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Nature has always been the mother of all treatments, which provides therapies for all illnesses and diseases.
Through the process of studying nature, man studied plants, some of which he found to be useful for food and cultivated same as food crops, while those he found harmful or poisonous were rejected. He found another group of plants to possess medicinal properties, used them as such and the special knowledge passed on to his progeny (Chame, 1987).
Traditional medicine is the oldest, most tried and tested form of medicine and is as old as man himself.
Traditional medicine is the sum total of the knowledge, skills and practices based on the theories, beliefs and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in the maintenance of health, as well as in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental illnesses
Traditional medication involves the use of herbal medicines, animal parts and minerals. As herbal medicines are the most widely used of the three, and as the
other types involve other complex factors, emphasis is now focused on traditional medicines.
Practices of traditional medicine vary greatly from country to country, and from region to region as they are influenced by factors such as cultures, history, personal attitudes and philosophy.
World Health Organization (WHO, 2003) has estimated that perhaps 80% of more than 400 million inhabitants of the world rely mainly on traditional medicine for their primary health care needs (Akerele, 1990). There is an increasing use and popularity for traditional medicine throughout the world nowadays. In industrialized countries, adaptation of traditional medicine is termed
“Complementary” or “Alternative” medicine (CAM).
In Ghana, Mali, Nigeria and Zambia, the first line of treatment for 60 percent of children with high fever resulting from malaria is the use of herbal medicine at home (WHO, 2003).
In San Francisco, London and South Africa, 75% of people living with HIV/AIDS use traditional medicine (WHO, 2003). Traditional medicine also has impact on infectious diseases. For example, the Chinese herbal remedy Artemisia annua, is already in use against resistant malaria and has created a breakthrough in preventing almost one million deaths annually, most of them children, from severe fever (WHO, 2003).
It is estimated that 25% of modern medicines are made from plants first used traditionally (WHO, 2003).
Long historical uses of many traditional medicines, including experience passed on from generation to generation have demonstrated the safety and efficacy of traditional medicine. However, scientific research is needed to prove evidence of safety and efficacy (WHO, 2000).
1.1 Medicinal Plants
Plants represent the principal means of therapy in traditional medicine and the plant kingdom has long served as a prolific source of useful drugs.
A medicinal plant could be defined as any plant which in one or more of its organs contain substances that can be used for therapeutic purposes or which are precursors for chemo-pharmaceutical synthesis.
A lot of postulations have been suggested as to how the medicinal uses of plants were revealed to man.
Paracelsus brought the “Doctrine of signature”. It was believed that benefits are manifested in a sign (or signature) on the plant to indicate their uses to man. A liver shaped leaf indicated the plants used in liver diseases, while a heart shaped leaf indicated cardiac activities (Kafaru, 1994).
A postulation that plants grow according to the needs of mankind also came in. It was believed that new plants that grow around the home often ought to be plants needed by someone who is sick in the house (Kafaru, 1994).
It was also believed that animals wounded by other animals or hunters run to the forest to eat some particular type of plants, such plants were then marked as medicinal.
A great number of efficacious plant extracts appear to be available for the alleviation of many disorders.
The treatment of glaucoma with alkaloid from the Calabar bean (Physostigma venenosum) of Nigeria or leaves of Brazillian species of pibocerpus, can prevent blindness. Physostigma erythrophyllum is found to relieve pressure on neural receptor sites in that organ (Lely, 1958).
The discovery of antineoplastic agents Vincristine and Vinblastine alkaloids of Madagascan annual periwinkle in treating Hogkin’s disease, acute lymphocytic leukemia, Wilm’s tumor, Burkkitt’s lymphoma and gestational chorio-carcinoma is also a milestone in medicine.
Classical examples of the debt medicine owes to plants include use of quinine, morphine, cocaine, reserpine, emetine and atropine.
