Many patients in the North Central part of the country have turned to traditional medicines to cure the various ailments afflicting them, attributing it to high cost of orthodox medicines and their belief that orthodox medicines are inefficient.
A survey conducted by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Plateau, Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba states, found that patients use roots and herbs, believing that it is the best to treat their conditions.
Others, the survey revealed, turn to herbal remedy because of their inability to afford the “expensive” modern diagnosis and treatment.
Some of them also explained that they use herbs and roots to treat certain ailments whose cure cannot be found in orthodox medicine.
In Benue, a cross-section of users and practitioners of traditional medicines which include herbal and root concoctions, say they treat most of the ailments unknown to orthodox medicines with herbs and roots.
They listed the diseases to include Akpiti (Arthritis) and Usu, a sensation of fire inside the body that defies drugs for treatment of malaria fever and typhoid fever.
Others are Dagi, a deep wound around the foot, believed to be a mystical infection that is not easily cured by modern drugs.
One of the users, Dorcas Mnguter, said that some sicknesses cannot be effectively treated using orthodox medicines.
According to her, pile is better treated traditionally, saying that most hospitals prefer to treat pile through surgery, which comes with a lot of side effects.
Pile, which is another term for haemorrhoids, is a collection of inflamed tissues in the anal canal, containing blood vessels, support tissue, muscle, and elastic fibres.
Ms Mnguter believes that once the anus is operated on, it cannot control faeces any longer and will continue to flow ceaselessly, “but such condition can easily be treated using traditional medicines at less cost.
“I am speaking based on experience. My first child had pile and we took him to the hospital and the doctors immediately recommended surgery.“We did not have the money to foot the bills of the operation. Out of desperation, I put a call across to my sister in-law and explained the situation to her.
“She then asked me to take the child to her. So, when I got there, she said that one old woman in her mother in-law’s village is a specialist in that.
“I believed her because she gave me testimonies of the people treated and cured.
“When we took the boy to her, she commenced treatment immediately. It was in the morning, and before evening, the boy was healed. She gave me some leaves to be rubbing on it.
“This happened at a little cost because I spent less than N1,000; till today, the boy has not experienced any pain again.”
Terngu Shom, a Makurdi resident, said he patronises traditional health practitioners because of the efficacy and cost of the drugs.
Another user, Boniface Kper, claims that traditional bone setters can treat broken bones better than the modern hospitals.
Mr Kper said “treatment of fractured bones in the hospital has some negative effects; it takes longer time and leaves some people with deformity.
“If the broken bones are on the leg, the affected leg becomes shorter than the other leg, and if it is on the hand, it will not get back to normal.
“But all these challenges are tackled with ease by traditional bone setters.”
A traditional medicine practitioner in Makurdi, Tyonongo Asue, said herbs and roots are very effective in treating ailments unknown to orthodox medicine.
Mr Asue listed some of the herbs and roots to include mahogany, banana leaves and stems, moringa leaves and seeds.
Others are neem leaves, stems and roots, orange, guava, pawpaw and mango leaves.
He said “guava, pawpaw, orange and mango leaves are used for the treatment of ulcer and ‘Jedijedi’.
“Moringa is a wonder plant. Its products are used in treating various ailments ranging from high blood pressure, ulcer, typhoid fever and others.
“Neem and mahogany leaves, as well as the roots are used for the treatment of malaria and typhoid fever.”
Nyieyima Orvande, another herbal practitioner in Makurdi, said “there are various herbs that provide cure for sundry ailments. I do not know their English names but I know their names in Tiv language.”
She listed them as “Kumenduur, neer, Ikyura, Mtemben, Toho Gire, Hulugh, Kungulaku, Nornor Gbaaye, and Kpar”, among others.
According to her, the use of such herbs has been tested over the years and proven to be highly effective by those who handed down the practice to them.
Similarly, some of the users in Plateau said they resorted to herbal medicine to treat ailments such as typhoid fever, malaria fever and diarrhea because of their efficacy.
One of them, Aminu Kogi, said he had been using herbal medicines for more than 20 years because he found them reliable, and had passed the culture onto his children.
Mr Kogi, a journalist, said “my family is knowledgeable in herbs and roots, and the people of my village adopted the culture of locally sourcing for herbs to treat various health challenges because it had been yielding positive results.
