Dosage and shelf life of medicinal plants, herbs | The Guardian Nigeria News
With more claims and research validating the nutritional and health benefits of medicinal plants and herbs, there has been an increase in the use of these substances to spice, fortify foods and beverages globally. Especially in this part of the world, more and more people are embracing the idea of fortifying their health and immune system with medicinal plants and herbs. The effectiveness of these substances is so widely recognized that many people use them as a treatment for various ailments. Thus, it is quite common to see these food products exposed everywhere in the markets and even on the side of the roads.
In fresh and dried form, the medicinal herbs and plants readily available here include turmeric, garlic, yeast, ginger, black seed, fragrant leaf, bitter kola, and bitter leaf, among others.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 80% of people worldwide depend on herbal medicines for some aspect of their primary health care needs. The WHO has further estimated that 21,000 plant species have the potential to be used as medicinal plants.
In developed countries like the United States, herbal drugs account for up to 25% of total drugs, while in developing countries like China and India, they account for up to 80%.
While some scientists condemn their use, some findings have endorsed their use to supplement orthodox medicine in the management and treatment of various diseases.
Studies have shown that turmeric may benefit pain from inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis, cancer prevention, stopping DNA mutations, and several skin diseases, among other benefits for health.
Likewise, ginger is said to reduce colds and flu, treat inflammation, muscle aches and severe indigestion, protect the liver, prevent cancer, reduce menstrual cramps, kill bad bacteria and improve the functionality of the liver. brain, among other benefits.
In addition, garlic regulates blood pressure, lowers cholesterol, reduces the risk of heart disease, improves memory, libido, has antiviral properties against viral infections, improves skin and sports performance, among others.
Black seed is used to treat digestive tract conditions, diarrhea, dysentery, constipation and hemorrhoids, as well as respiratory conditions such as asthma, allergies, cough, bronchitis, emphysema, flu, swine flu and congestion.
Even so, experts have pointed out that just as herbal medicines have health benefits, they can also have side effects if not used correctly. Like all other things, moderation and caution should be exercised regarding use and storage.
And because they have become so common and widely used, there are relevant issues of shelf life and proper use. Dr. Joy Odimegwu from the Department of Pharmacognosy, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Lagos explained that medicinal plants and herbs are valued for their natural compounds, which have medicinal values and biological activities in the human system.
She said: “Turmeric contains a bioactive compound that is inflammatory because it helps calm distressed cells in the body and reduces inflammation. All of these plants have bioactive compounds that are medicinal, which is why they are called medicinal plants. When mixed together, these plants and herbs can sometimes be helpful, when there is a synergistic interaction, although they can also be a problem.
“For example, garlic and ginger have antimicrobial principles. So when you mix them they become more potent and we have in-depth information on the mechanism of action.
“People have been mixing these herbal medicines over the years. When they have the flu, colds and other illnesses, they use them to cure themselves and because these medicinal plants are food, they are neither toxic nor poisonous.
“However, we know that even too much food can lead to disease. There is nothing that you take too much of that won’t cause a problem, but herbal remedies are safe because they are foods.
Regarding the dosage, Odimegwu said that herbal medicine, just like orthodox medicine, has a dosage, which must be strictly adhered to.
“Herbs are food, but when a person takes too much, there’s a problem,” she said. On the question of the shelf life of medicinal plants, Odimegwu said that it depends on when the plants are spoiled.
She explained that research has shown that both fresh and aged herbal medicines are beneficial. However, older plants contain compounds that have become more potent for the treatment of disease.
“There’s actually no shelf life for herbal medicines, until they’re spoiled. And even if they’re dry, they’re still fine, but if they’re rotten or spoiled, you do not use them. Currently, there is no shelf life that the drugs can sit before they are discarded. Just like pepper and onion which have no shelf life until they get spoiled and thrown away, medicinal plants and herbs can stay for a long time,” she said.
Dr Ishola Ismail, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Pharmacology, Therapeutics and Toxicology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Lagos, said studies are still ongoing regarding the efficacy of herbal medicines and other herbal products for disease management, especially since some researchers had previously conducted studies on the antiviral, immunostimulatory, and immunomodulatory activities of plants.
He said: “Herbal remedies are not drug treatment for COVID-19. Similarly, we cannot say categorically that Garlic, Black Seed, or Turmeric are rightly medicines that you can prescribe or recommend to someone, because certain things must be done before you can say so. I do not exclude the fact that they are drugs, because several constituents they contain could be beneficial. But we have to be careful about what we say or use when it comes to disease management.
“In the meantime, some studies have shown that medicinal plants are used for different conditions such as hypertension and diabetes, among others. Some scientists have also made claims about this, but until scientific studies are carried out to validate these claims and research, including clinical trials to show that herbal medicines are for the treatment of diseases, they are otherwise considered medical claims.
Speaking on the herbal mixture, Ismail said that while some of the products mixed together may give a beneficial or additive synergistic interaction for human consumption, care should be taken, due to other toxic effects of the product mixture to herbal basis.
He said: “In pharmacology we look at the beneficial and toxic effects of any drug. If the beneficial effects outweigh the toxic effects, we say that herbal medicines can be used safely. But if it is otherwise, people should not consume it.
“There could be a slow degeneration of certain organs in the body that are not immediately visible. In such a situation, one must be careful because we have a lot of chronic diseases caused by the adverse effects of medicines, whether orthodox or herbal.
Regarding the dosage of herbal medicines, Ismail said they should be handled like orthodox medicines, which usually have a dosage that must be strictly followed.
He is angered that people who take herbal medicines do not strictly adhere to the dosage, which has adverse effects on the organs of the body, thus leading to chronic diseases such as kidney and liver diseases, among others.
“There are measurements and dosages, which are based on body mass index. You can weigh the amount of active constituents that are present and with that you can make the formulation. But because of the standardization issue, people think that herbs can be eaten anyway. Individuals need to know how much of the constituents should be added and how much should be extracted, but because the herbs are natural, people think they can overdo the dosage.
“Yes, herbal medicines are natural, but everything is toxic, if the dosages have not been followed correctly,” he said. Regarding the shelf life of herbal medicines, Ismail said that during the standardization process, the shelf life could be determined.
He explained that while preparing the products, there might be adulteration, due to the addition of substance which might cause fermentation or poor manufacturing process which might affect the shelf life of herbal medicines. He said that if these processes are not taken into consideration, there could be microbial growth inside the substance.
“Although there are beneficial microbes, those that result from unhygienic preparation of the substances could be harmful to the body, thereby destroying the organs,” he said.