola Trado-Medical home is well known in Ikorodu. Priding itself as a foremost traditional and modern birth home, the woman in charge, known simply as Iya Agbomola boasts that no doctor can beat her in the area of childbirth.
“We register the women from the moment of conception, give them what they will be taking throughout the duration of their pregnancy and monitor them appropriately. The ones that need us to ‘secure’ the pregnancy from prying eyes and miscarriage; we give what to use to safeguard the baby. We don’t do anything illegal or dangerous here and our records speak for itself.”
Dismissing the woman’s claims, however, a doctor in a private hospital nearby who didn’t want his name in print said patients are rushed to either their hospital or the general hospital when complications arise. “They are boasting that they have a perfect record and can do this or do that. When small complications that they cannot handle arise, you will see them telling the family members to come and carry the woman quickly to the same hospital they claim we like to ‘operate and kill.’ “I am not saying that they are not skilled, a good number of them are and they are helping a lot, but quacks are rife amongst them and are giving them a bad name,” he said.
Sherifah Alagbo is a popular elewe-omo/agbo dealer in Odogunyan. According to her, it is a skill that was passed down and she claims there is hardly anything she cannot cure with the use of her herbs. Taking The Guardian round her shop, she pointed out the various herbs, their uses and side effects. Pointing to a little boy that was brought to her for attention, she revealed that the boy was suffering from alefo (a kind of skin irritation) and she was going to prepare agunmu (herbal concoction) for him to drink. Apart from that, she added that a separate one would be given to the mother who would use it to bath the boy and another herbal mixture that would be rubbed onto his skin after bathing. All these were going to cost a little above N3000, 000. Asking the mother if it wouldn’t be better to take the boy to a hospital, she scoffed at the idea, claiming the native method works faster and better. According to her, she had been using agbo for the child since birth and was satisfied with the results.
A resident of the area who spoke to The Guardian on the condition of anonymity revealed that most of the agbo being sold are “poisonous, coloured water. Some of them, in a bid to make huge profit, mix green colour with a small portion of boiled agbo as well as fermented ogi water to make it plenty. That is why when you take it today, you might feel a little relief but by the following day, all the symptoms are back again,” she said.