Nigeria: Experts Canvass Use of Herbs, Natural Foods to Tackle COVID-19

(file photo).
11 June 2020

by Rasheed Sobowale

Experts who spoke at the sixth Lagos State University, LASU, Virtual Public Lecture have suggested the use of natural herbs and the consumption of natural food items that would help build the body's immune system against contracting the Coronavirus disease.

They also called for proper hydration of the body too.

The lecture, which was titled "COVID-19: Effective use of science in overcoming the pandemic", had a number of sub-themes.

Speaking on the sub-theme: COVID-19: "Adequate nutrition as a first line of defence", a Professor of Biochemistry, Babajide Elemo, harped on the regular consumption of balanced diet as the key to staying free from contracting the COVID-19 and indeed, any other disease.

He said: "Balanced diet and hydration are vital during this COVID-19 pandemic. The World Health Organisation, WHO, recently published a nutrition advice during this period to the effect that people should everyday, eat fresh and unprocessed food, drink enough water, eat moderate amount of fat and oil and avoid eating out, amongst others."

Prof. Elemo explained the relationship between nutrition and immune system thus: "nutrition status plays an important role in the functioning of the immune system. Dietary protein, carbohydrates and fats as well as micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) all interact with immune cells systematically in blood, nymphs and nodes."

He further enjoined participants to always prepare their bodies ahead through natural foods, rather than wait for the proverbial evil day.

"We shouldn't wait till we are hit by diseases before we take precaution. Boost your immune system by taking natural foods such as vegetables, fruits, and foods containing vitamins A, B, C, D, and E and folic acid. When necessary, take dietary supplements which come in handy in stress situations."

Supporting Elemo's assertion, Dr. Josephine Sharaibi, of the Department of Botany, Faculty of Science, LASU, noted that the absence of a cure for COVID-19 necessitates that everyone consumes the right foods and herbs as a means of boosting the immune system against the virus.

In her lecture titled "Exploring herbal treatments: Evidence and recommendations", Sharaibi explained that plants are critical to both the prevention and eventual cure of the disease, and advised participants on the responsible use of herbs and herbal medicines in their search for solution to the pandemic.

"Plants are important, not only for food but also for medicine. All plants contain bioactive substances responsible for their therapeutic action, hence they are precursors for the development of new drugs. There are several efforts going among scientists in and outside Nigeria to find herbal cures to the virus. Madagascar has developed their own herbal cure while some efforts have also been reported here in Nigeria. Presently, none of these have been approved in the country and so we still do not have a cure for the virus yet.

"However, we have many local herbs including ginger, garlic, tummeric and cinnamon that can be taken as immune boosters.

There are also anti-malaria herbs such as Moringa Lucida (Brimstone Tree), Alstonia Boonei (God's Tree), Enantha Clorantha (African Whitewood) and the popular Dongoyaro tree, all of which can be used to treat symptoms of the virus," she said.

She, however, sounded a note of caution on the herbal medicines: "avoid excessive intake of herbal medicine because of toxicity; look out for allergic reactions when taking herbal medicines and discontinue if allergy occurs; certain medications such as anti-hypertensive drugs should not be taken with herbal medicine; get your fresh plant material from trusted source, you've to avoid misidentification; and if pregnant or breastfeeding, do not take herbal medicines without your doctor's prescription."

Earlier in the lecture, the opening speaker, Prof. Sunday Omilabu, validated the RT-PCR assay tests currently being used in Nigeria as the only approved and reliable testing option for coronavirus.

Prof. Omilabu, who is the Director, Centre of Excellence for Human and Zoonotic Virology, Lagos State BioBank, further warned against unapproved testing processes.

"Till date, no serological testing platform has been licensed for COVID-19, and even when available, is not meant to replace the RT-PCR for diagnosis of the virus."

A research professor and consultant, Nigeria Institute of Medical Research, Yaba, Prof. Richard Adegbola, on his part, traced the history of global pandemics and its import for the current situation.

Speaking on the sub-theme: "Pandemic Intelligence and Preparedness: the Multiple Role of Scientists," Prof. Adegbola noted that pandemics such the Black Deaths (1347-1351), Small Pox (1521), Spanish Flu (1918-1919), Plaque of Justinian (541-542), HIV/AIDS (1981-Present) and the Third Plaque (1855) with a cumulative fatality rate of about 400 million and the current pandemic which has claimed close to 400,000 lives already portends a new reality that humans must deal with.

He said: "As the years go by, pandemics will be more frequent than it has been. We must deal with this because we humans are interacting with nature at an unprecedented and I dare say, unhealthy rate. We must also begin to find better ways to live with micro-organisms. Symbiosis is the way forward."

He recommended a three-pronged approach to preparing for future pandemics which he listed as consistent surveillance for data aggregation and trend monitoring; modelling for prediction and forecasting, and translation and research that turns basic research into health-improving products, enumerating the four Translations (4Ts) as Translation to Humans (T1), Translation to Patients (T2), Translation to Practice(T3) and Translation to Population Health"

The lecture, hosted by the Faculty of Science, was moderated by Dean of the Faculty, Prof. Adenike Boyo, with the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Olanrewaju Fagbohun, SAN, as the chief host.

Vanguard News Nigeria.

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