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PRACTICE OFTRADITIONAL/COMLEMENTARY/ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE IN NIGERIA — BREAKING AWAY FROM FOREIGN INFLUENCE – WHERE ARE WE?

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This piece is premised on the fact that Nigeria can be greater than it is at the moment with the cooperation of the government and the governed. Some of the ingredients required, apart from good governance are the can-do-spirit, patriotism and a collective resolve to make Nigeria a much better nation by all of us Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora. Part of our objectives on TERRIFIC HEADLINES is to invite attention to critical issues as well as provide platforms for interactions for positive developments.  It is in the spirit of carrying the populace along and bringing the government and the governed together that this piece is rolled out. It would certainly be beneficial if all Nigerians at home and abroad join to promote Nigeria’s points of view on development in order to record real growth. This compilation aims basically at sensitizing the general populace and everybody who could make Traditional/Alternative/Complementary medicine work for the common good. This is a sub-sector that has a strong potential of growing the national economy phenomenally, move up the standard of living, and conserve the nation’s foreign reserves, moving towards a self-dependent economy, increase employment opportunities and also increase domestic production.

RECOGNITION BY THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Nigeria is abundantly endowed with human and material resources that could sustain high and broad-based growth and development. More importantly, our country boasts of the highest pool of highly educated and trained manpower in Africa. This is in addition to our large population which offers the largest market for investors in Africa. It is imperative for leaders to show the way for advancements to be recorded, in a transformational manner. Governments must lead the way and guide the citizenry to adopt the best global practices. Why is this issue very important? Principally, Nigeria must not be left behind in an increasingly globalized world.  The World Health Organization estimates that 80% of people worldwide rely on herbal medicines for some part of their primary health care. In Germany, about 600 to 700 plant-based medicines are available and are prescribed by some 70% of German physicians.  The World Health Organisation (WHO) Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014–2023, was developed and launched in response to the World Health Assembly resolution on traditional medicine (WHA62.13). The strategy aims to support member states in developing proactive policies and implementing action plans that will strengthen the role traditional medicine plays in keeping populations healthy.

An allusion to its origin and practice is very important. For example, there is Ayurvedic medicine in India and Chinese Traditional Herbal Medicine in China. It is also widely used in other European and Asian countries. Coming nearer home in Africa, different African countries have for a long time used all sorts of herb for the treatment of different types of diseases.. Give the strides recorded in some other nations particularly the Far-East, it is very obvious that we have not been able to assimilate a great deal of knowledge on the usefulness of Traditional Medicine practice and its importance in modern times. Paul Joseph Nanna, writing in the Guardian Newspaper of May 10, 2018, asserts that: ‘’the problem of Herbal medicine in Nigeria is that it is not well documented. Herbalists with vast knowledge all over the country have died not having recorded the knowledge of Herbal medicine for descendants.

ADVOCACY FOR PROPER DOCUMENTATION & RECOGNITION: Atilade explained that: ‘’there are two broad branches that paved way to a unified front to have the bill for an Act to provide for the establishment of Complementary and Alternative Medicine Commission, and also a bill for an act to provide for the establishment of the Traditional Medicine Council of Nigeria. Atilade continued: ‘’As healers, we know that the main branches are Traditional Medicine (TM) and Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM)  According to him, ‘’Traditional Medicine comprises diviners (Babalawo) and physicians (Onisegun), who use ingredients such as herbal plants and parts of animals, among others for healing. TM comprises the old way that is highly indigenous to people. CAM, on the other hand, is bringing into a place the way of healing of another place (their traditional medicine) to a people, i.e, the traditional medicine of another country. The CAM includes Chiropathy, Naturopathy, Acupunture, Osteopathy etc. The merging of these two broad branches paved the way to a unified front to have the bill for an Act to provide for the establishment of complementary and alternative medicine commission, and also a bill for an act to provide for the establishment of the Traditional Medicine Council of Nigeria.

