Nigeria marks African Traditional Medicine Day

Gloria Essien


Nigeria has joined the rest of Africa to celebrate the African Traditional Medicine Day.

The day is aimed at highlighting the importance of African herbs and roots.

The Nigerian minister of state for health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire said that indigenous people all over the world, including Africans, treated common diseases and ailments, using medicinal plants in their traditional practices, hence, the designation: “indigenous” medicine or “medicine of the people”.

“The African Region, like Asia and South America, is blessed with countless plant species, many with already known medicinal, others with yet to be discovered medicinal properties.

Over 50,000 species of such plants are in sub–Saharan Africa, of which it is believed 25% were in use for centuries for treatment and disease prevention. According to Maurice Iwu, about 2,000 plant species are presently used in indigenous African Medicines (2nd edition handbook of African Medicinal plants by Maurice M. Iwu, Feb. 2014).

Nigeria has over 8,000 species with potential benefits in ethno-medicine or ethno-pharmacy.

However, Europeans introduced conventional or scientific practice and pharmaceutical drugs which gradually displaced age-old Traditional medicine.

Nevertheless, up to 70% of our people use Traditional Medicine, either wholly or in combined with modern drugs. It is instructive that 25% – 45% of pharmaceutical drugs in use today are derived from traditional medicine plants in different parts of the world”. Ehanire said.

He noted that the Federal Ministry of Health, agencies and stakeholders are studying modalities to give traditional medicine a place in the nation’s health system.

Dr. Ehanire also said that the government shall support research and create liaison with traditional healers with a head start in knowledge of these plants, to develop, formulate and commercialise research findings into medicinal products.

‘This year’s commemoration urges utilisation of medicinal plants for finished products; an opportunity for pharmaceutical companies, private investors, food and cosmetics companies to create a value chain to qualify for agricultural business low interest rates and Bank of Industry (BOI) manufacturing loans. African currently benefits minimally from global herbal medicine market, estimated at 7 trillion USD in 2050, dominated by China, India, US, UK & Thailand”. The minister of state added.

Earlier, the representative of the World Health Organization, Dr Hamzat Omotayo, said that scaling up local manufacturing of traditional medicine is key to achieving Universal Health Coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals.

“This will require stronger regulatory system in the countries to guard against low-quality medicines, and ensure locally manufactured traditional medicine products and raw products and raw plant materials meet international standards of quality, safety and efficacy. Such medicines would comform to WHO criteria for registration and selection for inclussion in national essential medicines list,” WHO said.

He stressed that local manufacturing of traditional medicine products also require a political, regulatory and economic environments.

Adding that WHO would continue to build management skills and capacity around quality control and registration of traditional medicine products.

On her part, the Director Department of Traditional, Complementary & Alternative Medicine TCAM, Pharmacist Zainab Sheriff, said that the celebration of the African Traditional Medicine Day is a prove of the efficacy of African plants as the next phase of remedy.

“We needs to move the agenda of traditional medicine in Africa forward. Africa is blessed with many medcinal plants. We need to improve on them to address disease burdens,” she said.

The Director General of the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development, NIPRID, Dr. Obi Adiqwe, said that the institute promises to continue the partnership relevant stakeholders in the development of traditional medicines to the benefits of Nigerians.

The theme for this year African Traditional Medicine Day is “Local Manufacturing of African Traditional Medicine Products in the African Region”.

The Day was adopted at  a summit of African Heads of State in 2001 to take cognisance of the fact that both rural and urban dwellers use traditional medicine exclusively or in combination, at community level.