Written by Oluwatosin Fatade
Items that are considered edible are on a spectrum: on one end are those tagged ‘food’; at the other, poisons. Drugs, pills are somewhere in the middle. The age-long tussle between the white man’s pill and alternative Potions, herbal mixtures and traditional preparations is simply a matter of science. All drugs are herbs, food and potential poisons, the dose being the difference. The trick is to know how much of it to use, when and when not to use, among other things.
The white man has subjected his herbs to scientific procedures of knowing the active ingredient, its mechanism of action, how the body gets rid of it, its potential effects (both desired and undesired) and the corresponding doses at which it is simply an edible substance, a drug for a certain ailment and a toxic item or poison. What is majorly obtainable in developing and third world economies is a “one-size-fits-all” approach. We cannot tell what part of the potion actually does the trick or how it does it, we just know it does some ‘magic’. Unfortunately in the same vein, some of our health challenges are due to it, but we cannot tell too objectively.
A lot of research goes into these things. It is harmful to assume one thing can cure all.
As a doctor, I find it hypocritical when patients and clients who ingest herbs, Potions and concoctions without protest turn to interrogators when a pill (whose profile is tested and known) is prescribed. Usually, those herbs are advised by a non-medical fellow, a grandma or neighbour or self acclaimed leaves expert. They cannot tell you how the drug works or what its side effects and long term effects will be, but the promise is always the same, it will work! Some times, maybe most times, they’re lucky on the short term. Of course they’ll be long gone and effects untraceable to them should an issue arise much later. Remember that a doctor or health professional will and should inform you of the desired and undesired effects of the drug he/she is about to offer you, usually with an allowance of the possibility that it may not work or that it may fail in some cases. But it is the very things that are known that we question, not the unknown.
If we question our herbs and Potions as much as we do already standardised drugs, we would have gotten nearer to inventing more drugs and improving their safety.
In using drugs, dosage is very important, and this depends not just on the ailment to be treated but also on the recipient of that drug. A lot of parameters are considered, from the person’s weight, age, sex, other illnesses present to a host of many others. For instance, let’s assume that drug JKL is used to treat headache. A 5 yr old is likely to get a higher dose of JKL than a 2yr old. Two 5yr old with significant weight difference will get different doses; another 5 yr old with headache and cough may get a drug totally different from JKL. This is not so with herbs and Potions. A cup of herb PQR prepared by Mr D may not be as concentrated as Mr Z’s preparation with same ingredients.
The safety profile of drugs are also very important, before they can gain wide approval for use. Item APF at a dose of 2 spoons can be edible and pass as food, 4 spoons may achieve cure for a certain disease, 6 spoons can be as lethal as poison. These doses cannot be arrived at by mere trial and error, imagine you’re the one who had 6 spoons of APF.
We need local research, we need to fund them. We sure have very potent items for different diseases among us. We must be able to isolate them and repackage them into acceptable forms, not just for the world’s use to achieve cure but also so we stop poisoning ourselves without knowing it.