Herbal medicine is one of the oldest forms of medicine in the world. Indeed, it has been very well studied and documented in some countries of the world like the Peoples Republic of China and India.  Essentially, the fact remains that we are aware of the potency of these herbs and plans that many purchases off the shelves in local markets. The prescription of what quantity to take and how to administer these substances are the concerns in some quarters. The potency of the mixtures of herbs is not in doubt. Areas that are fascinating include how our progenitors utilized traditional birth attendants and even bone-setters that heal injured bones

UNDERSTANDING HERBAL MEDICINE: Rev (Dr) Mike Oye, a Naturopath/Alternative Medicine practitioner points out that it is very possible to live healthily without drugs through good diets, discipline, and adequate appropriation of nature. Good diets are produced from herbs that are common in our environment. He asserts that whatever is natural is always better for human consumption than synthetic alternatives. Nanna, cited above says: ‘’Herbal medicine is an important and significant part of alternative medicine. It is a part and parcel of alternative treatment methods. ‘’Herbal medicine involves the use of different parts of the plant. Parts of the plants have medicinal properties. These parts include the leaves, stem, fruits, seeds, flower, and roots. These chemicals are the nutrients that make up deficiencies of the chemicals when they are introduced into the body. Herbal medicine can both be preventive and curative. Herbs are essentially the vegetables that we consume on a daily basis. If we consume them with understanding with intent to prevent disease(s) then food would indeed have become our medicine and medicine our food’’ But for long, this important sub-sector of the health practice has been neglected.

THE ROAD TO FORMAL RECOGNITION – EFFICACY: Nanna, in the publication cited above is optimistic that the trend of poor attention to traditional medicine would soon change given the commitment generated by present-day practitioners. Herbal medicine, he says has been practiced and used for the treatment of numerous ailments for centuries. ‘’Be that as it may, we the consumers must ensure we purchase the products from trustworthy and reliable outlets. Also, the products must be manufactured and packaged from reputable companies. ‘’Always make sure you read the labels on the bottles and packets of the supplements well’’ Alternative Medicine Practitioners have been recorded as dealing with many chronic, physical, mental, and spiritual human disorders in a holistic way.  A combination of Nigerian Alternative/Complementary medical practitioners could change the landscape of the health sub-sector in Nigeria through a Strategic Action Plan that must involve huge public enlightenment.

ENDANGERED SPECIES AS TRADITIONAL/NATURAL HEALERS GO INTO THEIR GRAVES WITH THEIR KNOWLEDGE Late Dr. Magnus Atilade, a Doctor of Chiropractic Medicine from North Eastern College of Chiropractic Medicine, Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States was the National President of the Natural Healers Association of Nigeria. He, like Rev (Dr) Mike Oye, was a Christian minister and president of Gospel Baptist Conference of Nigeria. Therefore, the question of God disallowing administration of herbs doesn’t exist. The positives are that Dr. Magnus Atilade was able to document traditional and complementary medicine before his death. Many practitioners are not that privileged on account of lack of proper education and records and enter the grave with their immense endowments in traditional and herbal medicine. Many others yet, never wished to pass on information on how they practice and ingredients because of the issue of intellectual theft. Thousands of Nigerians with vast knowledge in this field have had their knowledge interred with them.

WHY WE MUST INJECT LIFE INTO THIS SUB-SECTOR  — INCREASING ACCEPTANCE: Traditional medicine refers to health practices, approaches, knowledge, and beliefs incorporating plant, animal and mineral-based medicines, spiritual therapies, manual techniques, and exercises, applied singularly or in combination to treat, diagnose and prevent illnesses or maintain well-being (Fokunang et al., 2011) Types of Complementary and Alternative Medicine include the following:

Traditional medicine refers to health practices, approaches, knowledge, and beliefs incorporating plant, animal and mineral-based medicines, spiritual therapies, manual techniques, and exercises, applied singularly or in combination to treat, diagnose and prevent illnesses or maintain well-being (Fokunang et al., 2011) Types of Complementary and Alternative Medicine include the following: Acupuncture, Ayurveda, Homeopathy & Naturopathy.

BENEFITS: More affordable than conventional medicine; Easier to obtain than prescription medicine; Stabilizes hormones and metabolism; Natural healing; Strength in the immune system; Fewer side effects and cost-effective. In fact, Herbal medicine has been practiced and used for the treatment of numerous ailments for centuries. The rate at which Herbal medicine has been increasing in popularity is interesting. (Wachtel-Galor & Benzie, 2011) assert that: ‘’the most common reasons for using traditional medicine are that it is more affordable, more closely corresponds to the patient’s ideology, allays concerns about the adverse effects of chemical (synthetic) merule of lawdicines, satisfies a desire for more personalized health care, and allows greater public access to health information. Natural healers say the major use of herbal medicines is for health promotion and therapy for chronic, as opposed to life-threatening, conditions. However, usage of traditional remedies increases when conventional medicine is ineffective in the treatment of disease, such as in advanced cancer and in the face of new infectious diseases. Furthermore, traditional medicines are widely perceived as natural and safe, that is, not toxic. Experts believe this is not necessarily true, especially when herbs are taken with prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, or other herbs, as is very common, In fact, many people are now turning to herbal medicine. This follows concrete evidence and testimonies of their potency.

