Herbal medicine: How the law has left you exposed
SEE ALSO :Shisha smuggling blamed on continued use“That is the last we ever heard of the matter,” says Njoroge. Despite the legal lacuna, data shows while herbal medicines are popular some are a risk to human health. Last year, Kemri reported most herbal medicines sold in major towns in Kenya are highly contaminated and dangerous for human consumption. Their survey covering Nairobi, Mombasa and Eldoret indicated almost all the herbal powders, tablets, capsules, oils and liquids are contaminated, some with untreatable germs resistant to a number of antibiotics. “Patients are literally being infected with more dangerous diseases than they had intended to treat,” lead investigator Dr Lucia Keter of Kemri had told a science conference. Test samples had been purchased from herbal clinics, nutrition stores, herbal product manufacturers, local retailers and from hawkers and street vendors in the three towns.
SEE ALSO :Ministry takes steps to secure drugsThe study found 90 per cent of the total samples contaminated, most of them above levels safe for human consumption. The medicines were contaminated with germs known to cause pneumonia, diarrhoea, anaemia, kidney problems and urinary tract infections. “We need a system that protects and educates Kenyans on the safe use of herbal medicines,” says Mr Murugu. Both herbal and conventional practitioners agree, of a growing demand for alternative or complementary medicines especially with the increasing cases of cancer. Complementary medicines In October a team of conventional researchers reported significant use of complementary medicines among cancer patients attending Kenyatta National Hospital. “Of those who used complimentary medicines, 64 per cent used herbals hoping for a cure while 36 per cent hoped to get some symptomatic relief,” says the study led by Maryanne Ong’udi of the University of Nairobi Almost half of the users - 45 per cent say they were satisfied with their use while the rest - 55 per cent reported disappointment. Most of the users however did not disclose to their KNH doctors that they were also using alternative medicines. “This is the more reason we need a regulatory framework in place to help, educate and protect Kenyans on alternative medicines,” says Njoroge.