Nigeria: Conserving Herbal Medicine Development

There is no gainsaying the fact that no fewer than 70 per cent of Nigerians rely on Traditional Medicine (TM) for their basic health care needs especially at the primary healthcare delivery. This may not be unconnected with the fact that TM products are more affordable and accessible to the rural populace.

Traditional medicinesTraditional medicines

Despite this and the fact that TM competes as a major provider of healthcare delivery with orthodox medicines, poor perception of these natural drug products have continued to make it even more difficult for the integration of TM into the nation’s healthcare system.

In most parts of the African continent, TM and orthodox medicine exist side by side with people using either or both of them for treatment. In 2002, the World Health Organisation (WHO) launched a comprehensive traditional medicine strategy, emphasising on the documentation, development and promotion of TM, herbal remedies and medicinal plants through research and the development of stronger evidence based on safety, efficacy and quality of the TM products and practices.

In line with WHO recommendations, the Director General of Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency (NNMDA), Tamunoibuomi Okujagu, says Nigeria and other African countries are putting in place mechanisms for standardisation of TM products.

Speaking on the 2011 African Traditional Medicine (ATM) Day in Lagos, Okujagu explained that several projects had been initiated to develop, promote, preserve and protect the nation’s traditional medicine products and practices, indigenous knowledge, culture and heritage as well as intellectual property rights of organisations.

Okujagu who stressed the need for stakeholders to unite and discourage negative perceptions about TM products, said plans were underway to put in place regulatory framework, institutional instruments for developing African traditional medicines (ATM) and standardization of ATM as well as integrate TM into the health care system.

He pointed out that conserving of medicinal plants, which is Africa’s heritage would not only assist in promoting documentation and ensuring sustainable utilization of Africa’s bioresources, but would also help in the integration of TM into the nation’s healthcare sector.

Okujagu who hinted that the theme for this year’s ATM Day is “Conservation of Medicinal Plants: Africa’s Heritage” explained that the theme was critical and important in bringing to fore the potentials of Africa’s rich, huge, exotic and diverse bioresources and biodiversity.

He stated that the Agency’s activity in the development of pilot/ experimental medicinal, aromatic and pesticidals plant(MAPPs) would ensure proper cultivation of identified plants in the areas that they can grow best as well as preserve plants that are facing extinction amongst others.

Okujagu who identified wrong perception as a major challenge to the development of African Medicine, disclosed that as part of the agency’s activities to mark the ATM Day, the Agency in collaboration with the Global Institute of Bio-Exploration (GIBEX), Federal University of Technology, (FUT) Minna, would be holding a stakeholders forum and national symposium on the development of medicinal plants as a means to achieving the MDG for improved health access. He said prior to the symposium billed to hold 11th through 13th October 2011, the two organisations would be signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to take possession of the land which the Vice Chancellor, FUT, Minna generously donated for collaborative research between the university, NNMDA, and GIBEX. “It is hoped that this project in addition to research and development in MAPPS for traditional medicine development and promotion, will encourage the selection and domestication of highly needed MAPPS to aid researches,” he added

The workshop tagged; “HerbFest” is aimed at stimulating the natural products and bio-business industrial sub-sector in Nigeria and the ECOWAS sub region, enhance its capacity for delivery of new health foods to the EU and the US market under the Africa Growth and opportunity Act (AGOA) and diversify the export base of the local economy.

Source – AllAfrica.comChioma Obinna, 9 September 2011