The Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, has admonished Nigerians to use herbal medicine with utmost care to prevent avoidable death and complications.
She further advised against the simultaneous use of both herbal and conventional medicine by members of the public.
Adeyeye gave the warning in Abuja in a message to mark the World Herbal Medicine Day Monday.
Adeyeye said: “The general public should use herbal medicine with care. First of all, we don’t know the quantity that you are supposed to take. And the fact that it is natural doesn’t mean it is not toxic.
“Toxicity is not about the volume consumed. It is not about the amount. Something can be in a micro quantity and kill. It just depends on the type of drug or chemical. It is extremely important not to take it as you see it. Just because you prepare it in your house doesn’t mean you can drink it like water. It may be dangerous.”
She also advised that for safety reasons, no liquid herbal formulation should be ingested after 14 days of preparation, and such medicine should always be kept refrigerated.
The NAFDAC DG, in a statement by the Agency’s Resident Media Consultant, Sayo Akintola, further explained that after 14 days if it is liquid, it may start to develop bacteria that can make people sick.
“It’s the measure, quantity and then the stability,’’ she said.
Adeyeye explained that the problem associated with herbal medicine are many because people don’t understand that it is supposed to be driven by science.
‘’If you prepare a herbal medicine in liquid form, you don’t know how stable the medicine is going to be in the water. If it is not stable and it is degrading to another thing, it may hurt,” Adeyeye said.
She cited the example of those who engage in hawking herbal preparations on the streets under the scorching sun, adding that the heat generated by the sun may have a way of causing decomposition of the active ingredients in the medicines being sold, which may pose significant health risks to those buying and consuming the preparations.
‘’That’s why herbal medicine in Nigeria has to be handled with care. Some people take herbal medicine like vaccines. No. Herbal medicines are derived from plants mostly, sometimes from animals in few cases. Vaccines are different. Vaccines are from human or animal cells that have been programmed to elicit immunologic effects in the body,’’ she posited.
Adeyeye further advised against the simultaneous use of both herbal and conventional medicines by members of the public.
She said: ‘’If someone is using herbal medicine and a conventional medicine simultaneously, there may be a problem.
‘’Let’s say that medicine is supposed to lower the blood pressure or lower sugar content for diabetes, and that person took conventional medicine and the sugar level is lower and he now takes a herbal remedy, that person may go into hypoglycemic shock. Meaning the level of sugar in the blood is too low because the two are now working synergistically.’’
According to her, sometimes a herbal medicine may actually reduce the effectiveness of conventional medicine.
‘’That’s why studies need to be done. A lot of people use herbal medicine today. But if they now combine it with the conventional medicine that is supposed to be used for the same thing, it may harm them,’’ she said, adding: ‘’There is drug-herbal medicine interaction that may cause a lot of harm. Whoever is taking herbal medicine should talk to their pharmacist and medical doctor for professional advice.’’
The NAFDAC DG said that in order to achieve rapid development of the herbal medicine industry in Nigeria, there is the need for both herbal medicine practitioners and researchers to collaborate.
She said that NAFDAC had set up a herbal medicine product committee in March 2019 to advance research in herbal medicine.
‘’The goal for that was to make sure that the herbalist and the researcher are collaborating so that whatever the herbalist knows from ancestral history that does not have research to back it up, collaboration with researcher will enable that herbal medicine to be advanced to be listed by NAFDAC if it’s deemed safe.
‘’Right now, there is no single herbal medicine that has gone through full clinical trial the way clinical trial is supposed to be done. Of course, there could be herbal medicines that have been used to treat a symptom of COVID–19 or whatever, but it has not been published. In which case it is not an official clinical trial,’’ she said.
Adeyeye said many of the herbal products are being subjected to review by different agencies of government in the country, adding that: “In terms of going through clinical trials and official protocols, none has come through yet.”