Traditionalists flag local herbs in Covid-19 fight

03 May, 2020 - 00:05 0 Views
Traditionalists flag local herbs in Covid-19 fight

The Sunday Mail

Society Reporter

Traditionalists believe the country needs to tap into indigenous knowledge systems by testing the efficacy of some local herbs in fighting the coronavirus (Covid-19).

The disease has already claimed four lives and infected more than 40 people in Zimbabwe.

New cases continue to be reported around the world as scientists and doctors grapple to find a lasting solution to the crisis.

Conservatives argue that there are some indigenous plants that can be used as respectable alternatives for conventional medicines.

“Herbs have always existed since way back and remain relevant in modern times. Western nations have simply re-presented our basils in modified formats. However, we are the source of the herbs and traditional medical practitioners should have a major part in the fight against Covid-19,” said Chief Donald Kamba of Makoni chieftaincy.

“Traditional medicine will not come to replace or counter Government measures. We just need to separate what is happening overseas with what we are doing. Covid-19 is calling for home-grown solutions,” he added.

Madagascar has set tongues wagging after introducing a herbal concoction developed by the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research — a private organisation that has researched the uses of Madagascar’s traditional medicines for more than three decades.

Madagascar’s Academy of Medicine has raised doubts over the efficacy of the concoction.

Apparently, the concoction is made from artemisia, which is a bitterroot used in some malaria drugs.

Presently, all malaria strains globally can be treated with at least one of the artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) recommended by WHO.

However, health experts say herbal medicines have several limitations related to standardisation of plant cultivation, the preparation of formulations, dosages, quality assurance and evidence of clinical safety and efficacy, especially when treating fatal diseases.

By the end of last week, Madagascar — home to 27 million people — had recorded 132 cases and no fatalities.

More than 92 patients had recovered.

But the Indian Ocean island nation continue to adhere to strict World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines to curtail the spread of the disease.

Wearing face masks outdoors is now compulsory in the capital Antananarivo, as well as in the cities of Fianarantsoa and Toamasina.

Local herbalists, the majority of whom operate as traditional healers, say there is need for more research into traditional knowledge systems and local herbs to come up with alternative medicines to manage life-threatening diseases.

Traditional Medical Practitioners Council chair, Sekuru Friday Chisanyu, said most of the country’s herbs have been the major source of local therapy for centuries.

“Remember, these modern medicines are made from our herbs . . . We also need to look within for a solution,” he said.

The ground-breaking work of most traditionalists is unfortunately soiled by unscrupulous individuals who swindle desperate patients by selling fake remedies, he                                                                                         said.

Researchers discovered that out of more than 5000 plant species growing in Zimbabwe, an estimated 10 percent of these have medicinal properties and are used as traditional medicines.

It is these medicines that have remained as the most affordable and easily accessible source of treatment in the primary healthcare system of resource-poor communities.

Professor Kurt Hostettmann — an honorary professor of pharmacology at the University of Lausanne and Geneva in Switzerland — has extensively studied African medicinal plants and published over 85 publications with collaborators from about a dozen African countries.

He concluded that although knowledge on the use of medicinal plants in Africa is enormous, if it is not rapidly researched and recorded, indications are that it will be lost with succeeding generations.

There is clearly no architecture to develop and enhance indigenous knowledge systems into mainstream conventional treatments.

Traditionalists also believe that traditional norms and values also need to be observed for the security of local communities.

As the coronavirus continues to rage across the world, countries are looking towards developed countries for medicines and vaccines.

Last week, the US announced that an experimental drug, remdesivir, could shorten the time of recovery from coronavirus infection. The drug reportedly interferes with the replication of some viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, which is responsible for the current pandemic.

A clinical trial in more than 1 000 people had showed that those taking remdesivir recovered in 11 days on average, compared with 15 days for those on a placebo, raising hopes that tide might be turned in the fight against the virus.

Experts, however, expect a vaccine for Covid-19 to be developed within the next 18 months.


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