Prolonged use of herbal medicine for the treatment of malaria associated with gastric and hepatic complications


A study by Makerere researchers established that using traditional / herbal medicine to treat malaria for more than two weeks has dangerous effects on the stomach and liver.

The study “Development of a Safe and Effective Antimalarial Drug from Traditional Medicine” contributed to the development of a safe and effective antimalarial by a team of Makerere researchers, between November 2019 and May 2020.

Researchers compiled a list of malaria treatment plants in Tororo district and prioritized them to determine the safety of malaria treatment plants.

It should be noted that malaria is still a major source of illness and death in Uganda and Africa. In 2017, around 219 million people suffered from malaria worldwide, with 92% of cases occurring in Africa, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Speaking to ChimpReports about the study, Cissy Nambejja, one of the researchers at the Natural Chemotherapeutic Research Institute (NCRI), said the management of malaria is complicated due to the fact that access to modern treatment is still limited in some places, and there is a possibility of resistance to treatment.

The researchers undertook an ethnobotanical survey to determine the antimalarial plants. Respondents were asked to name the species they used, their preparation and administration.

To determine the safety of the species, they performed acute and subacute toxicity tests. They also performed hematological analyzes (analysis of the cellular component of the blood). For acute dosages, they calculated the lethal dose (LD50) and made clinical observations.

“After the two tests, we studied the effects of the drugs administered on animal tissues (kidney, liver, heart, stomach). These assays were carried out in the Pharmacology laboratory of the College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosafety (CoVAB). The hematologic tests were carried out in the laboratories of the Uganda Cancer Institute, ”Nambejja said.

In the results, the team found that forty-seven (47) plant species are used to treat malaria. Three of them: Vernonia amygdalina (known locally as Mululuza), Warbugia ugandensis (mukuza nnume which is also used in the treatment of COVID-19) and Abrus precatorius (Lusiiti) were selected because they were mentioned by most of the respondents.

These herbs were noted to be safe as their lethal dose was over 5000 mg but their prolonged use could be harmful to some internal organs of the body.

“Acute toxicity tests and hematology tests indicate that the species studied here are safe to use. However, prolonged use may not be safe as the species has caused organ damage, ”Nambejja said.

Cissy Nambejja

Some of the damage from prolonged use of the herbs includes blood clots in the stomach, periportal hepatitis, and peeling mucous membranes.

“We recommend that Vernonia Amygdalina, Warbugia Ugandensis and Abrus Precatorius can be used for short periods, but should not be used for longer periods exceeding two weeks. Further research is needed to determine the chronic toxicity of the species analyzed, ”they noted.

Other investigators included: John RS Tabuti (Principal Investigator), Alice Nabatanzi, Paul Waako, Michael R. Mutyaba.

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