“Doctor, well-done oo. I just want to ask you a question. I’ve been taking my drugs oo but I saw one herbal drug. I just want to ask if it is okay to combine it with my drugs.”

The above is a statement that most health practitioners must have heard countless times during consultation.

Have you ever gone to a pharmacy to buy paracetamol and you are provided with different brands of paracetamol, each prescribing different dosages for the headache that you are experiencing, all ranging from 100mg to 500mg to 2g per dose for a headache? Then, pressing further with questions, you discover that this same paracetamol that was initially prescribed for treating headache can also treat hypertension, diabetes, ‘melt’ fibroid, cure dental pain and for the grand finale…repair your broken relationships while crediting your account with a million dollars…*chuckles*. I imagine that you’d be curious enough to look at this ‘wonder’ drug but not to consume it. Why? Because you’d understand that one medication does not have the capacity to treat all these illnesses.

Same applies to the man standing in the bus, screaming at the top of his voice with sweet details about how the content in a bottle he is holding up for “shikeni money” cures all the ailments listed above. Or the woman, on the roadside or at the corner of the streets, mixing all sorts of powders, liquids, and herbs with varieties of colours and consistencies making a “gbogbonise” – meaning “cure it all” …

Herbal concoctions are abundant in this part of the world. Ranging from water-based to alcohol-based, they are portrayed to have the capacity to cure all forms of ailments, from hypertension to the staphylococcus-causing gonorrhoea, fibroid to typhoid, erectile dysfunction to dental cares. Honestly, the possibilities such concoctions are usually advertised to have in a person’s health has never failed to astonish us.

It was once heard that pharmacists are licensed to “deal in poisons”. We have always known this, but it dawned on us afresh that every drug while a therapeutic medication is also a potential poison. This is why any drug has the capacity to lead to suicide if taken in the wrong dosage. So, pharmacists are trained to understand the right combination to ensure that a medication is made and administered at the right therapeutic dosage. These processes involve multiple clinical trials and months to years of intensive efforts that lead to a standardized method that ensures the safety of the consumers of the medication.

However, aside licensed pharmacists, the chemists, patent pharmacists, medicine vendors and “alagbos” also deals with drugs. This is usually where the problem lies, generally, herbal concoctions made in this part of the world do not usually undergo such rigorous processes to ensure consistent procedures are followed thereby ensuring the wellbeing of the consumers. These medications have been found to contain alarmingly high levels of strong medications and have been found to eventually cause more harm than good to consumers. As they cannot be measured, dosed, or even verified.

This is not to discount the benefits of local herbs. Any physician worth their salt is aware of the importance of herbs and local, whole foods in the overall health of an individual. One can therefore infer that the problem is not the herbs in and of themselves but the composition and the combination of the herbs into ‘bitters’ or ‘tonics’ that can do all but raise the dead.

We do believe that herbs play a vital role in improving the health of an individual. These plants are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals and fibre for the body and play important roles in cellular repair and functioning. And so, here’s my counsel: if you feel inclined to consume herbs, plants, vegetables, by all means, do so but ensure you are making them from scratch so you can be sure of the composition of what you are consuming. Also, understand that - moderation is key. The natural-ness of a thing does not mean you can consume in excess; for even water, when found in excess proportions in the body can be detrimental. Therefore, in all your consumption, be sure to consume in moderation. To conclude, concerning the mass production of herbal concoctions for public consumption, governing bodies arising to ensure proper monitoring of the manufacturing processes to ensure a standardisation of production would ensure that there is a minimum standard found in these products and a regularization of the processes involved thus ensuring the safety of all.

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