Ground-breaking research could see herbal remedies becoming an integral part of mainstream medicine in South African hospitals, bringing hope to thousands of HIV/Aids sufferers who cannot afford expensive anti-retroviral therapy.
Reports from one KwaZulu-Natal provincial hospital, where herbal medicine has become part of the routine medical service, show significant improvements in health in many patients opting for traditional care.
Presenting a personal and scientifically-based perspective on indigenous herbal medication to healthcare workers at a Medical Research Council HIV/Aids forum meeting in Durban on Tuesday, ethno-botanist and natural healer Anne Hutchings described work being done at the Ngwelazane Hospital near Empangeni in Zululand.
She said more than 400 patients, after initial assessment, had undergone treatment with remedies, many of which had their roots based in century-old African tradition.
Among the findings on 211 patients who had visited the hospital's natural treatment clinic, 50 percent showed steady weight gains, while 17 percent remained in a stable condition.
In another study, observed over three months, 67 out of 89 HIV patients boasted weight gains and an improved health status while on a regimen of natural medication combined with standard antibiotics and a special diet plan.
I cannot say this is the complete answer as we would need clinical trials to show an accurate level of efficacy, but when people are poor the natural herbal route is a cost-effective way to treat the sick. We are seeing people who were once debilitated by opportunistic infections, being well enough to return to work.
Indigenous plants which have been introduced as remedies in various forms - from creams to tablets - include Sutherlandia, Warburgia and African Ginger, all of which have therapeutic qualities beneficial to those with HIV.
Many of them are natural antibiotics with properties that are known to relieve thrush, chronic pain, bronchitis, nausea, night sweats,diarrhoea and swollen glands. Others help with loss of energy and assist in weight gain.
What is most important is that these plants can be grown on our doorsteps and in our back yards, said Hutchings. To my mind this has to be the way to go.(Source: Daily News, October 30 2002)