Herbal Medicine in Nigeria: A Practice at the Clinical Crossroad

Download Article

Authors : Orgah Adikwu, Emmanuel, Orgah O, John


Nigeria has one of the most varied ecosystems and expanse bio-resources and biodiversity. Its biodiversity is an important source of food, medicines and natural products. The natural products form the basis for varied traditional medicine systems that have been in existence and sustained the people for thousands of years. The traditional medicine practices of Nigeria are as diverse as the people of Nigeria which is made up of more than 300 ethnic communities.

The traditional medicine practice systems of Nigeria is bedevilled with the double throng challenges of inadequate documentation and lack of clinical evidence bases for use since their uses by many cultures have not been properly and extensively documented, and various practice centres fall short of meeting the basic standard requirement for clinical practice. It is right therefore to point out that the wealth of Nigeria’s traditional medicine knowledge and its associated rich practices lack structured evidence based systems to support clinical claim for integration into the mainstream health system. In this regard, only a few if any such as the PAX herbal clinic is a model for emulation.

This shortcoming is quite critical if we consider that Nigerian Traditional Medicine systems and medicines play vital roles in the healthcare delivery of the people especially at the level of primary healthcare. Also, that it is a vital source of natural product leads for the development of the most effective drugs for the treatment/management of a variety of human ailments. The import of this shortcoming becomes glaring if we reflect on the report pointing out that the global trend for incorporation of traditional medicine into health systems was on the increase globally. And also that such use is in the light of chronic ailments which conventional medicine is incapable of treating.

This paper will attempt to discuss the critical challenge of integrative medicine –herbal medicine at the crossroad of clinical practice in Nigeria- in a quest for a mainstream strategy for acquiring evidence bases and translation of Nigerian Traditional medicines to clinical care.

Key words: Herbal Medicine, Traditional Nigerian Medicine, Translational Medicine, Clinical Research


[1]. Ademuwagum, Z. S., (1973). Problems and Prospects of Integrating Traditional Health Care System and Methods With Modern Medical Therapy -The Igbo-Ora Experience in Proceedings of the International Symposium on Traditional Medical Therapy: A Critical Appraisal; December 10 – 16, 1973 National Science and Technology Development Agency, B, Stranchan Street, P.M.B. 12695, Lagos, Nigeria. Page 35-38.

[2]. Ameh S. J., Obodozie, O. O., Chindob, B. A., Babalola, P. C., and Gamaniel K. S., (2012). Herbal Clinical 'I'rials-Hlstorlcal Development and Application in the 21st Century. Pharmacologia 3(5): 121-131, DOI: 10.5567/pharmacologia.2012.121.13l 2012. Science Reuters, UK

[3]. Brownson, R. C., Kreuter, M. W., Arrington, B. A., True, W. R., (2006). Translating Scientific Discoveries Into Public Health Action: How Can Schools Of Public Health Move Us Forward? Public Health Reports Volume 121, 97-103

[4]. Bubela T., Boon H. and Caulfield T., (2008). Herbal remedy clinical trials in the media: a comparison with the coverage of conventional pharmaceuticals BMC Medicine, 6:35 doi:10.1186/1741-7015-6-35 available from: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/6/35

[5]. Emmanuel, L. A., (1973) Nigeria traditional medicine –A conceptual Analysis in Proceedings of the International Symposium on Traditional Medical Therapy: A Critical Appraisal; December 10 – 16, 1973 National Science and Technology Development Agency, B, Stranchan Street, P.M.B. 12695, Lagos, Nigeria. Page 52-57.

[6]. Ernst, E., Cohen, M. H., Stone, J., (2004). Ethical problems arising in evidence based complementary and alternative medicine. J Med Ethics, 30, 156–159. doi: 10.1136/jme.2003.007021

[7]. Frenkel, M. A., and Borkan J. M., (2003). An approach for integrating complemetary–alternative medicine into primary care. Family Practice, 20(3), 324–332. Doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmg315, available online at www.fampra.oupjournals.org

[8]. Graz, B., Elisabetsky, E., and Falquet, J., (2007). Beyond the myth of expensive clinical study:Assessment of traditional medicines Journal of Ethnopharmacology 113 382–386

[9]. Harrison, I. E., (1973). Traditional Healers: a Neglected Source of Health Manpower in Proceedings of the International Symposium on Traditional Medical Therapy: A Critical Appraisal; December 10 – 16, 1973 National Science and Technology Development Agency, B, Stranchan Street, P.M.B. 12695, Lagos, Nigeria. Page 27 – 31.

