Traditional Medicine in Dr Rabi Thobelithongo Herbal Healer Sangoma Inyanga's room from Bellville. Picture:Ayanda Ndamane/ African News Agency ANA.
Traditional Medicine in Dr Rabi Thobelithongo Herbal Healer Sangoma Inyanga's room from Bellville. Picture:Ayanda Ndamane/ African News Agency ANA.

Give traditional medicine a fair chance in fight against Covid-19, says professor

By Rudolph Nkgadima Time of article published Feb 25, 2021

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CAPE TOWN - Give traditional medicine a fair chance, a fair investment so that it contributes to fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

This was the message from Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) practitioners during a virtual seminar hosted by the Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, on dispelling myths about vaccines and variants, on Wednesday afternoon.

Professor Motlalepula Matsabisa, who is Chairperson of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Regional Expert Advisory Committee on Traditional Medicines for Covid-19 and director of pharmacology at the University of the Free State, said an equitable distribution of resources towards the development of other therapeutics was needed.

Matsabisa said “We made the same mistake with HIV/Aids; much was put into the HIV vaccine and we still do not have a vaccine. We need to believe in our science and knowledge. We need more investment into our natural medicine.”

“We believe natural products can contribute as it did in the past pandemics, it would contribute as a prophylactic, as a preventative, it would also contribute as curative and it would also contribute as a restorative. Instead of focusing on one aspect in development, which may have its own challenges, we should have an equitable distribution of resources towards the development of other therapeutics,” he said.

During the webinar, Professor Nceba Gqaleni, a member of the Presidential Task Team on African Traditional Medicine, revealed that indigenous plants and medicines from South Africa demonstrate in-vitro antiviral activity against Sars-CoV-2 acting in part by inhibiting virus entry.

“We have re-purposed some local indigenous medicinal plants against Covid-19 and the results are promising. At the moment, we can’t give out the names of these plants because some people would want to harvest even the roots of some plants in the wild,” he said.

In September, a regional expert committee on traditional medicine, set up by the WHO, the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, and the African Union Commission for Social Affairs, endorsed protocols for traditional medicine clinical trials.

Meanwhile, a team of scientists from Germany and the USA recently explored the effectiveness of traditional plant medicines in treating severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus (Sars-CoV-2) infection.

Their findings reveal that various extracts of two medicinal plants, namely Artemisia annua and Artemisia afra (umhlonyane), can potentially inhibit Sars-CoV-2 replication in vitro without causing any cytotoxicity.

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