Herbal Medicine Can Transform Nigeria’s Economy…Fr Adodo

Herbal Medicine Can Transform Nigeria’s Economy…Fr Adodo

A Specialist in Alternative and Complementary Medicine and Phytomedicine Research, Rev Father Anselm Gbenga Adodo, a Monk of the Benedictine Monastery, is the Founder and Director of Nigeria’s foremost herbal research Institute, the Pax Herbal Clinic and Research Laboratories, popularly called Paxherbals based in Ewu, Edo State, one of the organisations spearheading the search for

A Specialist in Alternative and Complementary Medicine and Phytomedicine Research, Rev Father Anselm Gbenga Adodo, a Monk of the Benedictine Monastery, is the Founder and Director of Nigeria’s foremost herbal research Institute, the Pax Herbal Clinic and Research Laboratories, popularly called Paxherbals based in Ewu, Edo State, one of the organisations spearheading the search for indigenous cure for COVID-19.

He is a prominent advocate of African herbal medicine research, indigenous knowledge systems, rural community development, health policy reform and transformation of education in Africa.

Born in Akure, capital of Ondo State in the 70s, Adodo holds a BA in Religious Studies from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria; and Master’s degrees in Systematic Theology from Duquesne University, Pittsburgh USA; and in Medical Sociology from University of Benin, Nigeria. His two doctoral degrees are in Management of Technology and Innovation from Da Vinci Institute, South Africa and in Medical Sociology from University of Benin, Nigeria.

Although he comes across as unassuming, Adodo’s highly resourceful work speaks to his global acclaim as ranking in the pantheon of great men of ideas. He has 400 publications in national dailies, health magazines/journals and health blogs on diverse subjects ranging from Natural Health to Ethnobotany, Economics, Development, Religion, Politics and Education

Since his first outing titled, “Herbs for Healing: Receiving God’s Healing Through Nature”  which debuted in 1997, Adodo, also a Visiting Lecturer on African Transformation Studies and African Traditional Medicine at the University of Ibadan, has published 10 academic books.

Fr Adodo recently published a 310 page book titled, “Healing Plants of Nigeria: Ethnomedicine and Therapeutic Applications,” co-authored with Professor of Maurice Iwu, a renown scholar of Pharmacognosy. He also co-authored “The Idea of The Communiversity: Releasing the Economic, Spiritual, Cultural and Innovation GENE-ius of Societies”published in 2019 with Lessem Ronnie and Bradley Tony. He has another forthcoming work, “Afrikology: Deconstructing and Reconstructing Knowledge and Value Out of Africa, “slated to be released in December this year. 

Paxherbal Centre, where Adodo superintends as director has partnership with Howard University Hospital, USA, on Cancer Research and the University of Bonn, Germany on Public Health, Tuberculosis and Microbiology Faculty apart from various others in the UK and the US.

It has also signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOUs) with the Federal Institute of Industrial Research. (FIIRO), Nigeria Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency (NNMDA, Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria (FRIN) and the Nigeria Pharmaceutical Research Institute (NIPRD).            

Father Adodo, is a Member, Research Committee on Social Transformations and Sociology of Development, International Sociological Association. He is also Member, National Association of Complementary and Alternative Medicine Practitioners of Nigeria.

An Executive Consultant, Global Ecovillage Network, United Nations, Geneva and Senior Research Fellow, Trans4m Centre for Integral Development, Geneva, Switzerland, he’s a Member, International Sociological Association and Fellow, Nigerian Society of Botanists. He is also a Consultant, Committee on Phyto-Medicine Research Institute, University of Medical Sciences Ondo and an Adjunct Research Fellow, Nigeria Institute of Medical Research (NIMR).

Father Adodo speaks on how investment in herbal medicine with over 200 billion dollar market globally can transform the Nigerian economy. He also talks on the search for local cure for COVID-19, the country’s lack of investment in research and other issues in this exclusive interview with TONY IYARE. Excerpts:

Are you frightened by the threat of Covid-19 pandemic and its ravaging effects all over the world?

