Traditional medicine according to the World Health Organization (WHO) refers to the knowledge, skills and practices based on the theories, beliefs and experiences indigenous to different cultures, used in the maintenance of health and in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental illness. Herbal medicine is a natural remedy derived from medicinal herbs in the management of disease. Herbal medicine is a part of traditional medicine and is the aspect that can be the most standardized and generalized of all aspects of traditional medicine Over 60% of the entire world’s population utilize traditional medicine, with over 80% of Africans depending on herbal medicine for treatment of disease as a first point of contact. Herbal medicine using medicinal plants have been found to have been used as early as 5000 years ago in places like ancient Egypt and Sumeria. Surprisingly, Nigeria has one of the highest volumes of biodiversity in the world in terms of the availability of medicinal plants of which many are yet to be studied or even discovered. The benefits of traditional medicine are not to be underestimated as we will discuss the benefits of traditional medicine and how it can eliminate our reliance on oil. Herbal medicine and traditional medicine will be used interchangeably for the purpose of this article.
Herbal medicine is more affordable than prescription medications. It is easier to obtain that prescription medication especially in Nigeria. Medicinal plants grow like weeds in Nigeria so to find it just require little to no effort. Herbal medicine stabilizes hormones and improves metabolism. Something as simple as wild yam root extract can help alleviate fertility problems in women. Following the conventional medical route, the woman will have to use dangerous synthetic hormones which are full of dangerous side effects. Herbal medicine promotes natural healing and strengthens the immune system. As of now, there is yet to be a pharmaceutical drug that helps the immune system for normal people without causing any dangerous side effects. On the other hand, several medicinal plants show strong immune boosting qualities. Traditional medicine generally has fewer side effects. This is due to the fact that they are not synthetically derived, the active ingredients are at lower concentration and therefore the side effect profile is also reduced.
Finally I base my conclusion of this; if Nigeria wants to eliminate our need for oil, investing in the development of traditional medicine is the way to go. Our current oil economy is declining; we produced just $17 billion USD worth in 2017. However, the current herbal medicine industry is worth about $117 billion USD. If Nigeria becomes one of the world’s major exporters of herbal products producing just 40% of the world’s herbal products, we will already be at $46 billion USD! The morphine industry used for managing post operative pain and chronic pain is a $10 billion USD industry and already, there are natural alternatives to morphine found in Nigeria that can offer even better pain relief without the dangerous side effects such as addiction and respiratory failure. Imagine combining that with a multibillion dollar food export economy and the sky is the limit for us. Traditional medicine if properly developed and standardized can be used in collaboration with conventional medicines to treat malaria, diabetes, sickle cell, and hypertension and even possibly cure HIV/AIDS. Let us all look inwards and find ways to improve the Nigerian economy, and the first step is to develop ourselves and develop our natural resources.