The IRON List - October 22, 2018

This special edition of the IRON List focuses on the existence and profitability of the traditional (herbal) medicine sector in Africa.

Industry: It goes without saying that herbalists have played a significant role in African countries for centuries. The question now is, how can the continent benefit from trends that are showing more interests in herbal remedies worldwide?

According to a Reuters report, global demand for traditional medicine will equal a value of “$111 billion by the end of 2023” (USD). The report goes on to say that Africa will be the least likely to gain anything financially, due to “poor economic and political conditions.” Aspiring entrepreneurs could be the remedy to this, and develop creative avenues for tapping into this fast-expanding market.

Read more on South Africa’s approach on this topic here, here, and here.

On another note, new research shows that traditional medicine might have played a role in the survival of primitive human species, while another says it’s putting lives at risk today.

Research:  A study highlighted in the U.S.-based magazine, The Atlantic, shows herbs such as chamomile and yarrow spared Neanderthals from almost certain death by traumatic injuries. Most of the article points to use of these plants in a region near modern-day Iraq. But does this information justify the use and promotion of traditional medicine now, including in Africa?

The answer, from the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, would be a ironclad “no”. Based on 49 case studies (that include patients from Israel and Korea), the scientific journal says that herbal medicine dangerously hinders the effectiveness of prescription drugs used to fight cancer, blood clots, and AIDS. Techniques used to draw these conclusions were not robust (according to England’s NHS), but there has been backlash and controversy over natural healers putting patients at risk over their claims of natural remedies (see Dr. Sebi and Gambia, for example).

Ultimately, the continent will need dedicated, responsible, and objective experts with open minds to explore this topic further. It could make a difference in the quality of life for millions of Africans, medically and socioeconomically.

Opportunities: If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, the 2nd Southern African Congress of Integrative Medicine will be held in South Africa November 17-18, 2018. See the agenda and range of topics covered here.

Networking: if you are an aspiring medical practitioner looking for the funding and colleagues to further your research in this area, try contacting the African Research Academies for Women. The nonprofit organization works with local African universities to place women in competitive research programs to advance their careers in the field. Be sure to say “Karfi” referred you to their site.

Seun Shokunbi