I am not frightened but concerned. My concern is not just about the threat which the virus poses to the health of the poor and disadvantaged people of the world, who make up over 80% of world population. The other 15% can always take care of themselves. I am also equally concerned about politics and business interest around the COVID-19 pandemic and the misinformation around it. 

We hear a lot of work around the world about the production of vaccine to combat Covid-19 and not much by our researchers here. What do you think is responsible?

The point is we cannot reap where we have not sown. Since government has not invested in research, we should not expect any breakthrough in research. Some people tend to think that when we speak about investment in research, it means asking government to keep ‘pumping’ money into research. For me that is not the most important thing. The first question is: if money is pumped into research, will it be used for what it is meant for? We need to sanitize our moral, cultural, and political space if we want to grow as a nation of innovators. I also think that the current educational system in Africa, which is modelled after 19th century German education system, is geared towards producing graduates who are job seekers rather than job creators or innovators. In fact, African philosopher, Paunlin Hountoundji, opines that European colonizers did not introduce science into their overseas territories because they wanted their subjects to become scientists. Their aim was rather to teach peripheral science, an impoverished science deprived of an inner qualitative element that could give rise to integral research. Thus, according to him, science in the colonies was marked by theoretical emptiness. First there is the frantic accumulation of facts and data, which begins the scientific enquiry. And then followed the last stage, which is the application of theoretical findings to practical issues. But the most important stage, the stage that comes between them, was lacking. This middle stage, the interpretation of raw information, the theoretical processing of the data collected, and the production of those particular utterances which we call scientific statements, took place in the colonizers’ home countries.  Deprived of the will to transform, peripheral science lacked the very context, character and powers of co-creation that made capitalist and scientific endeavours productive in the colonizers’ own country.

In your estimation would you say we have done well as a country in terms of containing the virus?

We have not done well, but nature has been kind and gentle to us. We are also blessed with a young and agile population with a strong will to survive. Never underestimate the will power of the African people.

What do you make of our resort to order for the Madagascar Covid Organics in spite of the availability of different healing plants in our environment?

It reflects a certain mindset in our society. That mindset tends to think that what comes from outside is always better, even if it is from Lomé or Cotonou, so long it is from ‘the abroad’.  Do not forget that Nigeria also imports yams, pineapples and other food items. We import pencils, razor blades, toothpicks, palm wine, Ankara cloths, mango chips and plantain chips.  If some Nigerians have their way, they will even import themselves.  

What is responsible for the delay in coming up with an indigenous cure for Covid-19 in our country?

One reason is that it is a new virus, and scientists are still trying to learn more about the virus and how it behaves. The second reason is that we have not laid a solid foundation for innovative research in Nigeria. The third reason is that we are used to waiting for foreign scientists and foreign governments to help us when we have challenges. Think about it, who are the people leading the discussions about African political and economic development in the world today? They are experts sitting down in Geneva, Paris and Washington, formulating fiscal and health policies, which our governments accept with excitement. This brings us back to the issue of mindset again

Your Centre recently issued a statement on the production of some drugs to cure Covid-19. What stage are you now on that?

We have done the preclinical trials, which confirms that the drug is safe for human consumption. Clinical trial is expensive, and we cannot do it alone. Preclinical trials involve acute toxicological text, sub-acute toxicity test, in-vivo and in-vitro studies, safety studies, dosage determination etc We don’t need NAFDAC approval for preclinical. But we work with registered public analysts and consultants. We have a very good animal house here at paxherbal. We also have very good laboratories. So we have the capacity to do many of the trials. Clinical trial is when you begin to administer the drug to human beings under strict monitoring. NAFDAC will need to issue a permit for that, but the trial itself can take place in any recognised health centre

Recently, the Nigerian Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) said that it lacks funds to conduct clinical trials into any drugs. Are you worried by that?

Everyone should be worried. If a high-profile medical research institute like NIMR does not have money for research, what do you expect small private establishments like Paxherbals to do?

Ordinarily, all our health research institutes should be spearheading our search for indigenous cure to Covid-19. Are you disturbed that they’ve become lethargic?

What I expect is to see cooperation between the Academia, Research Institutes and the Industry. Such cooperation is vital for holistic development. Universities are critical for theory building. Research Institutes are important for innovation and creativity. The Industry is vital for sustainability and economic transformation. Note that most of the most crucial inventions in the world took place outside the walls of universities. The doctor did not manufacture the syringes or drugs he prescribes in the hospital. We are utterly dependent on one another.

