Nigeria can earn billions in foreign exchange from the abundant natural herbs needed for medicinal purposes in Europe and other continents.
Chairman, Bioresources Development and Conservation Programme, BDCP, Prof. Maurice Iwu, said Nigeria can diversify her economy by capitalising on the abundance of herbal plants to generate foreign exchange from traditional and herbal medicines.
The former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, who also is the Chairman, Organising Committee of Herbal, Health Food and Natural Expo, HERBFEST, 2015, with the theme “Food as a Medicine: Utilization and Sustainable Exploitation of African Medicinal Plants and Natural Products’’ urged the government to maximise the abundance of herbal plants to generate revenue.
“Now, with the lowered income from petroleum and the need to diversify our economy, we need an Expo like this to showcase the abundance of resources deposited in Nigeria but remained untapped.
“Nigeria is so endowed that we should be able to compete with other countriesin adding to our income stream things that come out from herbal products. Herbal medicine is an area where many countries are looking at, yet we have not looked into this area to any significant level.
“We know what happens in China, a lot of people in this country buy products from them and also India where people buy a lot of food supplements,’’ Iwu said noting that with the abundance of research centres like Federal Institute for Industrial Research, Oshodi, FIIRO, 40 universitiesand good agricultural policies, Nigeria could diversify its economy without hassles.
“What we need is a ribbon to tie all these institutions together, which is the major purpose of HERBFEST to assist indigenous manufacturers to interface with foreign businessmen and see how they can do their businesses together.
“As we speak, there are over 48 commercial plants from Nigeria and 30 of these plants are food plants. We are hoping that one day, herbal medicine practitioners will be able to look at the global trend and key into scientific traditional trend as We are convinced that traditional medicine is the key into the future of Nigerian health system,’’ Iwu emphasised.
He stated that with the viability and commercial gains in herbal medicine, it will be considered as a gold mine in other countries and Nigeria needed to tap into it.
“Last month, the US reported that the growth in herbal dietary supplement, herbal medicine and functional food is 200 million dollars with growth rate of eight per cent. We have a lot of these functional foods like cashew nuts, even cocoa is an antioxidant proven to fight cardiovascular diseases, we also have dogonyaro.
“What we lack mainly in Nigeria is awareness of the abundance of these herbs; even today, many don’t know the efficacy of bitter leaf which is good for fighting diabetes, though many are aware though we depend too much on consumption of foreign products, especially herbal foods in spite of the fact that government has well laid out policy encouraging herbal practise and production.
“It is dangerous to eat food that is not processed in Nigeria because there is no way they can bring it in even from closest neighbouring state without putting chemicals into it,” he explained and warned against eating processed imported chicken.
Similarly, Director General of FIIRO, Dr Gloria Elemo, said that commercialisation of herbal products had been simplified by the institute through researches it embarked upon.
“Our role as an institution has been to use our expertise in research and development to add value to these practices and to transfer technology to impact on the economy,” she said.
Also, the Director General, Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency, Mr Etatuvie Oghene, said Nigeria was advancing in the study of herbal research.
“Nigeria is now advancing in herbal medicine research; presently the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, now has traditional medicine in its curriculum. What we need is awareness.”

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