December 3, 2022

Angela Onwuzoo

As Nigerians join the rest of the world today, to observe the 2022 World Diabetes Day, medical experts have raised concerns over the use of herbal medicine and concoctions among patients living with diabetes.

The experts warn that such use especially over a long period could damage the kidney and liver.

The experts said most kidney failures, also known as renal failure or end-stage renal disease, could be linked to indiscriminate use of these concoctions.

The experts spoke in separate interviews with Reportr Door HealthWise in commemoration of the 2022 World Diabetes Day. 

World Diabetes Day is celebrated every year on November 14, according to the World Health Organisation.

The day provides an opportunity to raise awareness of diabetes as a global public health issue and educate the people about what needs to be done, collectively and individually, for better prevention, diagnosis, and management of the health condition.

The theme for the 2022 commemoration ‘access to diabetes care’ further underpins the importance of proper diabetes management.

Speaking with our correspondent, a professor of Medicine and Endocrinology at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Olufemi Fasanmade, said the use of herbal medicine is not a standard diabetes treatment.

The endocrinologist said, “Herbal medications are often not standardised or well studied. Some are good and some are bad. They can lead to liver or kidney failure when used for prolonged periods.”

According to the WHO, in 2019, diabetes and kidney disease due to diabetes caused an estimated two million deaths globally.

The International Diabetes Federation in its 2021 report indicated that 537 million adults (20-79 years) are living with diabetes. 

This number is predicted to rise to 643 million by 2030 and 783 million by 2045 while over three in four adults with diabetes live in low- and middle-income countries, according to the report.

Prof. Fasanmade warned that irregular use of medications often leads to several complications such as blindness, stroke, kidney failure, heart attacks, and lower extremity amputation.

Urging patients with diabetes to use standard treatment instead of using herbal medicine and concoctions, the physician said the best way to curb the high burden of the disease in Nigeria was for people to prevent it.

“This includes moderate eating of food, consumption of vegetables and legumes, cereals, and drinking a lot of water. Smoking and drinking alcohol should be stopped” the endocrinologist said.

There are usually concerns among experts on the preparation of herbal medicine which include the handling, dosage requirement for each ailment, shelf life, and expiration date.

According to the WHO, traditional medicine is generally available, affordable, and commonly used in large parts of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

WHO estimates that about 80 per cent of the population in developing countries still depend on traditional medicine for their primary healthcare needs; however, this percentage may vary from country to country.

Also speaking with our correspondent, a Consultant Pathologist, Dr. Wale Ajala said that concoctions of herbs harm vital organs of the body, especially the kidney.

Ajala, who is the Chief Executive Officer of Help Diagnostics and Checkup Services, Lagos, said patients with diabetes should be mindful of their lifestyle, particularly what they consume.

The pathologist said, “It is horrible the way we are seeing the markers of kidney diseases these days. 

“Kidney failure is increasing by the day in Nigeria and renal dialysis is so expensive.”

He assured that diabetes could be treated and its consequences avoided or delayed with diet, physical activity, medication, and regular screening and treatment for complications.

Researchers say among the traditional medicine practices, the use of herbal medicine is the most popular and used by the general population and patients with chronic illnesses such as diabetes mellitus.

Available studies show that patients with diabetes may prefer to use herbal remedies over modern medicine for a number of reasons including; dissatisfaction with the conventional treatment, and treatment-related adverse effects.

Other reasons are the perceived suitability of herbal remedies with patients’ values and spiritual beliefs.

In a 2018 study published in BioMed Central journal titled, ‘Prevalence and correlates of herbal medicine use among Type 2 diabetic patients in Teaching Hospital in Ethiopia: a cross-sectional study’, the researchers said diabetes mellitus complications were identified to be strong predictors of herbal medicine use.

“The present study revealed a high rate of herbal medicine use along with a very low rate of use disclosure to the health care professionals.

“Higher educational status, a family history of DM, duration of T2DM, and presence of DM complications were identified to be strong predictors of herbal medicine use.

“From the standpoint of high prevalence and low disclosure rate, it is imperative for health care providers to strongly consult patients regarding herbal medicine use,” the researchers said.

BMC is an open-access, peer-reviewed journal that publishes peer-reviewed contributions from across all scientific and clinical disciplines.

WHO says diabetes is the only major non-communicable disease for which the risk of dying early is increasing, rather than decreasing.

Known risk factors include family history and increasing age, along with modifiable risk factors such as overweight and obesity, sedentary lifestyles, unhealthy diets, smoking, and alcohol abuse.

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