Why do you think successive governments have over the years underfunded all our research institutes?

Government over the years underfunded everything: Education, Infrastructure, Health, Agriculture, Energy etc. The reason, as many have observed, is absence of visionary leadership. 

Many scholars and researchers like your Centre have come up with drugs to combat Covid-19. Why has the regulatory agencies been slow in warming up to harness those initiatives?

I do not know. But I think a lot still depends on leadership and political will. 

Are you surprised at the response of the World Health Organisation (WHO) to the local drug for Covid Organics produced by Madagascar?

It will be good to specify what WHO response was, so that we can be fair and objective to both parties. As far as I know, WHO did not condemn the Madagascar drug. I think they demanded for more information about the drug, which is normal. For me, the bigger issue is how people tend to have lost faith in the so-called national and international agencies or organizations. This lack of trust is what I think is playing out between WHO and Madagascar. It certainly calls for soul-searching on the part of WHO.

Your Centre has been involved in the production of varied herbal drugs for over 20 years. What ailments have been your focus?

We have been managing diseases such as Diabetes, Hypertension, Cancer, Asthma, Prostate Enlargement, Infertility, Malaria, and many others. One of our herbal products, the Pax Bitters, which has been in the market for over 15 years, has passed through series of screenings, and is proven to be antidiabetic, antiviral and immunodulatory. The only problem, I suspect, is the bias that they are made in Nigeria.   

What kind of support have you received either from government or any of the regulatory agencies?


Your Centre seems to have had more collaboration with foreign institutions than the Federal and State Ministries of Health and Governments in Nigeria. What’s responsible for this?

We work with any group or individuals who share our vision and relate with us with openness. We do not discriminate. The primary reason why we are into this venture is to contribute to the promotion of health and well-being of Nigerians and Africans.

Do you think we can be upbeat given the directive by President Muhammadu Buhari asking TETFUND to fund medical research?

TETFund funds, as the name indicates is almost always for government owned universities. Private universities complain that they are often unfairly excluded from such funds.  In reality, upgrading Nigeria’s hospitals to an acceptable standard and upgrading medical colleges to be able to admit more candidates to study medicine is extremely crucial. With less than 50,000 active doctors to a population of 200 million, we need a holistic approach to the issue. A knee-jerk approach is always short-sighted

Recently NAFDAC said it is having a dialogue with herbal practitioners in Nigeria. Don’t you think this engagement is coming too late?

We have been having lots of meetings and dialogues for a long time now.  In Nigeria, there are hundreds of seminars and conferences on every topic under the earth. We seem to have an infinite capacity for talking. If our roof is leaking, we organize a conference before we mend it. If our house is on fire, we first of all organize a seminar on how to handle fire-outbreak before we quench the fire. If flood is wiping out our towns and villages, we summon a stakeholders’ summit to discuss it even while our children are drowning. Nigerians can sit down all day discussing about the way forward, how to move the nation forward, which direction to follow, and how quickly to arrive there. What is often lacking is the will, the determination, the sincerity, and clarity of purpose to make a difference.

Recently, you and Prof Maurice Iwu came up with a book on healing plants in Nigeria. What influenced the writing of the book?

The book was published by Routledge and released in early April. It contains over 220 full-colour pictures of our local medicinal plants for easy identification. We wrote the book because it is important to scientifically identify and document our indigenous medicinal plants. Herbal medicine practice is not just about preparing concoctions. It is much complex than that. We also must identify, conserve and document the therapeutic properties of the plants in our society.  In many indigenous societies, when a knowledge-bearer dies, his knowledge dies with him. With every old person who dies in our villages, the equivalent of a library is lost. Today, we speak of protecting the environment and our rare species of plants and animals. However, equally important is the need for national and international efforts to protect and preserve indigenous knowledge, especially local medical knowledge.  There’s also need to adapt a community-oriented approach to herbal medicine research.   Scientific enquiry cannot be devoid of the subjectivity of the subject and the immediate environment. The properties of a papaya leaf, for example, should not just be tested in a laboratory. One also needs to understand how a community thinks about and uses it. This approach should be an integral part of the scientific research. It provides a line of enquiry for the scientist to explore. Without this inquiry, the scientist cannot claim to have tested the properties of the papaya leaf fully.

