Q: Doctor, I usually use “agbo” and several other local herbal medicines  whenever I am sick. It works for me better than all these “oyinbo” [modern] medicines. I just want to ask: Is there any harm? Why do medical people discourage traditional medicine? [PARAPHRASED]

A: Thanks. This is a very important question.

Many modern forms of healing have their origin in traditional medicine. Many modern pharmaceutical drugs are processed, (formulated, purified, and packaged) from plants which had long use in our indigenous cultures and traditions. And some herbal preparation and traditional procedures (like bone-setting) have enjoyed successes in health and in the healing art.

Why, then, do we feel uncomfortable when people use locally-prepared herbs and concoctions?

This is because of the several serious medical problems the use of some of these traditional interventions causes. I see them regularly, especially, in my rural medical practice during my NYSC service year.

Little or no researches have been done on many of these concoctions. We hardly know what they contain, and the exact amount of the constituents. Are there some harmful substances? You can’t tell.

Some chemical substances in plants become poisons if a certain amount is given without considering the size, age, and condition of the patients. You hardly consider these.

How are we sure you are not taking a lethal dose or dangerous amount that will eventually accumulate in the body, over-powering your liver, or shutting-down your kidneys?! You are not sure!

Some of these herbs have serious side-effects and cause allergic reactions.  You see? Others interfere with modern drugs rendering them less effective or even poisonous!

We are not even sure of the level of hygiene employed when preparing the concoctions. And so on.

I have a lot to say on this. But, maybe some other time. For now, all I will say is: Be careful!

“Natural” doesn’t necessarily mean “harmless”.