By Olorundare James Kunle
Billions of dollars may likely be needed to get a vaccine for coronavirus in order to save the world from economic collapse. And the result of this is expected to restore the several billion that may have been lost to the lockdown due to COVID-19. It is heartwarming that some African countries are in the race to get home-grown solutions. Madagascar has been promoting a homegrown solution called COVID ORGANICS. This is said to have cured a couple of COVID-19 patients while other symptomatic patients’ conditions are being ameliorated by the use Madagascar’s COVID Organics.
It is no more news that Senegal too has also been making COVID-19 tests kits using locally developed scheme thereby saving the Senegalese Government hundreds of thousands of US dollars or more. These are testimonies that stand out and show that while we are waiting for the WHO vaccine, we can still look inward to get solutions especially in a blessed country like Nigeria where there abounds loads of medicinal plants, herbs and bark.
I can remember that when I was growing up in the Western part of Nigeria, there were herbs that could be used to cure different diseases. I remember my little friends showing me leaves that could cure malaria, leaves that could cure asthma; yellow fever herbs mix etc. it was this memoir that pushed me into research to investigate the veracity of some herbs in Nigeria.
As the world is being ravaged by COVID-19, I started ruminating that if as little boys of between 8 and 11 years old, some of us then, could be talking about herbs based on knowledge transferred from parents, ancestral lineages and passing on the knowledge to peer groups and friends, I believe there are herbs that can cure COVID-19 if we diligently research and look for such.
The following herbs are known for some anti-biotics properties: Bitter Kola (Garcinia kola), Black seed (Nigella sativa), Lemmon (Citrus limon), Honey, Ginger (Zingiber officinale), Biobab fruit(Adansonia digitata. The same family and genus Garlic (Allium sativum) Onion (Allium cepa). Even neem tree (Azadirachta indica) is known to contain naturally active compounds that can cure different diseases and conditions without side effects if used appropriately.
I am sure many people can connect with what I am saying traditionally and few experts scientifically know about the antibiotic, immune-boosting and healing power of some of the above-mentioned leaves/herbs/fruit. The point is, why is the government not encouraging experts in herbs to come up with these solutions and let the scientific procedure of approval be vetted, approved and be conducted under the supervision of NAFDAC and we can document the empirical evidence after the approval. It is an established fact that the above-named Plants have minimal side effects can be verified by Toxicologist for contraindications and how to use. The Molecular biologist and biochemistry can also work with a botanist to come up with exact molarity and concentration needed for relevant dosage.
The billions being spent now to help return the economy back to normality could have been saved if we focus on homegrown solutions. If I may ask is there any guarantee that any of the vaccines will work? And when is it going to be ready? For now, on and off lockdowns and flare-ups of coronavirus could be the norm. And while we are doing that including the social distancing, we can also research our herbs that can cure COVID-19.
The National Assembly should pass a law that will encourage grant to researchers to research into local medicine and vaccine for all infectious diseases starting with COVID-19 since we are preaching local content let us practice it.
For me, I think the lesson should be what Madagascar did. Let every country look inward and proffer homegrown solutions. As of today, 6th May 2020, Madagascar has a total of 158 cases, 7 new cases with 101 recovered, remaining 57 active cases but no single fatality. This is a good record for a country that claims she has a cure, recorded no single fatality and, the infected patients are recovering steadily. My wish has always been; let our local content come to play in critical situations like this. The experts doing research should be encouraged to come up with different solutions giving us options for COVID-19 contagion. I believe we can do it.
Based on the foregoing, I strongly make the following recommendations:
- That Herbalist should be allowed to come forward with their solutions
- That NAFDAC that is statutorily established for this purpose should supervise the herbal solution following the due process of medical approval.
- That NAFDAC in conjunction with the Ministry of Health shall come up with a permanent approval process for permanent implementation.
- That Molecular Biologist, Biochemist, Virologist, Botanist, medical Doctors, Toxicologist, Immunologist Pharmacologist and other relevant experts of reputable status from our academic Ivory tower and medical research institute would be an independent panel that will put their reputation at stake to audit and approve what NAFDAC would approve. This independent auditor is necessary so as to remove political interference that may have emanated in the process.
- That this model shall be established permanently and would be part of our pandemic management system which I am proposing in a technical paper currently being researched.
- That Patent shall be issued to all successful solutions approved for production and even for export to neighboring Africa countries.
- There is less work for toxicologist since the side effects of these natural plants are minimal unlike the synthesized chemicals, the more reason why we should pass an Act of Parliament that will recognize this sector as part of the Ministry of Health. A Commission should be established under the Ministry to take care of this proposal.
- That the Federal Government of Nigeria shall encourage research for herbal medicine by budgeting for the research and the approval procedure so that everyday disease can be researched for green solutions which are known for limited side effects.
It is true that Vaccine and public health industry is a global multi-billion-dollar industry but we need to look inward and develop this industry since we are naturally blessed with herbs, shrubs and barks that are potent medicine to heal any known disease- just that we need to encourage research in that regard. I believe Nigeria can become a global healing house if our natural resources are well harnessed. We do not need crude oil to make Nigeria great, we can have medical tourists coming to Nigeria too.
Kunle is an independent researcher and a Senior Member of IEEE, New York with interest in Biomedical Solution, Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things Solutions to everyday problem. He has his Master’s Degree in Management from Bucks New University, England. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org