Hajiya Zainab Shariff, the director, Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine Department, Federal Ministry of Health and pioneer managing director of the Nigeria Medicinal Plants Development Company (NMPDC), in this interview with Sade Oguntola said Nigeria is rich in herbs and spices that can treat COVID-19.
CAN herbs and spices treat or cure COVID-19?
There is no scientific evidence for the cure of COVID-19, including using herbs. We only talk about its treatment or management. I can boldly tell you that medicinal plants have a strong role in the management of COVID-19. Our medicinal plants have different substances that stand to provide some health benefits.
For example, some of them can be used as immune boosters. One of the best approaches to COVID-19 management is to boost the body immunity. So, herbs that can boost immunity are useful in the management of the condition when it occurs.
The Chinese told us that they use herbs when they are treating this disease that originated in China. If the Chinese say they use herbs, we can also use our own herbs that have antiviral, antibacterial, expectorant and mucolytic properties in the management of symptoms of COVID-19. Also, some of them can help reduce the anxiety and fear that comes with the infection.
Scientists are working on this. We can do something and are already doing something as a directorate in charge of traditional and complementary medicine at the Federal Ministry of Health.
We have a lot of plant materials scattered all over the country and, very soon, we will have a treatment that is scientific and safe for our people.
Could you give examples of these herbs and spices that are potentially good for the treatment of COVID-19?
There are so many, and these include Moringa, garlic, onions and lemon. For instance, garlic’s richness in some chemical substances makes it a readily available immune booster. Garlic leaves or flowers can be taken as a tea or as salad condiments too. Also, intake of pepper soups with such spices particularly now is good to fight off infections.
So, even as an individual in a COVID-19 isolation ward, you can make garlic or moringa drink. Likewise, they could squeeze lemon into warm water and drink. There is no drug for the management of viral infections, but treatment is established. This is the time for Africa to look inwards and consider its biodiversity for a solution.
Governor Seyi Makinde claimed that black seed and honey helped him to recover after testing positive for COVID-19? What work does black seed do?
Black seed is also called black cumin. In the Koran, there was a quotation from the Prophet. He used to say that black seed is a remedy for all diseases. Its constituents have antiviral properties and can help to boost the immune system.
Governor Seyi Makinde should be congratulated for coming out to mention using black seed and honey. These are the kinds of people that we want that will speak so that it will stimulate action from our leaders.
Even when Ooni of Ife came out to say that herbs are helpful for the treatment of COVID-19, some people castigated him. They don’t know that knowledge is diverse. It is not only scientists that have knowledge. All the history of medicine starts with someone. If the Ooni of Ife says a particular herb is useful, why don’t we look at what he has said and expose it to research.
But from my knowledge, I want to categorically tell you that what the Ooni said is very much in order. And all of those herbs have antiviral and immune-boosting properties. Some of them have expectorant properties, and they are safe.
Any herbal recipe to prevent contracting the virus?
We have been told to come out with a medication that can be used by our people. We are working and very soon you will see the results. But as scientists, we want to ensure its safety and its toxicity.
But like I tell people, take more onions in soup. Take more of garlic and lemon; it will boost your immunity. These are simple home remedies that work. Even people already with the virus should take it as well. This is what is called the doctrine of signature, it means like cures like. If you take onion, what happens to your face and nose? You will sneeze or develop a runny nose and whatever is there will come out. That is why it is good.
Aristotle, the father of modern medicine, said let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. This is the time for our medicine to be our food. And in the 16th century, another person said to make what is around you and what is in the wild your medicine.
There are claims of COVID-19 treatments from many countries. In fact, Madagascar claims that he has a treatment for the infection. Do you see a solution to COVID-19 coming from Africa?
This is the time for Africa to take the challenge boldly and come up with a solution. We may not have the technology of this world, but we are blessed with natural resources. God is speaking; it is for us to take up that advantage. At the Directorate in charge of traditional and complementary medicine of the Federal Ministry of Health, we are almost concluding work on treatment and you will hear from us within the next few weeks, hopefully.
The recent deaths in Kano were linked with such diseases as diabetes, hypertension and malaria, and later on COVID-19. Are there home recipes that they could have used to remain healthy?
In the Kano case, complications of these diseases lead to many deaths due to the lockdown, poverty and poor access to hospitals. Certainly, the fear and anxiety of COVID-19 also spiked increased mortality. Even though Nigerians are told don’t go to church or mosque, we all pray. I believe that God is the one that will give the remedy. We must recognize God, the omniscient rather than put our faith and trust in the western world. I appreciate Madagascar for coming out with a treatment for COVID-19. I know it works but we should also come up with something for the benefit of our own people.
What will you suggest to older people with diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and so on to take to improve their health?
Most people are scared to take bitter things. But a good nutritional formula for the elderly now is a juice made by blending five bitter leaf or a handful of moringa leaves, two medium-sized carrots, a quarter size lemon, a piece of ginger and one glass of water. It is rich in antioxidants and has immune-boosting properties.
What will be your suggestion for women to maintain the health of family members, especially now?
Different illnesses were well treated by women. I’m advocating that women should reflect and stimulate that intuition for a homemade solution for family members in this pandemic of COVID-19.
Hydrotherapy, the use of hot baths, with the addition of essential oils such as tea tree, eucalyptus, lavender, mint and frankincense can help to detoxify the body and boost the immune system.
Onion is an old remedy used for thousands of years by grannies. Place half-cut onions at the corners around homes for 12 hours to absorb any germs including virus and burn off after.
Burning incense such as sandalwood, cloves, frankincense wood also plays a role in warding off germs. Also, a glass of warm milk containing a teaspoonful of nutmeg and honey promotes sleep.
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