When I was a kid, we used to have two refrigerators at home: one for food and drinks, the other for herbal concoctions. The latter contained Ragolis bottles stuffed with leaves, roots and barks which have been concocted with water, 7up or schnapps. There was also the indispensable “kafura” solution which we drink routinely on empty stomach! Chai! Only Allaah knows how we survived oo.

Ever before I knew anything about orthodox medicine, I hated those herbs with a passion. No amount of 7up or added sugar could mask the bitter taste and unpleasant odour. I’m not trying to rubbish herbal medicine, NO! Some of them work. Some work, only because of the faith we have in them. Others don’t work; rather, they cause acute or insidious damage to the blood and gastrointestinal systems, liver and kidneys.

It may interest you to note that most of the groundbreaking orthodox medicines we have today can be traced back to some African herbs. For example, Yohimbine is a powerful aphrodisiac derived from the bark of a West African tree, Yohimbe. So, what changed? – millions of dollars, several years of laboratory research, multiple levels of clinical trials and of course, strict regulations.

Unfortunately, in my country, we hardly fund scientific research and our regulatory bodies are not doing enough. Our people just gulp down the potions without knowing anything about the dosages, drug-drug interactions, potency, margin of safety and antidote in case of  toxicity. Many do not seek advice better they opt for herbal remedies or combine them with the orthodox.

We need more awareness and health education, especially at the grassroots. Ideally, certain essential drugs should always be available and dispensed for free in government health centres. There are also ailments that might not require medical intervention, but only reassurance and lifestyle modification. A typical example is the popular “jedi-opa eyin” syndrome. Its root cause, in some cases, is constipation. High fibre diet (legumes, fruits and vegetables), low sugar, low fat as well as increased fluid intake might be all that is needed to manage the condition. Why kill a fly with a sledge hammer?!


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