Herbal medicine or traditional medicine involves the use of plants to treat diseases and illnesses. Parts of the plants are used, such as the leaves, roots, and barks. Different plants are used to treat different illnesses like malaria, constipation, rashes, cough and cold, headache, fever, typhoid, and more. The truth is many modern drugs were originally made from plant components, even if they are now made synthetically. The difference is conventional medicine uses only the active ingredient of a plant, while herbal remedies use the whole plant.
Some of the plants used are mainly used for herbal medicine while some others can be used for cooking or producing things. While some plants are used in the making of conventional medicine like pills and tablets, herbal medicine does not involve any process of synthesisation. Instead, the medicine is prepared in a local way, such as boiling or steaming the plants for the juice that would be drunk.
In Nigeria, herbal medicine is still heavily relied on, as it is one of the common health practices in Nigeria. This is a result of inadequate healthcare facilities in some regions and the rising cost of hospital bills. There is also the huge faith a lot of people, particularly those in the rural area, have on herbal medicine so that even some very educated people take herbal medicine in one form or the other. One survey found out the nearly 82% of Nigerian women have used herbal medicine. Common herbal medicines in Nigeria include agbo jedi jedi, dogo yaro, goko cleanser, and gbogbonise.
It is not uncommon to find women selling bottles of herbal medicine referred to as ‘agbo jedi’ which they claim can be used for several conditions, including malaria and back pain, although different herbal mixtures have different uses. Also, some companies have made a name for themselves by repackaging herbal medicine and selling it like conventional medicine.
Even though it is still popular, many people still regard herbal medicine with distrust and advocate for conventional medicine instead as they claim that herbal medicine has some adverse effects on the body, but this may not be true.
So today, we would be looking at some of the health effects of herbal medicines.
Could Protect The Cells
Some herbs, like mango leaves and lemongrass, which sometimes feature in herbal medicine, contain antioxidants like polyphenols and terpenoids that protect the cells from free radicals which could cause diseases like cancer. This also helps to strengthen the immune system and keeps the body healthier.
It Might Relieve Pain In The Body
Taking herbal medicine like ‘agbo jedi’ can help relieve pain in the body. This includes joint pain, back pain, and even menstrual pain.
May Help With Stomach Upset
Herbal medicine has always proved effective against stomach upset, whether it is constipation or any other kind of trouble with the stomach.
May Treat Fever And Malaria
People in rural areas use herbal medicine as their first option to cure malaria and fever. As the first symptoms of malaria show, they either make the herbal medicine themselves or buy from around them (in this case agbo iba). This is because it is easier to access herbal medicine in such parts of the country than tablets and pills. But herbal medicine has always proved effective against malaria and fever.
Cleanses The System
One reason herbal medicine still enjoys so much attention is that many people still use it to cleanse their systems. It detoxifies the body, removing toxins and dirt, and helps the person feel much better.
Side Effects of Herbal Medicines
Herbal remedies can also cause indirect health risks when they delay or replace a more conventional treatment or when they compromise the effectiveness of conventional medicines. Some adverse health effects of herbal medicines can also result from long-term use.
Herbal medicines may produce side effects such as allergic reactions, asthma, nausea, headaches, vomiting, diarrhoea and rashes.
Poor Oral Hygiene
Some herbal drinks are very bitter, and have strong smell. They can cause mouth odours and bad breath.
Adversely Affect Kidneys
Many herbal concoctions have adverse effects on the kidneys. Renal injury can result from long-term use of herbal medicines like agbo jedi jedi. The best-known herb-induced chronic kidney disease is aristolochic acid nephropathy.
Might Cause Cancer
Some cancers might be caused by use of some herbal medicines. For example, cancer of the upper urinary tract (the renal pelvis and ureter) and bladder have been reported by individuals who had kidney damage caused by the consumption of herbal products containing aristolochic acids. It is best to avoid herbal products that contain aristolochic acids.
Affects the Heart
Heartburn, arrhythmia and poor sleep have been linked to herbal medicines. Some have also been said to increase blood pressure.
What You Should Do
- Always consult a medical doctor about any health concerns and inform them about any herbal medicines you are taking or thinking of taking.
- Herbs can interact with other conventional pharmaceutical medications and should not be taken together.
- Never stop taking prescribed medications in favour of herbs without first informing a qualified medical professional.
- Be cautious about buying herbal medicines from just anybody.
- Do not self diagnose with herbal medicines
Herbal medicine has been used for centuries and is still trusted by many people because of how well it works for them. Although, unlike conventional medicine, it can be hard to measure how effective it is or how exactly the ingredients in the mixture react with the body. So proper care must be taken if you must take any herbal mixture or you can just stick to conventional medicine.