We commend the Federal Ministry of Health for inaugurating a 16-man committee charged with the review of the first edition of the Nigeria Herbal Pharmacopoeia that was published in 2008. The review committee is led by the former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Chairman of Bio-Resources Conservation and Development Group (BCDG), Prof. Maurice Iwu.
At the inauguration of the committee in Abuja, some weeks ago, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Mr. Clement Uwaifo, rightly observed that “Nigeria was blessed with vast bio-diversity of different medicinal herbal plants, many of which had remained untapped.” He also reiterated the need to scientifically organize information and documentation on useful medicinal plants which had been found to be efficacious in the management and treatment of several ailments in the country.
This review has become necessary because the first edition of Nigeria Herbal Pharmacopoeia was published in 2008 with the support of the World Health Organisation (WHO). It contained 42 commonly used medicinal plants in Nigeria. While 22 of the cultivated plants were indigenous to Nigeria, 18 were introduced into the country from outside.
In all, only two of the medicinal plants were not grown in large quantities in the country, hence they were predominantly imported. Uwaifo, therefore, charged the committee members to take a cue from countries that had various editions of Herbal Pharmacopoeia such as Ghana and India to guide them in updating and adopting plants with similar agronomical proportion in order to come up with a comprehensive second edition of Nigeria Herbal Pharmacopoeia.
In his response, the acting Chairman of the committee, Prof. Tony Elujoba, affirmed that Herbal Pharmacopoeia represented the official documentation of medicinal plants, their values and the standardisation of quantity and quality. He explained that the documentation would serve as a guide to herbal production, quality control and assurance in order to assure people who use herbal medicinal plants of their efficacy, safety and standard.
We believe that the decision to set up the review committee is indeed a right step in the right direction. Moreover, the review is coming at a time the interest in the use of herbal medicines is increasing globally. The advent of the review committee is a great departure from previous administrations’ lip service to the development of our traditional medicine. There is no doubt that we have so many medicinal herbs that can be efficacious in the treatment of several ailments that afflict Nigerians. Unfortunately, we have not been able to tap the medicinal properties of these herbal plants that abound in the country. We have, indeed, not made good use of our medicinal plants that nature freely gave us. We have anti-venom medicinal plants but sadly, we are yet to fully utilise them in treating snakebites that kill many Nigerians annually.
We, therefore, enjoin the nation’s pharmacognosists to refine our herbal medicinal products in terms of quality control and standardisation. No doubt, India, China, Ghana and other countries have reaped bountifully the benefits of herbal medicine. It is, therefore, good that the government has deemed it fit to come up with this directive to review our herbal pharmacopoeia.
The earlier we document these herbs and know their uses, the better for the treatment of some of our ailments. We suggest that the government should establish a national institute of herbal medicine in the country to develop greater interest in the study and development of herbal medicine.
The Prof. Iwu-led committee should ensure that the committee works diligently so that Nigeria can harness her vast resources of herbal pharmacopoeia. Despite the triumphs of modern medicinal drugs, some of which are derived from plants any way, there are still ailments that only herbal medicines have proved more efficacious. In fact, there are diseases that modern medicines do not cure which respond only to herbal medicines.
Nigeria can earn much foreign exchange revenue from exportation of herbal medicinal plants if they are fully exploited. We urge Nigerian universities to show interest in the study of herbal medicine as has been demonstrated by the University of Medical Sciences (UNIMED), Ondo State. Let our herbal medicines be standardised and well packaged.