He added that “in my village, we do not go to dispensary to treat cough; we simply go to the bush to get palm tree, scrap the back, boil it and drink.
“Some of the leaves used for the treatment can be roasted and the powder taken with palm oil to treat cough, as well,” he said.
He also said that he had been treating himself and other people for malaria fever and typhoid fever with herbs, and that the remedy had been effective.
“If I have malaria or typhoid of sorts, I do not go to the hospital, I go and harvest some few combination of four leaves and take it for three days to get the required relief. This is what I have been using for 20 years; I do not spend money on orthodox drugs,” he said.
Mr Kogi also said he has the skill to set fractured bones locally, saying that “30 days is enough to heal a fractured bone, especially if it is not at the joint.
He explained that “generally, herbal treatment of health challenges is cheaper, accessible and effective.
“It is cost-effective and affordable. When you have a fracture, you spend about six months using Plaster Of Paris (POP) in hospital, but using traditional bone setter, the fracture can be healed in one month,” he said.
Meanwhile, Nanbol Daniel, the Chairman, House Committee on Health, Plateau House of Assembly, disclosed that a bill for Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine (TCAM) had already passed second reading at the state assembly.
Mr Daniel said that the bill, if signed into law, would enhance coordination, regulation and control of TCAM practice and its products.
He added that the bill would also facilitate the establishment of a Traditional Medicine Board which would help in regulating the sector to ensure that the substances used were hygienically produced, with appropriate dosage.
He said that the board would also ensure that the consumption of herbal medicines did not lead to health complications.
The chairman noted that the board, when established, would handle training, regulations, recruitment of staff and advocacy.
He explained that “people use herbal medicines because of out-of-pocket expenses. It is cheaper for people to go for herbal treatment than the orthodox one; and also, some people believe in myths.”
He noted that some people also go for herbal medicines because of the waiting time for test results and further diagnosis before treatment.
He, therefore, stressed the need for synergy to ensure that the components of the herbs were not harmful in treating different patients of the same ailments.
He said “herbs also have different effects on individuals even if they have similar ailments. In the orthodox medicine, these checks are done before drugs are administered, so, synergy is required to investigate the components of the herbs before they are given.”
He also cautioned people using herbs that some of the substances could affect the kidney, especially when taken in excess.
In Taraba, many residents also say that the use of herbs is rooted in their culture, and that they usually find it readily available, affordable and effective.
Akodi Hoku, who lives in Jalingo, said: “herbs and roots are my options anytime any day.”
According to Mr Hoku, common health issues such as malaria fever and typhoid fever are difficult to cure through orthodox medicines.
He said, “my family and I go for traditional roots and herbs because they are available, affordable and effective.”
Similarly, Yerima Abubakar, a resident of Takum, said even though he patronises orthodox medicines, he has more confidence in traditional medicines used by his forefathers before the advent of the healthcare centres.
Mr Abubakar explained that “the good thing about herbs and roots is that a lot of them are found free of charge around the community and are effective. These are things freely given to us by our creator.”
Another resident, Ashumate Tikon, also said traditional roots and herbs are highly curative if used properly.
Mr Tikon said “the healthcare centres are not enough to carter for the growing population and even the few ones available are not being managed well to enable them to render effective services to communities.”
She, therefore, advised the government to sponsor more research into the use of traditional roots and herbs to increase their effectiveness for the good of mankind.
In Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital, a user of herbs and roots, Titi Joseph, said “I prefer the local substances because they are potent, easily accessible and cheaper than the orthodox medicines sold in hospitals and pharmacies.”
Mrs Joseph said she used ‘agbo’, a mixture of different roots and plants such as guava, pawpaw, lemon grass to cure several ailments, including malaria fever, pile, diabetes without any serious side effects.
She said “for instance, the popular agbo jedi is made by herbal drink hawkers and sold cheap and used for washing away excess sugar in the body. A cup or dosage can be sold for as low as N50; it is good and effective and works for me and my family.”
Depending on the type of ailment, she said certain roots and herbs were put together for the purpose of extracting a unique liquid from the combination to cure the ailment in question.
Another resident of Lafia, Shola Babs, said some people patronise local bone setters instead of visiting the modern orthopaedic hospital because of the high cost charged there.
“Apart from that, some people strongly believe that local bone setters are the best for the job,” Babs said.