Nigeria boosts research into traditional medicine

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The Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo launched a new committee on traditional medicine in Abuja, Nigeria yesterday (5 December), urging it to set up a training and research institute in the field.

The high profile committee, which will help to develop, promote and commercialise traditional medicine (TM) products, could help Nigeria earn at least US$1 billion over its first ten years, Obasanjo said.

Recently the Nigerian government has taken major steps to boost research into TM in an effort to preserve the country’s indigenous medical knowledge.

This includes commissioning a book, released in September, which collects 1,050 research efforts by Nigerian scientists, published in 1,020 international journals since 1972.

The president expressed his desire to increase Nigeria’s "negligible" contribution to the global US$60 billion TM market, according to the official news agency Nigeria Direct.

The agency also reported that a national policy on traditional medicine will be ready by June 2007.

According to Turner Isoun, Nigeria’s science and technology minister, indigenous medical knowledge and healing arts are facing extinction.

Eighty-five per cent of Nigerians use and consult traditional medicine for healthcare, social and psychological benefits, he said, adding that the book will help bridge the gap between science and TM.

Emmanuel Oni Idigbe, head of the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, said the work will help make TM more trusted in orthodox medicine and solve the long-standing problem of poor dosage.

Nigerian researchers have spent much effort on the systematic identification, scientific evaluation and validation of Nigeria’s medicinal aromatic plants, healing arts and systems.

Extracts from plants and animals from diverse parts of Nigeria have been found to be useful for treating diseases such as malaria, diabetes, epileptic lesions, dementia, sickle cell disorders and inflammation.

In Ghana, Mali, Nigeria and Zambia, herbal medicines are the first line of treatment for 60 per cent of children with high fever from malaria, according to the World Health Organization.

Funded by the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, the book is called ‘Abstracts of Published Research Findings on Nigeria Medicinal Plants and Traditional Medicine Practice’.