From my perch: episode 4- No side effects

If you live in Nigeria or keep close ties to home if you’re in diaspora, you’d have noticed how the health-care sector has been almost overrun by a plethora of herbal compounds and mixtures.

These preparations range from the imported products manufactured under Good Manufacturing Practice factories to locally manufactured concoctions and decoctions popularly known as agbo marketed in every bus-stop and motor park in most parts of Nigeria.

These products are used for various reasons, the funny thing is that some preparations are claimed to cure so many diseases that it’s ridiculous that someone could repeat such claims with a straight face.

One preparation that was marketed in a bus I boarded some years ago was claimed to treat/cure ( not manage or control) hypertension, diabetes, stroke, malaria, low sperm count, fibroids, obesity, heart failure, infertility due to unknown causes and a host of other diseases and conditions. The guy wasn’t even laughing at the outrageousness of his claims. As you can imagine, half of the passengers bought the preparation. My country men would buy anything that is claimed to be herbal.

  Interestingly most of the Nigerian made preparations claim to be active against Staphylococcus aureus or Staph as they like to refer to it. Sadly they swindle gullible people about the dangers of staph, let’s look at Wikipedia’s staph entry
” The Staphylococcus genus includes at least 40 species. Of these, nine have two subspecies and one has three subspecies.
Most are harmless and reside normally on the skin and mucous membranes of humans and other organisms. Found worldwide, they are a small component of soil microbial flora. [3]”.

Our first practical in Pharmaceutical microbiology was titled the ubiquity of microorganisms. We placed various specimens eg natural hair, synthetic hair, finger nail clippings, skin swabs taken before and after washing hands with water, toilet soap and antibacterial soaps, saliva and phlegm in agar and cultured for 48 hours. We found colonies of S.aureus in all the agar plates. So this Staph panic is misplaced, note that I’m not claiming that virulent subspecies of S.aureus don’t exist but I’m saying that staph ain’t as bad as its hype.

Another dangerous trend is the claim that these herbal mixtures are natural and not chemical and thus have no side effects. Total bullcrap!

Firstly there’s nothing in this world that isn’t chemical, everything in this world is composed of elements and thus has a chemical formula. 

Second, most “chemical drugs/ synthetic drugs” were derived from plants. Even today the first place researchers look for answers in tackling diseases are plants. These drugs are simply modified in the labs to increase activity, reduce side effects, minimise toxicity etc

Most of these preparations have not been tested on animals and humans for efficacy and toxicity. What this means is that while this drugs may be highly effective, they may not be safe and may cause unintended harmful effects on the liver and kidneys which are the major sites of metabolism and excretion of substances as well as other organs. Is it any wonder that renal failure is on the increase in Nigeria. Of special importance is that many of these mixtures are extracted with huge volumes of alcohol and we all know what alcohol can do to a healthy liver.

Sadly the misconception that these drugs have no side effects has gained so much ground that if you *as a health professional* tells your patient that these drugs might not be safe, he’ll think you have a natural mistrust or beef for these products.

But seriously how can anyone take a preparation that has no dosage? You take as the spirit leads or everyone regardless of size takes one or two shots.

In conclusion, I’m not saying don’t do natural but shine your eyes and look for tested products. 

Have a great weekend y’all.



  1. “But seriously how can anyone take a preparation that has no dosage?” – Dont try these guys o! They sell with different dosages of the same drug for different conditions…but as far as the health sector goes we’re all guilty. From the doctor who trains an unqualified nurse so she can play ‘doctor’ while he’s away at another hospital to the pharmacist who prescribes at his ‘shop’ and the nurse who runs a private hospital in her home with ‘delivery’ services. An accounting graduate was arrested sometime ago for posing as a doctor… so lets start inside. Good one.


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