UNILAG research centre warns against use of herbal medicine for COVID-19 treatment

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UNILAG research centre warns against use of herbal medicine for COVID-19 treatment

By Balogun Damilola

 

The African Centre of Excellence for Drug Research, Herbal Medicine Development and Regulatory Science (ACEDHARS), University of Lagos, has warned against the use of herbal medicine for treatment of COVID-19.

The global pandemic has affected more than 2.5 million people around the world with 174,296 confirmed dead as of Monday, according to worldometer, a website dedicated to providing real-time statistics.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) had on several occasions reiterated that no cure or vaccine has been found against the respiratory disease.

Nonetheless, some people, including the Ooni of Ife, Enitan Ogunwusi, have claimed some herbal medicines are effective in treating the disease.

But in a report that ACEDHARS sent to PREMIUM TIMES on Tuesday, the research centre decried such claims.

The report was signed by the Director of the Centre, Olukemi Odukoya, and its COVID-19 Research Team leader, Ibrahim Oreagba; both of whom are professors.

“As at today, there is no treatment for COVID-19 but the present management is essentially supportive, repurposing of drugs, immune boosting (antioxidants), use of anti-inflammatory/antipyretic and antiviral agents.”

“There are many spurious claims on the use of medicinal plants with antiviral and immune boosting properties as home remedies for the prevention and management of COVID-19. Hence the need to enlighten the public accordingly.”

It agreed that the popularity of herbal medicine has increased due to its cheaper cost relative to orthodox medicine.

“Traditional remedies are compounded from natural products and for this reason it is claimed that there is a greater likelihood of its being accepted by the body than products synthesised in a laboratory,” it said.

Coronavirus (Photo Credit: Medscape)

The African Centre of Excellence for Drug Research, Herbal Medicine Development and Regulatory Science (ACEDHARS), University of Lagos, has warned against the use of herbal medicine for treatment of COVID-19.

The global pandemic has affected more than 2.5 million people around the world with 174,296 confirmed dead as of Monday, according to worldometer, a website dedicated to providing real-time statistics.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) had on several occasions reiterated that no cure or vaccine has been found against the respiratory disease.

Nonetheless, some people, including the Ooni of Ife, Enitan Ogunwusi, have claimed some herbal medicines are effective in treating the disease.

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But in a report that ACEDHARS sent to PREMIUM TIMES on Tuesday, the research centre decried such claims.

The report was signed by the Director of the Centre, Olukemi Odukoya, and its COVID-19 Research Team leader, Ibrahim Oreagba; both of whom are professors.

“As at today, there is no treatment for COVID-19 but the present management is essentially supportive, repurposing of drugs, immune boosting (antioxidants), use of anti-inflammatory/antipyretic and antiviral agents.”

“There are many spurious claims on the use of medicinal plants with antiviral and immune boosting properties as home remedies for the prevention and management of COVID-19. Hence the need to enlighten the public accordingly.”

It agreed that the popularity of herbal medicine has increased due to its cheaper cost relative to orthodox medicine.

“Traditional remedies are compounded from natural products and for this reason it is claimed that there is a greater likelihood of its being accepted by the body than products synthesised in a laboratory,” it said.

They however stated that the notion that herbal medicines are natural and thus, always safe (nontoxic) is false.

“It is important to note that all medicines can be toxic under specific circumstances. It is increasingly being realised that herbs like drugs can also interact in the same way that drug interactions occur,” it said.

“Research studies have shown that individual herbs contain a large number of substances which interact with substances in other herbs combined in an herbal preparation.”

The report noted that toxicity can result from contamination with harmful micro-organisms, pesticide residues and toxic metals, adulteration of herbal products, misidentification and from the natural chemistry of the herbs.

“Interactions and toxicity in the system of the user may result in more harm than good over time, a case of ‘cure one problem and develop more’. Kidney failure and liver damage are extreme consequences of irrational and prolong use of herbal medicines. The risk of a remedy producing an adverse reaction depends not only on the remedy and its dosage but also on consumer-related parameters such as age, genetics, concomitant disease and concurrent use of other drugs. Hence a lot of caution must be taken in the administration of herbal medicines or home remedies.”

However, according to the centre, active research on the possible use of herbal medicine in the management of COVID-19 infection is ongoing in the university.

“We welcome collaboration from all quarters. COVID-19, is a deadly viral disease and therefore requires collaborative efforts to curb its spread.”

“The use of herbal medicine(s) in the treatment of COVID-19 has not been established, however some herbs with known immune boosting properties which are readily available in our environment can help the body system fight the infection,” the centre concluded.

As of the time of filing this report, 665 Covid-19 cases have been confirmed in Nigeria after it recorded 38 new cases on Monday.

Also, 188 patients have been discharged, 22 have lost their lives to the pandemic.