LAGOS/Nigeria: The African Centre of Excellence for Drug Research, Herbal Medicine Development and Regulatory Science (ACEDHARS), University of Lagos (UNILAG), says there is no scientific proof of use of herbal medicine to COVID-19 pandemic.
The Centre Director, Prof. Olukemi Odukoya, said in a statement on Monday in Lagos, that currently, there is no proven scientific evidence of any cure, drug or herbs for the treatment of Coronavirus that is ravaging the world.
According to him, however, some herbs with known immune boosting properties, which are readily available in our environment can help the body system fight the infection.
”It is important to understand that though, medicinal plants are of natural origin, they can be associated with toxicity and adverse effect, therefore, irrationally or indiscriminately,” Odukoya said.
The centre director decried the notion that herbal medicines were natural, and thus always safe, saying it was false.
”This is because, most viral infections are not curable. Intervention options for viral diseases are vaccination, which stimulates the body’s immunity against the infection.
”Others are allowing the virus to run its course, while treatment relieves the symptoms and antivirals to reduce the viral loads,” he said.
Odukoya noted that the first intervention was currently being worked upon, while the second was the daily battle happening at the isolation centres.
According to him, the third intervention (antivirals) can be utilised at the isolation centres, but required rigorous laboratory research for bio prospecting and clinical trials.
Odukoya reiterated that as at today, there was no treatment for the COVID-19 pandemic, but the present management was essentially supportive, repurposing of drugs, immune boosting (antitoxidants), use of anti-inflammatory/anti-pyretic and antiviral agents.
According to him, there are many claims on the use of medicinal plants with antiviral and immune boosting properties as home remedies for the prevention and management of the COVID-19, hence, the need to enlighten the public accordingly.
”The main prevention strategies still remains home isolation of suspected cases, social distancing and strict infection control measures by caregivers.
”The popularity of herbal medicines in the cure of the virus has increased due to its cheaper cost relative to orthodox medicine as well as accessibility to the masses, especially in the developing countries.
”This is where 60 to 85 per cent of the population rely on traditional or indigenous forms of medicine, especially in areas with shortage of hospitals and healthcare centres.
”It is, however, important to note that all medicines can be toxic, under specific circumstances.
“It is increasingly being realised that herbs like drugs can also interact in the same way that drug interactions occur,” the centre director explained.
He, however, noted that some herbs had been identified to possess antiviral activities and might be potential candidates for the management of COVID-19.
”Scientific investigations are currently ongoing on these plants.
”Many medicinal plants with proven efficacy as antiviral agents, are available in Nigeria.
“However, approved herbal medicines for the specific treatment of COVID-19 infection is currently still not available.
”Active research on the possible use of herbal medicine in the management of this disease is currently ongoing in the African Centre of Excellence for Drug Research, Herbal Medicine Development and Regulatory Science, University of Lagos.
”We welcome collaboration from all quarters. COVID-19 is a very deadly viral disease and, therefore, requires collaborative efforts to curb its spread.
”Having said this, we equally advise strict adherence to the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s preventive measures set aside for the fight against the spread of the disease.
“Such as regular washing of hands for about 20 seconds with soap, using alcohol based sanitisers and social distancing among others, ” he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that 86 new cases of the pandemic had been reported in the country by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) as at April 19, bringing it to a total of 627.