Lemon grass, antidote to malaria, typhoid, pains
Muda Oyeniran, Lagos
Before the advent of orthodox medicine in the treatment of malaria, typhoid fever and other ailments, the traditional African society had devised various means of combating such ailments. Our fore-fathers in the village had relied principally on herbs as solution to their health problems. African forests are very rich in plants of high medicinal values with proven efficacy in the treatment of fevers, pains, diarrhoea, menstrual problems and so on.
One of such plants with high medicinal value is lemon grass popularly called Kooko oba in Yorubaland, Isauri (in Hausa); Acharaehi (in Igbo), Myoyaka makara (Ibiobio); Eti (in Edo); Ikon eti (Efik). Lemon grass is an aromatic tropic plant with long, slender blades that can grow to a height of 5ft (1.5m). It is scientifically called Cymbogon citratus and belongs to the plant family Graminae. Believed to have a wide range of theraeutic effects, lemon grass has been used for centuries in West Africa, South America and India and has also become popular in Europe and the United States. Although native to West Africa, lemon grass can also be found growing in India, South American, South East Asia, Australia and the United States.
Lemon grass is considered by herbalists to have several useful properties including antibacterial, antifungal and fever-reducing effects. Some of these claims have been supported by animal and laboratory studies. In one test-tube investigation, published in the medical journal Microbios in 1996, researchers demonstrated that lemon grass was effective against 22 strains of bacteria and 12 types of fungi. Scientific research has also supported the herb’s reputation as an analgesic and sedative.
Lemon grass oil had also been found to be pain-killing. A study conducted in rodents suggests that myrcene, a chemical found in the essential oil of lemon grass may act as a site-specific pain reliever. Unlike aspirin and similar analgesics which tend to alleviate pain throughout the body, myrcene seems to work only on particular areas. Apart from this, the lemon grass oil can help in reducing fever, aids digestion and can be used as an anti-oxidant. Recent studies indicate that lemon grass can be successfully used to treat drug resistant malaria and typhoid fever. Before now, lemon grass has been used in local anti-malaria preparations. For treating malaria, a cup of boiling water is usually poured over lemon grass to make an fusion. It is then allowed to stand for about five minutes before it is strained and drank. However to treat typhoid, it is recommended that lemon grass leaf be boiled in water for about half an hour with whole lime, grape fruits, unripe pawpaw fruits, unripe pineapples, cut garlic and bark of Alstonia bonnei (awun in Yoruba; cheesewood/pattern wood in English).
As rightly observed by Professor Tolu Odugbemi in a paper he presented recently in Lagos, the usual practice for the collection of medicinal plants either for use or sale is for traditional medical practitioners or herb-sellers to scout around the roadsides in villages, traditional small dwelling houses, regular wet areas found around locally-built bathrooms (baluwe) and other unhygienic places. But this is no longer the case with lemon grass as the herb is now cultivated over a large hectares (150 hectares) of land in Odogbolu town, Ogun State where it is then harvested and hygienically processed into teabags for convenient usage to ward off fever, flu, headaches and pains. This is made possible by Eurobridge Industries Limited, a company based in Lagos. According to Mr. Richard Farrant, Managing Director of the company, the lemon grass herbal tea under the brand name ‘Dara Dara’ is caffeine-free and purely natural as it is grown originally without pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or fertilizers. ‘Dara Dara’ according to him, is NAFDAC approved and has been endorsed by the Federal College of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (FCCAM).
He revealed that lemon grass in ‘Dara Dara’ herbal lemon grass tea is high in vitamin C and essential oils.
Straight talk from Hort'
Africans are dying from very basic diseases because they have been made to believe that the West invented medicine. They still do not understand that most of the drugs which come from the West is their own traditional medicine in chemical form. How is this so? Western researchers go to Africa, talk and work with the traditional doctors who they pejoritavely call 'the witch doctor". This person usually knows which plants have been used from time immemorial to treat different diseases. The Western researcher makes a note of all that he/she says, then tests these plants in his laboratory and produces a drug which he thens resells to Africans at a much higher price. Of course, no one bothers to protect the 'intellectual property" of the so called "witch doctor" and a few years later some Western researcher wins the Nobel prize for inventing another "wonder" drug. This is ow African know how is stolen every day in the most banal manner without anyone raising a whimper. When I was in Ghana a few years ago, I read an article from a doctor who was extremely critical of the Ghanaian government for depending on malaria drugs imports from the western countries instead of promoting the use of the "NEEM tree" which he stated would halve the number of deaths in his country from malaria. The biggest problem in Africa is not having access to better drugs, it is about changing the mentality of the African and the way he thinks about his own medicine.
The last point I'd like to make is that the reason African people were forcefully kidnapped and taken to develop the new world was because of their excellent health which goes to show that our medicine before the encroachment of foreigners into our land was one of the best in the world. Had we been in bad health modern slavery may never have occurred. We can also see how much Africa and her people have regressed since everyone knows that African people have the worst health on the planet today. Let us not forget that it was from our ancestors, the Ancient Egyptians, that the world learned about medicine. I cannot forget standing in awe in Egypt in front of the hierogylphics depicting the world's first medical instruments and those very same instruments are still being used in operating theatres all around the world today. Africans must begin to change their mentality if they want to enjoy better health.