Orthodox medicine is no doubt the most conventional form of treatment for ailing health but traditional herbal remedies, popularly called ‘Agbo’ in Nigeria competes quite favourably.
While there has been a lot of debate on the safety and efficacy of these traditional herbal remedies, people continue to look to it as an alternative to orthodox medicine; sometimes because there’s limited knowledge and sometimes due to cultural leanings.
In this piece, Nigerian pharmacist, Okiti Peace addresses the subject as a whole and clears all the grey areas in her educative piece.
Read her full article below:
Traditional medicine according to the WHO is generally available, more affordable, and commonly used in large parts of Africa, Nigeria inclusive. ‘Agbo’, the Yoruba name[ generally accepted name ] for herbal medicines, is a concoction prepared from a variety of herbs n leaves and it is one of the most popular herbal preparations taken for various ailments, by various ethnic groups.
The preparation involves soaking the various herbs in water, alcohol, or even palmwine. It has seen a lot of patronage and acceptance by both young and old. In this article however, we shall be focusing on its use in children which has seen a rise in practice in recent times.
Over the years, concerns have been raised over the consumption of Agbo, and needless to say, the effects are even far more reaching in children. While it is undeniable that these herbs are healthy and most times medicinal, same cannot be said about the concoctions they are turned into. Orthodox medicines go through a major step known as ‘standardization’. Simply put, this is a process of determining the exact concentration (molarity) of a substance needed to elicit a certain pharmacological effect.
This is that process that already determined that 100mg of vitamin C is what your 3years old child needs when having a cold or scurvy. This process help determine the duration a drug substance can be used, when it is over/under dosed, and how long it remains viable i.e it’s expiration date.
Parents who give their children Agbo do not know when it becomes under dose/over dose because there is no stated concentration (amount) of the active substance present in the concoction. This can affect the multisystem functions of the body but most importantly, it can affect the kidney and liver, which are critical to the functioning of the body. It is important to note that some orthodox medicines have these risk factors too, but by the reason of standardization, the amount required to elicit only the needed effect has already been ascertained, so these unpleasant effects can only be seen when there is an overdose.
The kidneys’ job is to filter your blood. They remove wastes, control the body’s fluid balance, and keep the right levels of electrolytes. An unhealthy kidney will result in the inability of the kidney to filter waste products.This means these waste products get directly into the blood stream and poison it. It is a lot cheaper to prevent kidney damage because once you have it, there’s no going back.
People still continue to take Agbo indiscriminately; some get lucky and be healed but a child whose organs are still in the developmental stage stands even more at risk of the side effects of theses harmful chemicals. Also, many of these preparations are done under low hygienic and unsupervised conditions. Plus, there’s a lack of adequate storage for them, so the risk of microbial growth and contamination is very high.
When taken by a child, it can lead to blood poisoning, gastrointestinal challenges, vomiting, diarrhea, anemia and even death, if mismanaged or not detected early. Again, the antibodies /immune system of a child still in the developmental stage makes such an episode even more fatal in a child than it is in an adult.
Over the years, there has been an outcry to the government to take advantage of our rich resources in herbs by standardizing some of these herbal preparations. Some action has begun, but we still have a lot of grounds to cover. Until there’s thorough scientific research and approval in this sector, it is safer to keep our children away from these preparations. Better safe than sorry, they say. And most importantly, always consult your doctor, no matter how silly you think your complaint may sound.