Today is African Traditional Medicine Day. A day set out by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the African Union (AU) to promote and develop traditional medicines. CHUKWUMA MUANYA examines progress made by private and government agencies in the development of traditional medicine.
Traditional herbal medicines are naturally occurring; plant-derived substances with minimal or no industrial processing that have been used to treat illness within local or regional healing practices.
Traditional herbal medicines are getting significant attention in global health debates. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), herbal medicine has become a popular form of healthcare as natural medicinal products are gaining, increasing popularity and use worldwide as complementary alternative therapies.
Among the therapeutic preparations are plant-derived phytomedicines, nutraceuticals and cosmeceuticals. The reason for their popularity is multifaceted, based partly on the fact that the raw materials are available naturally and in abundance.
NIPRD has developed globally accepted herbal sickle cell drug (NIPRISAN) and fixed dose combination drug (NIPRIBOL) for the treatment of Ebola Virus Disease
The Nigerian Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) is a parastatal of the Federal Government of Nigeria established by Government order No. 33 Vol. 74 of 11th June 1987 part B under the Science and Technology Act Cap 276.
Director General/Chief Executive Officer of NIPRD, Dr. Karniyus S. Gamaniel, told journalists that the Institute has successfully developed and commercialised NIPRISAN™, a phytomedicine used in the management of sickle cell anaemia and co-formulation of NIPRISAN studies sponsored by Africa Network for Drug Diagnostic and Innovation (ANDi). He said NIPRD has developed a preparation of fixed dose combination drug (NIPRIBOL) for the treatment of Ebola Virus Disease.
Gamaniel said NIPRD reclaimed NIPRISAN license, Trade Marked it and obtained legal protection by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) for its social and commercial production.
He said the Institute has added four new products for treatment of malaria, fungal infection, diabetes and immune boosting. Gamaniel said the four products are trademarked as; NIPRIMAL, NIPRIMUNE, NIPRIFAN, and NIPRIDAB and patented them at the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Investment.
He said NIPRD is collaborating with Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland towards development of anti-Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV) phytomedicine for treatment and management of HIV/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and capacity building.
The NIPRD boss said the West African Health Organization (WAHO) recently awarded a joint fellowship to NIPRD for the development of medicinal plant pharmacopoeia and that the Institute studies also established the baseline CD4 (a marker of the immune system function) count in Nigeria for the first time.
Bioresources Development and Conservation Programme (BDCP) and Intercedd Health Products (IHP)
A herbal weight loss product developed by a Nigerian firm, the International Centre for Ethnomedicine and Drug Development (InterCEDD), makers of Intercedd Health Products (IHP), with its international partners is making waves in Europe.
The product simple called Flat Belly and made of some local herbs such as Moringa, Pigeon pea and cocoa promises a flat belly within three months of use.
InterCEDD is a subsidiary of Bioresources Development and Conservation Programme (BDCP), which is a non-governmental non-profit organization.
Traditional Medicine as a Tonic for Development
Also, IHP is blazing the trail with the introduction of Vernonia Ocimum Tea into the Nigerian market. Vernonia Ocimum Tea is made from Vernonia amaygdalina (bitter leaf) and Ocimum gratissimum (scent leaf).
A proprietary product by InterCEDD Health Products and Neimeth Pharmaceuticals called Physogen Plus contains bitter melon (Momordica charantia), Ocimum gratissimum, Vernonia amaygdalina and bitter kola (Garcinia kola).
IHP has also developed another immune booster, Immunovit IHP. According to the developer and professor of pharmacognosy, Maurice Iwu, Immunovit-IHP a disease-fighting supplement, designed to boost immunity against a wide variety of ailments, was crafted to combine the health restoring benefits of Ganoderma mushroom, the antioxidant properties of pomegranate fruits and the adaptogenic/immune enhancing effects of Korean ginseng root extract.
FIIRO makes giant strides in research and development on herbal products
The establishment of Federal Institute for Industrial Research Oshodi (FIIRO) as an Institute is as a result of the recommendation of the Economic Mission sent to Nigeria in 1953 by International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (now World Bank).
Director General of FIIRO, Prof. Gloria Elemo, told The Guardian that the institute has published books and scientific monographs, and established appropriate process technologies of some medicinal products.
