Pharmacists under the aegis of Association of Lady Pharmacists (ALPs) have raised safety concerns on the usage of herbal remedies, which are the common go to for over 80 per cent Nigerians for the treatment of popular ailments like malaria, typhoid, and dysentery. While they agreed on herbal medicines therapeutic potentials, they warned against its preparation by quacks.
They maintained that herbal remedies prepared by roadside hawkers may be injurious to the health of unsuspecting citizens, due to the degree of toxicity and methods of preparation of the herbs. Thus, to maintain the microbial safety of herbal medicines as well as to prevent adverse drug reactions, they recommended the usage of natural preservatives in herbal remedies, which will boost their shelf life through antioxidant and antimicrobial activity.
The lady pharmacists made this submission during the ALPs Day celebration of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) Lagos State Scientific Week, held Monday, at the Bariga LCDA, Shomolu, Lagos.
The programme, which was graced by topnotch pharmacists, traditional medicine practitioners, traditional birth attendants, and community leaders, featured different sections like free health screening of Bariga residents, health awareness campaign, panel discussion and sentisitation on the professional roles of pharmacists.
Delivering the keynote address, Prof. Glory Ajayi, former dean, Faculty of Pharmacy, UNILAG, did justice to the theme of the programme: “Safe Use of Local Remedies and Safe Preservation of Herbs”, as she appraised the potentials of herbal products in maintaining wellness in Africa, much more as it is recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the most popular form of traditional medicine.
Prof. Ajayi, who represented Prof. Olukemi Odukoya, cited WHO’s definition of traditional medicine, as the sum total of the knowledge, skills, and practices based on the theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in the maintenance of health as well as in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement, or treatment of physical and mental illness.
She explained that when herbal medicines are used appropriately as dietary supplements, food supplements or medicines, they are generally regarded as safe; but when these products are used out of proportion or misidentified, they pose safety concerns to regulators and masses.
According to Prof. Ajayi : “The safety of herbal medicines has become a major concern to both regulatory authority, government and the general public.
“As stated by Paracelsus that, “All substances are poisons; there is none, which is not a poison. The right dose differentiates a poison and a remedy’. This is to say that the toxicity of any substance, including medicinal plants and even food, is largely dependent on the amount or dose used. A non-toxic substance can be toxic at a high dose, and a very toxic substance can be considered safe if the dose is low. Over-dosage in the course of treatment is bound to pose safety problems.
“Adverse events may also arise from the misidentification of medicinal plants, errors in the use of herbal medicines both by herbal medicine practitioners and consumers, as well as misuse and use over long periods even at tolerable dose.
“Interactions between herbs (herbal medicines) and drugs (pharmaceuticals) may increase or decrease the pharmacological or toxicological effects of either component”.
Speaking earlier, Chairman, Lagos State ALPs, Pharm.(Dr) Afusat Adesina, expressed her delight in seeing the day come to pass, after several planning’s and invitations have been sent out to dignitaries and residents of Bariga for participation. She stated the essence of the programme, which was to mark ALPs Day in the PSN Scientific Week 2022.
Adesina, remarked further on how the Day has benefited residents of different localities they have used in the past, as it is their custom to conduct free health screening, health awareness advocacy and even donation of healthcare equipment in schools and communities. She didn’t forget to appreciate the community leaders, in persons of Baale of Bariga, Chief W.O. Agiri; Alhaja Olawunmi Osiata, CDC, Bariga; and others who attended the programme.
Chairman of the occasion, Pharm. (Mrs) Rosemary Nikoro, ranked the health benefits of medicinal plants to man very high, as she cited her personal experience in the usage of natural spices like turmeric, ginger, garlic and lemon as early morning tea on a daily basis, which has benefited her health immensely. Being an experienced pharmacist, she stated that the place of herbal remedies in human man as very essential.
She narrated how this has motivated her to cultivate a garden of herbal plants for personal use, where she planted vegetables and fruits like pineapple, ugwu, scent leave, bitter leaf, and others, as she urged other lady pharmacists to explore the rich natural heritage in Africa, Nigeria, for their wellbeing.
Also speaking at the ALPs Day event, Chairman, Lagos, PSN, Pharm. Gbolagade Iyiola, appreciated all invited guests to the programme, as he embarked on detailed introduction of who a pharmacist is and his roles to the participants. He made them realized the purpose of the event, which was in connection with the World Pharmacists Day, established by the FIP, to celebrate pharmacists and their roles across the world.
The number pharmacist in Lagos also enlightened the people on how to recognise the premises of a registered community pharmacist in the state, as he warned them against patronizing quacks and unregistered medicine outlets in the state.
Speaking with some of the beneficiaries of the free health screening, Mrs Esther Williams, said “It is a very good gesture they have given to us in conducting free health screening, in order for us to know our health status, and anyone that has any ailment will be sent to the nearby primary health centre for consultation and treatment”.
Another beneficiary, Mrs Salisu Kola, appreciated the association for coming down to the local government area for the programme, saying, she wouldn’t have known that her blood pressure was very high, until they checked her, and have referred her to the nearby health centre”.