Efforts are continuously being made to identify the rationale behind the use of medicinal herbs. Such efforts include:
a) Use of chewing sticks in cleaning teeth - in many African homes; teeth are cleaned in the morning by chewing the root or slim stem of certain plants until they acquire brush like ends (El-Said et al., 1970). The fibrous end is then used to brush the teeth thoroughly. On scientific evaluation they were shown to possess varying degrees of anti-microbial activity against oral microbial flora. Plants used for this purpose include Zanthoxylum zanthoxyloides, Terminalia glancescens, Anogeissus leiocarpus, Vernonia amygdalina and Garcinia kola.
b) Use of Ocimum gratissimum in treating diarrhoea.
Ocimum gratissimum leaf or whole herb is a popular treatment for diarrhoea (Dalziel, 1956). The plant is rich in volatile oils, which contain up to 70% of thymol, an antimicrobial.
However, in certain preparations, O. gratissium is boiled with water to form a decoction that will contain little of the steam volatile thymol. Such aqueous decoctions were shown to be devoid of anti-microbial activity, but they do relax the guinea pig ileum and rat jejunum in vitro.
c) The use of neem (Azadirachta indica) to treat malaria.
Hedges of the neem tree are grown close to houses because this plant is highly esteemed as a fever cure especially in malaria fever, which is endemic in Africa. A decoction of the leaves, or of leaves and stem bark, is drunk while in some cases the stem bark is also used to treat fevers by inhalation or hydrotherapy.
Ekanem, (1978) reported a fall in parasite count in chloroquine-sensitive strains of Plasmodium berghei infected mice treated with a decoction of the leaves of Azadirachta indica. Ade-Serrano (1982) also reported the growth inhibitory effect of the leaf extract on P. falciparum culture while Okpanyi (1977) showed its anti-inflammatory property. Okpanyi and Ezeuwor (1981) demonstrated that an extract of the leaves and bark produced antipyretic effect, thus justifying its use in fever.
Others include the use of Montanoa tomentosa as a contraceptive, Rauwolfia vomitoria in treating lunatics and Bridelia ferniginer in treating diabetes.
The chemical constituents in medicinal plants usually explain the rational for the use of the plant in traditional medicine. The trend now is that phytochemists exploit medicinal plants and isolate bioactive compounds from which different analogues are synthesized with the aim of obtaining agents with better actions or even different biological properties. Plant’s active constituents thus serve as templates for future drug developments.
Medicinal importance of plants has been attributed to the presence of their metabolic products (phytochemical compounds). Ordinarily it is these phytochemical compounds that cure diseased plant itself, and are believed to activate, catalyze or initiate same curative reactions in humans.
These phytochemical compounds can be concentrated in any part of the plant like the leaves, roots, bark etc. These compounds include alkaloids, flavonoids, tannins, terpenoids etc, which are responsible for the pharmacological activity of the plant.
1.2. Pterocarpus erinaceus (Poir)
Sub-family: Papilionoideae, fabaceae
Pterocarpus erinaceus is a perennial tree that is popularly known as
African rosewood, African kino, or teak (in English). “Pterocarpus” means ‘winged fruits’ from the
Greek “Pteron” (Wing) and“Karpos” (fruit).
It is a deciduous legume tree of African Savannas and dry forest famous for producing one of the finest woods in its native region. It also produces leafy fodder high in protein, which makes an excellent animal feed crucial for survival of livestock during the dry season. The tree produces showy and attractive golden-yellow flowers and has considerable potential as an ornament. Increasing demand for the high value timber and fodder threatens existing natural strands. However, it is easy to propagate, making it a good candidate for reaforestation programs. In northern Nigeria it is called ”madobiya”, “sha jinni”,” banuhi”,
“zanchi” while in the south, it is called “apepe”, “era”, “osun dud” or
“upeka”.The Ghanaians call it “senyo”, bunernga” or “doti”. The people of Ivory
Coast refer to it as“modia baka” or “tolo”, while it is reffered to as “tem”, or
“butumbu” by theTogolese
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