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Scientists validate common herbs to treat anaemia
Anaemia is a common blood disorder that affects people of all ages, although the people at greater risk are the elderly, young women of child bearing age and infants. This condition is not a disease, but could develop as a result of various diseases. There are over 400 types of anaemia, many of which are rare, but in all cases there is lower than normal number of circulating red blood cells.
The most common form of anaemia is caused by a deficiency of iron which is an essential constituent of haemoglobin. The main cause of iron deficiency anaemia is iron loss due to heavy or persistent bleeding and menstruation is the most common cause in women of child bearing age.
Other causes include blood loss from the digestive tract due to peptic ulcer, stomach ulcer, haemorrhoids, and blood tumours. In some countries, infectious diseases such as worm infestation, and infections such as malaria, cancer, tuberculosis and HIV/ AIDS are important factors contributing to the high prevalence of anaemia in many populations.
Sickle cell anaemia is one of the diseases ravaging most world population cutting across nations and ethnic divide. According to reports, Africa is believed to be the origin of sickle cell anaemia and those afflicted with the disease are estimated at 200,000 per year.
Although there are various drugs used for the treatment of anaemia, they are not affordable to many poor people in the developing countries such as Nigeria. In addition, the rural populations in various parts of the world do not have adequate access to high quality drugs for the treatment of anaemia, so depend heavily on plants and herbal products for the treatment of diseases and anaemia.
But anaemia is claimed to have been successfully treated with common herbs by traditional medicine practitioners. Some of these herbs have been documented. For instance, an ethnobotanical investigation of herbs used traditionally for the treatment of anaemia in the South-West revealed 10 common herbs that can be used in different forms, both to treat and prevent anaemia.
The exploration, which was published in the 2012 edition of the European Journal of Medicinal Plants, was entitled “Nutritional Composition of 10 Ethno Botanicals Used for the Treatment of Anaemia in Southwest Nigeria.” It was carried out by I. T. Gbadamosi and A. O.Yekini from the Department of Botany, University of Ibadan, Oyo State, in collaboration with Professor J. O. Moody from the Department of Pharmacognosy, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria.
Herbs found to be helpful in the prevention and treatment of anaemia included Parquetina nigrescens, Sorghum bicolor, Terminalia catappa, Trema orientalis, Mangifera indica, Waltheria indica, Theobroma cacao, Harungana madagascariensis, Tetracera alnifolia and Detarium microcarpum.
Mangifera indica is mango tree. Terminalia catappa is Indian and almond in English, mbansan mbakara in Efik and afara tree in Yoruba. Parquetina nigrescens is kwankwanin in Hausa, mgbidim gbe in Igbo, otonta in Igbo (A saba), ewidun in Yoruba, inuwu elepe in Yoruba (Ife). Harungana madagascariensis is ayin in Yoruba, marike in Hausa and atara in Ibo.
Tetracera alnifolia is opon tree in Yoruba. Waltheria indica is Ewe epo in Yoruba and ‘hankufah’ or ‘hankubah’ in Hausa. Theobroma cacao is called cocoa tree. Trema orientalis is called afere tree in Yoruba. Parquetina nigrescens is called ewe ogbo in Yoruba.
Sorghum bicolor is called oka baba in Yoruba; Harungana madagascariensis is called amuje in Yoruba and Detarium microcarpum is called arira in Yoruba. Parquetina nigrescens is kwankwanin in Hausa, mgbidim gbe in Igbo, otonta in Igbo (Asaba), ewidun in Yoruba, inuwu elepe in Yoruba (Ife).
The informal ethnobotanical investigation that had female herb-sellers in three local herbal markets in Ibadan as its respondents, revealed the different ways the herbs are used in the treatment of anaemia.
Preparation of decoction from plant materials formed the most common method of preparation in remedies for anaemia. They found that the barks of Detarium microcarpum and Harungana maadagascariensis are cut into pieces, dried and ground into powder. One teaspoonful of the powder is taken with hot pap once daily.
Another preparation entails boiling the leaves of Sorghum bicolor and the bark of cacao tree in water and taken 250 ml of the preparation twice daily. The leaves of Parquentina nigrescens should be squeezed with water and 150 ml of the juice should be taken twice daily.
The respondents indicated that waltheria indica leaves should be squeezed with water and little honey to be added, 150 ml of the preparation is to be taken once daily. Another recipe entails drying and grinding into powder the bark of mango tree and small quantity of Aframomum melequeta fruits. One tablespoonful of the powder is taken once daily.
The fallen leaves of Terminalia catappa and leaves of Parquentina nigrescens are boiled in water. 250 ml of the juice is taken once daily. Similarly, the bark of cacao tree is boiled with water and mixed with hot pap as baby food.
Xylopia aethiopica fruits, trema orientalis bark, tetracera alnifolia bark, trema orientalis bark and H.madagascariensis bark are boiled with water. 150 ml of the preparation is taken twice daily. Conversely, sorghum bicolor leaves are cooked with beans in water as food or the leaves of terminalia catappa and waltheria indica could be boiled with water and 250 ml is taken once daily.
The researchers, while stating that the study provide scientific details for the use of these herbs in the treatment of anaemia, wrote that P. nigrescens, Mango and cocao barks could be used as food supplements in weaning food because of their significant crude protein and fibre constituents in addition to their therapeutic potential.
Previously, scientists had confirmed that the extract of pterocarpus santalinoides, terminalia catappa and aloe vera was useful in the management of sickle cell disorder. The role of crude aqueous extract of Zanthoxylum macrophylla roots as an antisickling agent was also highlighted.
An investigation on the aqueous extracts of Bitter kola confirmed that it could be useful in the management of anaemic diseases. The administration of aqueous extract of S. bicolor stem bark in rats restored the anaemic condition in the iron deficient group and thus lends credence to its use in folklore medicine in the management of anaemia.
They concluded; “further search for antianaemic plants should include ethnobotanical survey to preserve indigenous knowledge and upgrade phytomedicines in health care delivery in Nigeria.”