In an effort to ensure safety and efficacy of herbal medicine in the country, the Federal Government is to work with technical experts from Africa to provide standards in herbal medicines to meet the World Health Organisation, WHO, Certification System on quality of pharmaceuticals.
Director General, Standards Organisation of Nigeria, SON, Dr Joseph Odumodu while inaugurating the National Mirror Committee on African Traditional medicine yesterday in Abuja, tasked the committee to strengthen, promote and integrate the African traditional medicine into the healthcare systems of member countries at national level.
Dr Odumodu who was represented by the Director, Legal and Secretary, SON Council, Mr. Umar Kawu, said Nigeria was known to have a vast treasure of herbal medicines with high market potential, yet could not be exported due to the method of processing the herbs while most of the mixture of the constituents and active principles are unknown.
In his words, “for example, the method of harvesting, drying, storage, transportation, processing, and mode of extracting and polarity of the extracting solvent and the instability of constituents among others are the practices that affect herbal quality and restrict trade”.
He said the committee’s aim was to articulate Nigeria’s contributions to the harmonisation process of African Regional Organisation for Standardisation Technical Committee on African Traditional Medicine (ARSO THC13).
Odumodu said some of the reasons identified were that most herbal drugs were usually mixtures of many constituents, which active principles in most cases were unknown.
“The orthodox medicine in spite of its general acceptance throughout Africa has not replaced but only augmented our indigenous health approaches.
“The general belief is that doctors trained in orthodox scientific methods largely focus on the biomedical causes of diseases, while traditional beliefs take a more holistic approach.
“For many Africans, traditional medicine practitioners are often the first and last line of defence against contagious and debilitating diseases that plaque their lives.
“Traditional healers are most often trusted sources of health information and treatment and the WHO estimates that 80 per cent of people in Africa regularly seek their services,’’ he said.
Dr. Odumodu said because the healers provided services within communities, it behoves government to provide appropriate regulation frameworks.
He said government would also provide the code of practice that would enable traditional and orthodox medicine practitioners to work together to improve patients wellbeing by ensuring their proper treatment.
According to him, bringing the traditional healers within the primary healthcare fold presents a challenge that will be overcome through diligent product and process standardisation.
Odumodu said “the need for standardisation entails the preparations of the product under Good Manufacturing Practice.’’
He said such practices involved “botanical verification, quality considerations, evaluation of safety and efficacy, labelling as well as physical and chemical stability of the products in the containers in which they are to be marketed.’’
Mr Abiola Komolafe, Director of Standards, SON, said the main function of the committee was to strengthen, promote and integrate African traditional medicine into the healthcare system of member countries.
Komolafe said with the calibre of experts and professionals present, justice would be done to the draft documents that would lead to promote the best practices of traditional medicines in Africa.
The committee selected a former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Maurice Iwu as Chairman.
Iwu, in his inaugural speech, promised that the committee would work hard to ensure that the country improved on WHO specifications on traditional medicine.
He said that Nigerians would work to have standards to enable the traditional healers to improve on their practice.
“A lot is happening now, just only last month, the University of Ibadan, College of Medicine, started a process of using traditional medicine in their formal training and medical practice in Nigeria,’’ Iwu said.

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