BITTERS are sold in all manner of places
which include markets, stores or department
stores, supermarkets, highways, roadsides,
buses/vehicles and more. Responses to a
nationwide survey on the health benefits or
otherwise, of consumption of bitters make a
curious reading.
Mr. Frank Ndiwe is a 50 year old
businessmen and father of five children
resident in Port Harcourt. Ndiwe said he
drinks bitters, especially squizzed bitter leaf
because of its high medicinal values. “I drink
onugbu from bitter leaf every day. It helps
to cleanse my body system and sugar level
in me. I also chew the stick. It is very bitter”,
he said.
Similarly, Mrs Joy Orlu, mother of four
and teacher, said she takes bitters because it
helps to control the sugar level in her body.
“I have high sugar level in my body. I take
bitters and I have observed that it helps to
control it. I like bitter leaf as vegetable. I
chew the raw leaf and I do not urinate as
frequently as I use to do. My doctor has
however warned me not to take excess of
such bitters because some of them have
nicotine”, she said.
Mr. Nicholas Tamuno, 45 years old civil
servant, said he chews bitter kola because it
clears cough, sore throat and even reduces
sugar level in his body.
“I chew bitter kola, but not in excess. I
mix it with honey and it clears my cough.
I also use it when I have sore throat and I
have noticed that some of our local bitters
work. We need to encourage our scientists to
develop them to full potentials for local use”,
he said.
In Asaba, medical practitioners say bitters
help the body to build strong immunity
against diseases. Dr Alfred Ebiakofa, staff
of Delta Ministry of Health, said bitters are
in line with the alkaline system of the body,
fight against diseases and help to reduce the
sugar level in the body. “For this reason,
some people squeeze bitter leaf and drink
the liquid as medication for a particular
ailment”, he said.
Dr Emeke Obi of St Lukes Hospital, Asaba,
said bitter drinks are medicinal because of
the numerous works they perform in the
body. He said bitters help to flush the body
system and makes it normal while some
like “agbo” or roots, could be used for the
treatment of malaria. He said most people
still make it a habit to take a glass of “agbo”
every morning to clean and flush the body
system.
Mr Anslem Okonkwo, Public Relations
Officer of NAFDAC in Delta, said certified
bitters are registered by the agency. Mr
Kendrick Obi, a civil servant, said bitters
help him to maintain good health, especially
in stopping stomach upset.
Mrs Chukwuma Doris, a teacher, said
bitters, especially “agbo” helped her to trim
down. According to her, after putting to
bed, she drinks “agbo” every morning and
evening to make her stomach come back to
shape.
In Yenagoa, experts and users of
bitters say they can boost immune system,
regulate stomach acidity. They also urged
manufacturers to improve their on their
hygiene in their preparations.
Findings show that some of the bitters sold
in Yenagoa include Action Bitter, Washing
and Setting, Baby-Oku, Skelewu, Man-Power,
Swedish, Yoyo, Iguedo’s Goko Cleanser as well
as Chinese and India bitters. Dr Lucky Ameri,
Gynaecologist, Ovom Community Health
Centre, Yenagoa Local Government, said the
intake of bitters had nutritional value and
could also enhance fertility.
“Bitters are good for human body but we
must be careful of what is being sold in the
market these days. I know some bitters like
Swedish and Yoyo, but with the influx of
the unbranded ones nowadays, I must urge
consumers to be using those approved by
NAFDAC”.
Mrs Margaret Ogene, a nutritionist, said
bitters could aid digestion, reduce indigestive
discomfort and improve the daily function of
the digestive system.
Ogene said bitters could help to feed the
micro-bacteria that becomes healthy intestinal
flora and taken after a meal is actually a little
better but can also be taken before a meal.
Mrs Rotkang Okunlola, a pharmacist with
Dilimi Pharmacy in Jos, said many people
take bitters because of its believed potency.
According to her, these bitters are usually a rich
blend of medicinal herbs and roots believed
to cure back pains, pile, malaria, as well as
candidiasis (vaginal itching/toilet infection).
She said bitters were also used for the
cleansing (detoxification) of the system.
“Some people have advised me to use
bitters to increase libido, as it is considered an
aphrodisiac in Nigeria, while some females
use it to terminate unwanted pregnancies at
its early stage. Others use it in the weight loss
regiment. Most bitters have lots of claims of
what they can do therapeutically, especially
in terms of digestion, increasing libido and
general body detoxification.