THE NEED FOR PASSAGE OF BILL ON TRADITIONAL MEDICINE PRACTICE & SPECIAL FUNDING SUPPORT EFFICACY: A study conducted by E.C. Raphael titled: Traditional Medicine in Nigeria laments ‘’there are some problems limiting the development such as lack of standardization, efficacy and quality control of plants used, extinction of some plant species, and lack of funds and others. These problems when fully addressed will help future development. Current status and the future states that ‘’Medicinal plants have played a key role in the world health care with about 80% of Africans depending on herbs for the treatment of diseases, especially that priority diseases of Africa such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, sickle cell anemia, diabetes, and hypertension could be treated the local way.

WINDING JOURNEY: The journey to regulatory approval by the government has been long and tedious. We have spent decades for us to put traditional medicine on a sound footing. The Nigerian Council of Physicians of Natural Medicine has called for the democratization of the health sector in a way that would give Traditional Medicine/CAM full authority through regulatory rules that would follow the passage of the Bill currently before the National Assembly. Traditional Medicine practitioners believe that the necessary regulatory laws would encourage people with solutions to terminal or degenerative diseases or illnesses to come out and declare them. From investigations, some important steps need to be taken to encourage the practice of traditional medicine. These include putting in place the guidelines against discrimination and stealing of Propriety Rights, laying out the scope of practice, and research that has to be encouraged and sponsored. A Bill, the practice of TM/CAM, experts say, would curb possible excesses of practitioners and guarantee discipline. Additionally, patients would be able to express their preference for treatment; to avoid incidents of patients patronizing quacks.

WHY WE MUST NOT DELAY: As of 2014, Nigeria spent US$ 1 billion on medical tourism and treatment of ailments that could be handled locally through complementary and alternative medicine. Apart from conserving foreign reserves, it is an income-generating venture. Nearly Ghana is reported to be making US$ 3 million daily from the practice of alternative medicine. Given its advantages, Nigeria must not tarry any longer in the development of Traditional Medicine, Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) or any good issue that is of common benefit. In fact, the United Nations (UN) and WHO have urged all governments to give due recognition to traditional medicine through the WHO traditional medicine strategy: 2002–2005, the updated strategy for the period 2014–2023. In line with WHO recommendation, it devotes more attention than its predecessor to prioritizing health services and systems, including traditional and complementary medicine products, practices and practitioners. Having personally witnessed how Traditional/Alternative/Complementary Medicine works abroad, I am personally convinced that a swift move by the authorities to push the Bill on Traditional Medicine practice and the adoption of the Chinese model in a way that suits our local requirements would be hugely beneficial to the masses.

MORE SOLID GROUNDWORK TO BE DONE: Investigations reveal that the Federal Ministry of Health has in the past few years taken steps further to get the federal government’s formal nod by way of rolling out the appropriate legislations recognizing the importance of traditional medicine for the development of the health sector. Health Minister, Dr Ehanire most recently disclosed the government’s plans to integrate alternative/complementary studies into the curriculum of health science students in the country. If that happens, Nigeria will be adopting the Chinese model. For instance, the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine is a state-level key institution under the direct leadership of the State Education Commission. Dongzhimen Hospital, an affiliate to Beijing University of Chinese Medicine has a clinical research base with a special focus on stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, nephropathy, and other illnesses.

Beijing Medicinal Botanic Garden is the Chinese herbal cultivation base of providing herbs for scientific research. There are over 600 kinds of medicinal plants in a 160- acre ground. The integration of Chinese Medicine and Western Medicine is generally practiced in some Chinese hospitals. Besides prescribing western medicine, doctors also make very good use of modern medical equipment in the process of diagnosis. This is the result of the implementation of policies of visioning and long-range planning. We have highly qualified Nigerians here and abroad, who could perform a similar feat.

INTEGRATION & LEARNING FROM THE CHINESE EXAMPLE:  Director-General of the National Foods & Drugs Administration & Control, NAFDAC, Prof. Moji Adeyeye has, at the 1st Public Lecture Series of the Nigeria Association of Pharmacists in Academia (NAPA), University of  Ilorin Branch explained that: “China does 75 percent of treatment with herbal products… Their Universities-I am talking of a whole University that is traditional-Chinese Medicine University and it is not in one city, it is scattered all over China; because they have realized what they have been blessed with. They have worked on it for ages and many times they do poly-herbal knowing that with experience and time, that one herbal plant can actually reduce the side effects of another and enhance effectiveness. So, they do poly-herbal and it was an eye-opener for me and my students…’ However, says Adeyeye: “There is an inadequate level of research and low output of research herbal medicines. There are problems of collaboration and cooperation of practitioners with scientists and researchers. What is the use of having good knowledge of traditional medicine if you are going to die with it?’’ (Premium Times of August 30, 2019)These are issues that should engage the attention of experts that must come together to make it work in Nigeria.