In which area of herbal medicine research has your Centre elicit the highest global acclaim? In which area have you also produced the most potent drug?

If you do a google search on some of our products, especially the popular Pax Herbal Bitters, Pax Health Tea and Pax Cough Syrup, you will see a lot of interesting scientific work already done on the products by scientists who published their findings in peer-reviewed journals. We do not know any of them personally. They went to our outlets to purchase our products and subjected them to rigorous scientific analysis to verify the claims. That is one beauty of science. The Pax Herbal Bitters, for example, which is a tincture of 40 local herbs, qualifies as one of the most underrated medicine in the world. It is just a matter of time before the world we give the product its rightful place of honour. We have been very successful in treating diseases such as Diabetes, Hypertension, Osteoarthritis and management of Breast and Prostate Cancer and viral infections. We have kept accurate record of the protocols used for the treatments.  

What do you think we need to do as a country that’s extremely rich in the prevalent of herbal plants?

While countries like China and India have already invaded the global herbal market like a colossus, Nigeria is still busy discussing whether herbal medicine is a good source of health care or not.  While the annual global market for herbal medicine is estimated to be over 200 billion dollars, African professionals are busy attending seminars to convince them of the efficacy of herbal medicine. And Nigerian medical doctors and pharmacists are engaged in a fierce battle of supremacy about who is more important than the others.  While Asian medical doctors, botanists, pharmacists and other scientists are all united in the development of their traditional medicine into a global transformative venture, Nigerian scientists are standing by the ringside complaining about the attitude of charlatans and quacks. What we need to do is to walk the talk. Herbal medicine is our field of comparative advantage, and we need to use it as a platform to develop our nation medically, economically, and even politically.

What should be our policy towards herbal medicine?

Government should strengthen the Board of Traditional Medicine in every state and encourage states that don’t have to establish one. Do not forget that a law approving the integration of traditional medicine into the National healthcare system has already been approved. This was done during the Jonathan presidency. The political will to translate the law into action is the major problem.

What do you say to practitioners of orthodox medicine who deride herbal medicine as being too crude and not measurable in terms of its curative effect?

The era of describing traditional medicine as fetish, superstitious, or irrational is gone. Herbal medicine practice in Nigeria has gone beyond that. Increasingly, the very validity of the “traditional-modern” dichotomy is being questioned. Traditional medicine differs from the “modern” or “western” medicine not in terms of goals or effects, but in terms of their underlying cultures and historical contexts. Viewed from this perspective, the World Health Organization noted that: “all medicine is modern in so far as it is satisfactorily directed towards the common goal of providing health care, despite the setting in time, place and culture”. This “traditional-modern” dichotomy is also a cultural construct that relates to certain socio-political dynamics. In the race to meet the Millennium Development Goals, combat increasing drug resistance and tackle new diseases, traditional medicine is making a comeback. Governments, drug companies, researchers and international aid organisations increasingly recognise the value of traditional medicine and its practitioners — as a source of potential new blockbuster drugs and as alternative providers of primary healthcare.

What really influenced your going into production of herbal drugs?

I am passionate about documenting African indigenous knowledge, especially herbal medical knowledge. I try to make this knowledge available to the populace through publications.

Are you an adherent of liberation theology which was popularized by some leading Catholic priests in the 60s and 70s? Do you belief that religion must serve the people which underscore that philosophy?

I studied an aspect of liberation Theology in the Seminary. But I have a problem with it because it did not create alternative theory of development and transformation, which I have been able to do in my books: Integral Community Enterprise, where I developed the theory of communitalism: http://www.paxafricana.org/philosophy/about-communitalism/ and ‘The idea of the Communiversity: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Idea-Communiversity-Releasing-Technological Societies/dp/1912356244/ref=sr_1_4?dchild=1&keywords=anselm+adodo&qid=1590390906&sr=8-4I ty’  I have written over ten academic books, even though most people are not even aware of that.

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