NAFDAC warned in Lagos on Monday that liquid herbal concoctions should not be taken more than two weeks after preparation.
This, it said was for safety reasons.
Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, its Director-General, gave the advice in a statement issued to commemorate the World Herbal Medicine Day which holds annually on Aug. 31.
Adeyeye advised Nigerians to use herbal medicines with caution to prevent avoidable deaths and complications.
According to her, for safety reasons, no liquid herbal formulation should be ingested after days of preparation and such medicines should always be kept refrigerated.
“After 14 days, if it is liquid, it may start to develop bacteria that can make people sick.
“The general public should use herbal medicines with care because you don’t know the quantity that you are supposed to take.
“The fact that it is natural doesn’t mean it is not toxic,’’ she stressed.
She explained that toxicity was not about the volume consumed, but that something could be in micro quantity and could kill.
“Just because you prepared the concoction in your house doesn’t mean you can drink it like water. It may be dangerous,’’ she cautioned.
Adeyeye noted that the problem associated with herbal medicines was that many people did not understand that they should be scientifically driven.
“If you prepare herbal medicine in liquid form you don’t know how stable the medicine will be in water. If it is not stable and it is degrading to another thing, it may hurt.
“Those who engage in hawking herbal preparations on the streets under the scorching sun, the heat generated by the sun may have a way of causing decomposition of the active ingredients in the medicines being sold.
“This may pose significant health risks to those buying and consuming these preparations.
“That’s why herbal medicines in Nigeria have to be handled with care. Some people take herbal medicines like vaccines.
“Herbal medicines are derived from plants mostly, sometimes from animals in few cases while vaccines are from human or animal cells that have been programmed to elicit immunologic effects in the body.’’ She added
Adeyeye also advised against the simultaneous use of both herbal and conventional medicines by members of the public.
“If someone is using herbal medicine and a conventional medicine simultaneously, there may be a problem.
“Let’s say that a medicine is supposed to lower blood pressure or lower sugar level for diabetes and a person takes conventional medicine and the sugar level is lowered and he then takes herbal remedy, that person may go into a shock.
“This means that the level of sugar in the blood is too low because the two are now working synergistically.
“Sometimes herbal medicines may actually reduce the effectiveness of the conventional medicine. That’s why studies need to be done because there is drug-herbal medicine interaction that may cause a lot of harm.
“Whoever is taking herbal medicine should talk to his or her pharmacist and medical doctor for professional advice,’’ she stated.
Adeyeye, however, called for collaboration between herbal medicine practitioners and medical researchers to achieve rapid development of the herbal medicine industry in the country.
The D-G noted that NAFDAC in March 2019 set up an herbal medicine product committee before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out to advance research in herbal medicines.
According to her, the goal of setting up the committee is to make sure that the herbalist and the researcher are collaborating.
“So, whatever the herbalist knows from ancestral history that does not have research to back it up, collaboration with researchers will enable that herbal medicine to be advanced to be listed by NAFDAC if it’s deemed safe.
“Right now, there is no single herbal medicine that has gone through full clinical trial the way clinical trial is supposed to be done.
“There could be herbal medicines that have been used to treat a symptom of COVID-19 or whatever, but it has not been published in which case, it is not an official clinical trial,’’ she said.