People have been taking herbal concoction such as “Agbo” and “Dongo yaro” for centuries and will always say it works for them, and there’s no good reason to stop especially in situations when it seems modern medicine is not providing the needed solution. This is further reinforced by the herbal medicine practitioners at motor parks who claim the concoctions cure all kinds of diseases; can make infertile women conceive and impotent men impregnate their wives.
However, the reality is these herbal concoctions contain hundreds of chemical compounds whose beneficial functions have not been verified medically. One or two of these compounds might have medical benefits, while the rest are harmful in the following ways:
- They Worsen the Side Effects of specific Drugs
It has been shown that some herbal concoctions interact with certain medications used in treating bleeding disorders and heart conditions by slowing their metabolism (breakdown and clearance from the body), thereby keeping these drugs longer than normal in the body. The result is a prolongation of their side effects such as excessive bleeding in the case of drugs for treating bleeding disorders.
- Birth Defects in Unborn Babies
A lot of pregnant women consume all sorts of herbal remedies at the recommendation of fellow women or elderly relatives, and at the same time don’t bother to seek antenatal care. The danger here is they are at a higher risk of giving birth to babies with a deformed body structure such as absence of an anus (these babies don’t pass faeces because there’s no anal opening, instead they pass faeces in their urine), poorly developed backbone, abnormal hands and legs, and heart problems.
- Kidney Injury
Prolonged use of herbal concoctions can damage the kidneys. Some of the many compounds in the concoctions have been shown to be harmful to the cells and tissues of the kidneys. This can cause what is known as intrinsic kidney injury that can progress to chronic kidney disease, requiring regular dialysis and finally a kidney transplant for survival, without which such a person will die.
- Liver Disease
Some of the compounds in these herbal concoctions have been shown to damage the cells of the liver as well. The earliest manifestation of liver damage can be a yellowish appearance of the eyes due to the reaction of the immune cells of the liver against these compounds present in the herbal concoction. The injury to the liver can worsen to a long-term disease that may require a liver transplant for such a person to live.
Many agents in our environment have been found to cause cancer, and some herbal concoctions are being implicated in causing certain types of cancer according to medical research in some parts of the world. In this case, some chemical compounds in these herbal preparations interact with human cells and their DNA in ways that might alter their division and multiplication mechanism, leading to a situation where these human cells now keep multiplying without dying and with time start spreading to other parts of the body, and this is what’s called cancer.
Most of the time, the harmful effects of herbal concoctions don’t manifest immediately; they occur after months or years later when it may be difficult to attribute them to the concoctions.
Herbal medicine has beneficial medical potentials, but these reside in one or two compounds in such herbs and will need to be extracted by medical researchers.
Always exercise caution in what you consume as medicine; most importantly, seek a certified doctor’s advice before taking any medicinal preparations.
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