Elemo said FIIRO has developed nutraceuticals such as: anti-sickling supplement from a blend of two legumes; Onion Herbal Spices; Ready to Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTF); low glycemic drink; anti-lipidemic snacks; and Viola-Emilia Infusion Tea.
She said the institute has also developed herbal R&D products from Neem: Neem Soap; Neem Body Lotion; Neem Tooth paste; Neem Oil; Neem Cream and Mouth wash; Neem Herbal Shampoo; and Shea butter fat.
Elemo said the Institute developed a simple refining process to take off the pale yellow to dark colour of the crude Shea butter fat. She said a muscle relaxant "Citrobalm" and an insect repellant were developed from the refined product and the Institute holds a Patent on this developed simple method of refining crude Shea butter fat.
Elemo said FIIRO has developed intermediate raw materials for industrial sector such as essential oil extraction (such as eucalyptus, lemon oil, citronella, among other); and protein sweetners.
Paxherbals designed a clinical trial proposal for her malaria medicine called 'Pax Malatreat'
Director Paxherbals Clinic and Laboratories Ewu, Edo State, Rev Fr Anslem Adodo, told The Guardian that the laboratories and research centre in Nigerian is one of the largest in Africa and also having 34 herbal supplements already approved by National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).
Adodo said: "Paxherbals is one of the very few herbal manufacturing company left in Nigeria that is locally producing its herbal medicines, despite the harsh economic climate that makes it easier and more profitable to be an importer rather than a manufacturer. It is no wonder that the Nigerian market is flooded with herbal products from China, India and other Asian countries, and from Europe. By so doing, Nigeria is creating wealth abroad and promoting poverty at home. At Paxherbals, we believe that the only way to sustainable development is for Africa to produce what it consumes and consume what it produces. But to produce, one must innovate.
"We continue the journey by monitoring how the finished products interact with the society, the reactions as well as the counter-reactions. To this effect, we have Pax pharmaco-vigilance centres in Lagos, Jos and Owerri. We ensure that we maintain this connection with the soil, with nature, the community, the environment, with people and with science. If we lose this connection, our society becomes diseased, and things will fall apart: medically, socially, economically and spiritually."
Adodo said Paxherbals has already designed a clinical trial proposal for her malaria medicine called 'Pax Malatreat', in partnership with the Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency, Lagos State and Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Edo State, both Federal government institutions. He said the protocol and details of the first stage of the trial has been carefully prepared and submitted to the relevant authorities for ethical clearance.
Adodo said as soon as the ethical clearance is granted, the trial process will begin and this will be the first clinical trial of an herbal formulation for malaria in Africa. "This is a good example of how herbal medicine practitioners can collaborate with conventional medicine. At Paxherbals, our principle is: 'if it works, prove it'. Majority of Africans believe that herbal medicine work. We at Paxherbals want to go a step further to prove it," he said.
Adodo said similar work on diabetes, hypertension and cancer is in progress.
NNMDA develops mosquito nets with herbal repellents
Director General of the Nigerian Natural Medicine Development Agency (NNMDA), Sam Etatuvie, told journalists of the agency's plan to introduce new locally made insecticide-treated bed nets with herbal extracts. He said the product will help tackle the challenge of mosquito resistance to treated nets made with pyrethoids.
He also spoke on the agency's efforts to collaborate with dedicated scientists and entrepreneurs to deepen the development of herbal medicines in the country.
Etatuvie said: "We developed a mosquito repellant, using pure extracts from medicinal plants indigenous to Nigeria. It is one of those things that we will soon put into the market. The common mosquito repellant is Odomos, which contains DDT and other components.
"The other area we also looking at is how we can incorporate these extracts into the mosquito treated nets, because if you look at the existing ones, they are made of pyrethoids; but pyrethoids is not very effective in this clime. We have our own extracts that people have used for a very long time to scare away mosquitoes. Thus, we are working to put these extracts into the nets and it will give us a better result and also prevent this resistance war.
"It can be easily rubbed on the body and it has good fragrance, and can be used for little children. The good thing is that it is also useful in animal care. For those that have dogs and other pets at home, they can apply it to scare away flies."