Globally herbal practice has been dated to many centuries and historically to the creation of the world. Herbs were given to men by God for food and for the service of mankind (Genesis 1:29 – 30; Psalm 104: 14). Records of Native American, Roman, Egyptian, and Hebrew medical practices show that herbs were used extensively to cure practically every known disease. Herbs generally contain powerful ingredients that if used correctly can help heal the body. In Nigeria for example, the first person to practice healing was Orunmila. It was believed that God gave him this knowledge and he impacted the knowledge of herbal practice to his younger brother Osaniyan. However, it is important to give an overview of traditional medicine. According to the Traditional Medicine programme of the WHO, it is a complete sum of all knowledge and practices, whether explicable or not, used in diagnosis, prevention and elimination of physical, mental or social imbalance relying exclusively on practical experience and observation handed down from generation to generation, whether verbally or in writing.
Today’s renewed interest in herbs reflects increasing concern about the side effects of powerful synthetic drugs as well as the desire of many people to take charge of their own health, rather than merely submitting themselves to sometimes impersonal health care system through orthodox practice. We are also rediscovering the healthful benefits of diverse herbs that will enhance the balancing of mental, spiritual and physical health.
As civilization and globalization sets in, herbal medicine and practice have begun to receive wider recognition and acceptance. Although over the years, traditional medicine has been relegated to a marginal place in the health planning of developing countries. However, in recent times, traditional medicines have undergone a major revival and there has been increased awareness for traditional/herbal medicine as an alternative remedy for disease prevention and treatment. Every region has had at one point in time in history, a form of traditional medicine. We can therefore talk about Chinese traditional medicine, Arabic traditional medicine or African traditional medicine as the case may be. This medicine is traditional and deeply rooted in a specific socio-cultural context that varies from one community to another. To this end, we can then conclude that there are as many traditional medicines as there are communities, hence giving traditional medicine its diverse and pluralist nature. The WHO in its report on traditional medicine states that traditional medicine is practised in many countries, but not always included as part of the health system recognized by the government. It further describes traditional medicine as the surest means to achieve total health care coverage (WHO, 2001). Currently, over 40%-60% of the world population presently use herbal medicine for some aspect of their primary health care and it is believed that more people prefer traditional medicine in recent times. Herbal medicine is a major component in all indigenous people’s traditional medicine and a common element in Ayurvedic, homoeopathic, naturopathic, traditional oriental and Native American Indian medicine.
This field in recent times has begun to attract a number of local and foreign researchers where our organization, Nacu Herbal (Medi Herbs Limited) is equally a stakeholder. We have been successful in researching herbal remedies for diverse diseases including Diabetes, Hypertension, Infertility, Cancer and many others. Scientists are now taking a second look at herbal remedies considering the growing body of research which has pointed to the therapeutic potential of numerous herbal remedies. However, a lot of work remains to be done; only about 15% of the estimated plant species on earth have been investigated for possible medicinal uses. Consider the phytomedicine industry in Europe and United States which is thriving, extracts from medicinal plants are sold in the purified form for treatment and prevention of all kinds of disease. In developed countries, medicinal plants are considered for their capacity to generate other medicine for their own sake.
Traditional medicine has many advantages which include accessibility, acceptability, and affordability in many developing countries. However, there are challenges to overcome including lack of official government recognition of traditional medicine and traditional medicine practitioners, inadequate allocation of resources for traditional medicine development and capacity building, lack of scientific proof of efficacies of many remedies, the problem of ensuring proper use of medicaments and difficulties in protecting traditional medicine practitioner’s knowledge. For Nigeria, NAFDAC is beginning to take a keen interest in the development and promotion of herbal practice, having identified its enormous potential for health care delivery and its contribution to the nation’s economic development. It is therefore important to note that a healthy nation is a wealthy nation (3rd John1: 2). Nature’s pharmacy is an abundant one. Many herbs are rich in compounds that have beneficial effects on certain tissue and organs and therefore can be used as medicine to treat, cure or prevent diseases. Herbal remedies help to nourish the immune system, stimulate the regeneration of damaged liver tissue, build the strength of adrenal glands, counter the side effects of chemotherapy, balance the endocrine system, stimulate milk production, enhance fertility and ensure effective pancreas, improve night vision among many others.
Our renewed interest in herbal medicine is owed to our belief that natural herbs and natural therapy are more effective without adverse effects considering that the human system is formed from nature. In addition, the high rate of some diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, cancer and infertility has necessitated our research into herbs that can perform remedial and preventive actions in these domains. The growing importance and relevance of traditional medicine suggest to us as an entity to expand and provide more and as such our utmost desire is to contribute to providing herbal remedies for diverse diseases such as diabetes and hypertension globally