[10]. Jia, W., Kohlmeier, M., Lu, A., Zeng, R., (2013). Translational Research in Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2013/296817

[11]. Orgah A.E (2008). Enhancing domestic drug production capacity in developing countries: approaches, prospects and Constraints. In –Advances In Natural Products; Importance in Health and Economy 2008. Page 181-191; Centre for Science and Technology of the Non-Alligned and other developing countries (NAM S&T Centre). Daya Publishing House, Delhi 110035

[12]. Qian, M., Wu, D., Wang, E., Marincola, F. M., Wang, W., Rhodes, W., Liebman, M., Bai, C. Lam, C.-W., Marko-Varga, G. Fehniger, T. E., Andersson, R. and Wang, X., (2012). Development and promotion in translational medicine: perspectives from 2012 sino-american symposium on clinical and translational medicine. Clinical and Translational Medicine 1:25 http://www.clintransmed.com/content/1/1/25

[13]. Shergis, J. L., Parker, S., Coyle, M. E., Zhang, A. L., and Xue C. C., (2013), ‘Key considerations for conducting Chinese medicine clinical trials in hospitals’. Chinese Medicine vol. 8, no. 3 http://www.cmjournal.org/content/8/1/3

[14]. Singh, H. P., Sharma, S., Chauhan, S. B., and Kaur, I., (2014). Clinical Trials of Traditional Herbal Medicines in India: Current Status and Challenges; International Journal of Pharmacognosy, 1(7): 415-421 http://dx.doi.org/10.13040/IJPSR.0975-8232.IJP.1(7).415-421

[15]. Sun, X. G., Lin, D., Wu, W., Lv,. Z.(2011). Translational Chinese Medicine: A Way for Development of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Chinese Medicine, 2, 186-190 doi:10.4236/cm.2011.24029

[16]. Verhoef, M. J., Vanderheyden, L. C., Dryden,T., Mallory, D., and Ware M. A., (2006). Evaluating complementary and alternative medicine interventions: in search of appropriate patient-centered outcome measures. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 6(38) doi:10.1186/1472-6882-6-38

[17]. Wang, X., Wang, E., Marincola, F. M., (2011). Translational Medicine is developing in China: A new venue for collaboration. Journal of Translational Medicine, 9(3).

[18]. WHO (Ed.). (2013). WHO traditional medicine strategy, 2014-2023. Geneva: World Health Organization (WHO).

[19]. WHO/EDM/TRM/2000.1 (2000). General Guidelines for Methodologies On Research and Evaluation of Traditional Medicine. WHO, Geneva.

[20]. Willcox, M. L., Graz, B., Falquet, J., Diakite, C., Giani, S., Diallo, D., (2011). A “reverse pharmacology” approach for developing an anti-malarial phytomedicine; Malaria Journal, 10(Suppl 1):S8 http://www.malariajournal.com/content/10/S1/S8

[21]. Xu Q., Bauer R., Hendry B. M., Fan T-P., Zhao Z., Duez P., Simmonds M. S. J., Witt C. M., Lu A., Robinson N., Guo D-a. and Hylands P. J. (2013). The quest for modernisation of traditional Chinese medicine; BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 13:132 http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6882/13/132

[22]. Zhang J M. (2012). Translational medicine in China. Sci China Life Sci, 55: 834–836, doi: 10.1007/s11427-012-4373-0

[23]. Zhang, B., Zhang, J., Hu, J., (2012). Thinking about translational medicine and traditional Chinese medicine. Journal of Translational Medicine, 10(Suppl 2):A33 http://www.translational-medicine.com/content/10/S1/A33