“But these claims have little or no scientific
evidence to support them. The question is:
what do you do to an individual, whose
psychology is already fed with claims that they
work?”, she retorted. Okunlola advised that
more research be carried out on herbs used for
the bitters to know their scientific efficacy, in
order to avoid adverse effects.
The Chief Medical Director, CMD, Federal
Medical Centre (FMC), Makurdi, Dr Peteru
Inunduh, said bitters were strong spirits
that work against the human body system.
Inunduh said that Swedish, Yoyo, Alomo,
Orijin, and Agbo were strong alcoholic drinks
that affected the body negatively. “The damage
caused by such spirits is unimaginable. Those
who consume them daily are likely to die
young.”
Coordinator of NAFDAC in Benue,
Ibrahim Anikoh, said most bitters were not
registered by the agency. He warned against
indiscriminate consumption of bitters and
advised consumers to always look out for the
NAFDAC registration before consuming them.
He said some of the bitters sold in the markets
had no NAFDAC registration numbers,
adding that the markets were saturated with
fake bitters and advised consumers to verify
such drinks before taking them. Anikoh said
the agency was working hard to flush the
fake bitters from circulation. A consumer of
bitters, Mr Titus Adah, said bitters were the
best alcoholic drinks, claiming that they charge
the brain and make it function better. He also
claimed that they energize the body system by allowing the flow of blood to all organs to
function effectively.
Mr Stephen Laiko, Bauchi State
Coordinator, NAFDAC, said most bitter
herbal drinks were dangerous to human
health. He said that such drinks were
not supplements or drugs that should be
consumed as the bitter tastes could cause
havoc to consumers. Laiko advised people
to abstain from excessive consumption of
bitter drinks to avoid medical disorder.
He said that NAFDAC had tested some
of the bitter drinks and provided them with
registration numbers, having been found to
be less harmful. “Bitter drinks are not drugs
or supplements; if you must drink, it is
advisable to consume those with NAFDAC
numbers because they had been tested and
found not to contain intoxicants”, he said.
The chairman, Association of Resident
Doctors, Specialists’ Hospital, Gombe, Dr
Raymond Dankoli, cautioned those who
believed in the efficacy of bitter herbal
drinks. He said some of the drinks had
negative effects on body organs, especially
liver, kidney and lung. “It is possible that
some people derive benefits from the drinks
and therefore attach importance to them.
That does not mean they are not harmful”,
he stressed.
A pharmacist in Uyo, Mrs Nkechinyerem
Jonathan, said that consumption of large
consumption of bitters could be detrimental
to liver and other parts of the human body.
Jonathan noted that consumption of proper
dosage of bitters could be useful to the body
as anti-oxidant. She said in most cases,
long term use of bitters could increase liver
enzymes and result in a condition called
artherosclerosis. The pharmacist explained
that artherosclerosis is the hardening of the
arteries, which could cause heart attack,
heart failure, myocardial infection, stroke
and possibly death.
A medical doctor in Birnin Kebbi, Dr Saidu
Ibrahim, noted that long use of bitters may
manifest as liver failure, kidney problems
anaemia, cancer, stroke and enlargement of
the prostate gland. He said while consumers
find temporarily relief in the bitters, the long
term effect to the body can lead to death
or prolonged and expensive treatment. He
called on health authorities and NAFDAC
to control and regulate the sale and
consumption of bitters.
A pharmacist, Mr Victor Moses, blamed
health authorities for the increase in the
consumption of bitters, noting that there
was very little control and regulation of
the products. “The majority of consumers
do so due to economic hardship especially
the youths who want to always feel high as
they lack work to do. The enforcement of
legislation against consumption of bitters
would prevent people suffering from
addiction and health hazards”, Moses said.
Mr kenneth Azikiwe, Kaduna State
Coordinator, NAFDAC, said all bitters in
the market have been duly registered and
certified.
Many other respondents agreed with the
view expressed by Azikiwe that “To check
the authenticity of the product, you will
see their label and the agencies’ approval
number given to them to certify the product
as good. You hardly find any bitters in the
market without NAFDAC number because
we go on routine check to ensure that all are
genuine for the safety of all Nigerians”, he
said. NAN

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