Director General of the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Prof. Babatunde Salako has urged traditional medicine practitioners in the country to adopt and use research methodology in the production of natural medicines in line with modern practice.
The position of Salako echoes that of the Director of Pax Herbal Clinics & Research Laboratories, Fr. Anselm Adodo, who also asserted that embracing research in the production of traditional medicines would pave the way for their wider acceptance, safety and efficacy.
According to the duo, tapping into research in traditional medicine practice, the giant strides China and India have recorded in traditional medicine business could be replicated in Nigeria. Worldwide, the annual market value of these products approaches $60 billion.
They spoke during the 8th Pax Herbal National Congress Lagos 2018, which brought together over 320 Pax Herbal product distributors from across the federation to Lagos where they shared experiences on challenges militating against traditional medicine business while charting the way forward.
The PAXHERBAL National Congress, with the theme ‘Strengthening Capacity for Clinical Research in Herbal Medicine: Challenges and Opportunities’, was attended by the distributors under the umbrella of the National Association of Pax Health Care Providers (PHCP).
According to Salako, most orthodox medicines have been studied and researchers know their side effects.
“Hence, they can print and input those side effects on the literature that come with the proper packaging.
“So, that if anyone buys the drugs, he can look at the attached literature and it will tell the person that the drug can cause this and that; if you see this, contact your doctor.”
On the contrary, Salako lamented that this approach was lacking in traditional medicine and that was why people talk negatively about them. A lot of people are also against them because of their associations with local spirits and incantations, he noted.
Citing the example of South Africa, the Director General of NIMR said that country decided to teach witchcraft in schools. “It is advancement; here in Nigeria, we are afraid to take the bold step and that is why our traditional medicine has not grown.”
Explaining why practitioners need research in traditional medicine, he said it was about generating new knowledge and advancing humanity. Besides, he noted that research was essential to improve human health and research could be used to achieve that.
Salako said: “We need research to determine if they are safe, if they work, and if they can be used with orthodox medicines.”
“If we are able to show that they are safe, then governments can think of issuing policy to integrate them with orthodox medicines.
“Accessibility to large number of users won’t happen without scientific information to show their safety.”
Explaining why the Pax Herbals chose to focus on research now, Adodo said: “It is because the time has come for us to emphasise research in herbal medicine.
“We have been talking about it; it has been happening, but we want to draw attention to the fact that research is important and that we are doing it.
“We want to invite other people in the business of traditional medicine to join in research. That is why we are emphasising research.”
While admitting that the use of research was already being employed in the production of traditional medicines, he added: “We need to do more.”
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