Why ‘Agbo’ Is Potential Risks Of Severe Kidney And Liver Failure

By Kayode Agboola

LAGOS MAY 30TH (NEWSRANGERS)-Before the advent of medicine, ailments were treated with different potions and mixtures and they were effective at the time or believed to be effective, but medical treatments have evolved, it has been tested and tried, proven and disproved and so many forms of treatment have been added and eliminated over the years. Medicine recorded a giant leap after Alexander Fleming accidentally stumbled across the first antibiotic – penicillin before the second world war with a resultant era of antibiotics and a drastic reduction in mortality rate from bacterial infections. Orthodox medicine has passed through so many phases before it got to what we have today. All of these are to ensure the safety of consumer of drugs and drug products.

But can we say the same for herbal concoctions? Traditional agbo or herbal concoctions on the flip side has remained the same over the years, and same form of treatment is being passed down from generation to generation with little or no improvement in the recipe and the results.

Herbal medicine is popular among Nigerians today, but most Nigerians appear to be ignorant of its potential toxicities. An average Lagosian for instance, majorly the low income and few middle-income earners would naturally patronize agbo sellers for an ailment before considering medical treatment, despite the controversies that trail its efficacy and safety. More lettered people are beginning to join the bandwagon and it is becoming worrisome. Some have attributed this trend to poverty while others says it’s ignorance, but from my interaction with a few, I observed that this trend continues not because of poverty or ignorance alone but also due to the fact that most of these low income earners patronize chemists, auxiliary nurses and chews for medical treatment. So, when the treatment is ineffective which is the inevitable outcome, they revert to traditional means of treatment. This has further reinforced the belief that herbal mixtures are more effective among these group of people.

Please note, that this article is not aimed at downplaying herbs or herbal treatment. Aloe vera for instance have a lot of therapeutic benefits. Herbs definitely have a lot of benefits and are considered safe in some situations, especially in parts of the worlds where herbal medicine are constantly being refined through research and clinical trials.

“Herbal medicines, also called botanical medicines or phytomedicines, refer to herbs, herbal materials, herbal preparations, and finished herbal products that contain parts of plants or other plant materials as active ingredients. The plant materials include seeds, berries, roots, leaves, bark or flowers. Many drugs used in conventional medicine were originally derived from plants. Salicylic acid is a precursor of aspirin that was originally derived from white willow bark and the meadowsweet plant (Filipendula ulmaria (L.) Maxim.) Quinine and Artemesinin are antimalarial drugs derived from Cinchona pubescens Vahl bark and Artemisia annua L. plant, respectively. Vincristine is an anticancer drug derived from periwinkle (Cantharnthus rosues Linn. G. Donn.). Morphine, codeine, and paregoric, derived from the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum L.), are used in the treatment of diarrhea and pain relief. Digitalis is a cardiac glycoside derived from foxglove plant (Digitalis purpurea L.). So, herbs are potent medicines when the active ingredients are extracted.” -BMC Complement Altern Med (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3252251/)

Now to the main issue, around major motor parks, bus terminals and markets in Lagos, you’d find various sellers of these mixtures making big sales at these locations. The common herbal mixture being peddled across the city includes agbo jedi, agbo iba, oroki herbal mixture and other mixtures (crude or refined). There are no records of clinical trials or studies about these mixtures which makes them a dangerous cocktail for consumption. Fever, body pain relief, diarrhea, fatigue, menstrual pain, skin care, strength gain, blood cleansing, cholera, premature ejaculation, weak erection, blood enrichment, diabetes, hypertension and so on are what they claim these mixtures cure without any scientific evidence to prove it.

Agbo taken by some on the guise of its medicinal value has contributed to the deaths of many especially the ones prepared with alcohol. the past decade witnessed the introduction of locally brewed gin, tetrahydrocannabinol and other addictive substances into herbal mixtures. Also, nowadays the sellers are only interested in making fast money, so, they improvise by substituting some of their ingredients with something else that is cheaper which further make the preparations more injurious to the health of the consumers. “A seller once claimed that due to the pressure from consumers for a stronger drink, she resolved to the use of ethanol, then recently methanol. Methanol on the other hand is a type of alcohol used for industrial purposes.”

Kidney and liver diseases are some of the likely consequences of prolonged agbo consumption. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) has become a major public health problem in Nigeria, and studies have established a clear relationship between alcohol intake and CKD. Herbal concoction has been shown to cause kidney diseases through many forms like chronic and acute tubulointerstitial nephritis (swelling in between the kidney tubules). It has been shown to cause acute kidney injury, hypertension, capillary nephrons and exposes consumers to some form of tumors.

The chemical compounds inside most of these concoctions have not been isolated or studied. Therefore, it is impossible for consumers to know the active ingredients in these mixtures, the chemical reactions and interactions of these ingredients, what they actually work for, the rate and the extent they work, their side/adverse effects, their contraindications and their short and long-time complications.

The woes of herbal mixtures are summarized below:

  • Herbal medicines take too much time to act, and the entire process is very slow.
  • Dosage cannot be determined, so, you wouldn’t know if you are taking over or underdosage.
  • Interactions with other drugs substances are not known as they are never studied.
  • No clear research to determine the active ingredients in these mixtures.
  • They contain various ingredients which sometimes causes allergic reactions.
  • Herbal medicines are not good for serious cases such as heart attack and broken bones.
  • These medicines are also ineffective in sudden illnesses and accidents.
  • Herbal remedies and medicine for certain disorders may have negative side effects, which often takes a long time to reveal.
  • Herbal medications often interact with regular medicines.
  • Expiration of the mixture cannot be determined
  • Risk of presence of heavy metals and other impurities.
  • Long term complications not determined
  • Herbal medicines are also not properly regulated and so they do not carry any quality assurance.


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Posted by on May 30 2024. Filed under Health, National. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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