MEDICAL TOURISM & CAPITAL FLIGHT: If Nigeria could get it right, the future certainly holds bright prospects for the health sector. Official reports compiled as of 2014, indicated that 30,000 Nigerians spent $1 billion annually on medical tourism. The Report released by the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority revealed that Nigeria would make huge gains if the affluent class had the will and determination to end the capital flight and invest the money back in the local economy. 60 percent of the said amount is spent on four major areas of healthcare, namely: cardiology, orthopedic, renal dialysis issues and cancer.  Methodically, Traditional Nigerian Medicine must be deeply rooted in the hearts of the Nigerians. China has produced professors in Alternative Medicine. The Beijing University of Chinese Medicine is a state-level key institution under the direct leadership of the State Education Commission and offers courses in traditional medicine.

WORKABILITY & PATRIOTISM: Indeed, this is an area that should ideally be managed through the policy of visioning and long-range planning. Dongzhimen Hospital, an affiliate to Beijing University of Chinese Medicine has a clinical research base with a special focus on stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, nephropathy, and other illnesses. Beijing Medicinal Botanic Garden is the Chinese herbal cultivation base of providing herbs for scientific research. There are over 600 kinds of medicinal plants in a 160- acre ground. Chinese medicine is practiced in orthodox hospitals in China.  Besides prescribing Western medicine, doctors also make very good use of modern medical equipment in the process of diagnosis. One of the hospitals works with Shanghai Medical University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in a joint Masters’ Degree programme.

THE NEED FOR PROPER FUNDING BY GOVERNMENTS AT THE THREE TIERS: The resilience of Africans has made it possible for the region to weather many storms that have been of immense cost to humanity. The World Health Organization Africa Region (WHO AFRO) officially designated the date of August 31st of each year as Alternative Traditional Medicine Day.  The WHO has campaigned to the world to recognize, respect, conduct research, and partner with the system of African traditional medicine and traditional knowledge. The Federal Minister of Science & Technology, Dr. Ogbonaya Onu had two years ago pleaded for more funding for the Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency (NNMDA) Lagos, and the Nigerian Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) Abuja.

Without doubt, we have clear pictures of the type of nation we are collectively constructing. Encouragement and support are two key factors that we require at this moment to grow the practice of traditional medicine. Nigeria’s leaders have tried their possible best. But we can do better. Let our fundamental commitment be to the sustenance of this vision to make Nigeria great by laying a solid foundation for traditional medicine practice. From my point of view, there must be an irrevocable commitment to getting the issue under reference approved in no time. Even if this issue must require extra-budgetary provision through supplementary budget approvals, it is worth supporting the venture. If it must involve a special presidential approval for funds to be provided without further delay, let those people pushing the idea go table their case before Mr. President for approval of special funds to manage projects connected to the matter under reference.

SUGGESTED ACTIONS:  In the meantime, the Federal Ministry of Health, and the Federal Ministry of Science &   Technology must discuss further the Plans of Action on inventions and the technological aspects of moving this policy forward.  The Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade & Investment and its appropriate parastatals/agencies could commence exploratory talks and plans with regard to financing projects in traditional healing that would arise from further necessary actions.  Of course, the Bank of Industry must be prepared to commence talks with officials of the Federal Ministry of Health and the Association of Traditional/Alternative Medicine Practitioners to determine the modalities for funding projects that may emerge.

 A GOOD TEAM & REQUEST FOR PRESIDENTIAL PROCLAMATION: Fortunately, we have in office as Health Minister, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, with good connections in the private sector and Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora, who came in with a wealth of legislative and technocratic experiences. Mamora is deeply respected in high places. That is the key ministry to coordinate action. They could move swiftly and leave their names on the positive pages of history.

Nigerians are waiting. We don’t have to wait for too long. May the Good Lord bless Nigeria.

Please join us on Terrific Headlines channels every Saturday for the piece: MIKE OYE ON SATURDAY. Our guide on the activity that promotes alternative/traditional medicine, Rev (Dr) Mike Oye is an Independent Alternative Medicine Practitioner and an experienced Christian Minister for over five decades. He holds two Ph.Ds in Agriculture & Naturopathy and has a track record of effectively dealing with many chronic, physical, mental, and spiritual human disorders in a holistic way.