Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at


Have you ever taken any form of herbal medicine? What was your experience? Was it really curative or it aggravated your condition from worse to worst?  I still remember about my ordeal with some herbs that I had taken from a neighbor’s house in my countryside before I joined a Medical school. I had the flu and according to this caring friend, the herbaceous concoction had an ability to cure more than forty diseases. I got convinced and I drank a whole cup of that bitter intermixture.

What followed were continuous episodes of diarrhea the whole of that night. My “Doctor” visited our house the following day to check on me and I was able to narrate to him about my frequent visits to the loo the previous night. He reassured me that all was well and whatever I experienced (I was still experiencing) was a “cleansing” process. I had no choice but to buy that unscientific argument. I was fortunate enough to recover from that envenoming prescription.


I have no intentions of demeaning Herbal medicine. After all conventional (modern) medicine is majorly made up of extracts from plants. However, there is a very big difference between the two treatment modalities as we are soon going to find out.

First of all, I want us to understand what a drug is and how it works in our bodies. Any substance that can alter your biological function qualifies to be a drug. This implies that a herb is a drug since it can influence your cellular processes either positively or negatively.

In modern medicine, one can be able to tell the mode of action of a particular medication that is how it elicits both desired and undesired (side effects) results in the body of a patient. They have a particular dosage and shelf life (expiry date).  They are prepared in special laboratories where they go through a vigorous quality check. They are prescribed, dispensed and administered by qualified healthcare professionals who must undergo through an examinable program.

Image courtesy of jk1991 at

Unfortunately, native herbal medicine lacks virtually all the above distinctive traits which are vital in treating a patient effectively. Most of them are prepared in unhygienic conditions by unscrupulous individuals who tend to claim that they were trained by their kin on this “science” of boiling plantations and packing them in oil cans and used soft drink bottles. Their medications do not expire. They lack specificity in terms of treating particular conditions. How can five patients with different conditions be given the same drug preparation?

I want us to reason out together. A guy gets in a matatu and starts preaching the gospel of his/her homemade drug although according to the packaging label the drug originates from India. He mentions nil side effects. He dispenses the drug to you without examining you in any way. Don’t you think that the deal is too good to be true? Truth be told. Herbal medicine is the new con game in town. 

There is this patient who was diagnosed with liver cirrhosis. He was admitted for a while and later discharged home on medication. He was advised by one of the local herbalists to try out some of his products. In fact, he was persuaded to abandon the formal treatment. The aftermath was so fatal because the guy was brought back to our facility bedridden.

One of the major functions of the liver is to remove poisons (detoxify) from the blood. This is the organ that carries all the burdens of alcoholics and drug addicts.  Imagine an ailing liver being subjected to more toxicants. That is what this patient did to his liver which was on a verge of shutting down. Some patients go to an extent of combining both traditional and modern medication oblivious of the potential danger of drug interaction. Always remember that continuous intake of unrefined herbal medicine will eventually damage both your liver and kidneys.

Image courtesy of yodiyim at

I must acknowledge the fact that we now have special academic programs for herbal specialists. However, it is proving extremely difficult to tell the difference between a quack and an expert.

I have several questions that I want to pose to all herbalists out there.

  • Why have I treated most of you in a modern hospital set up? Don’t you believe in your treatment regimen?
  • Why is it that your drugs are more expensive than modern ones and we all know that most of them are locally made with less/ no statutory regulations?
  • Why do you like giving testimonials on behalf of your clients? I have never seen a patient reaffirming your good words.

Qualified Herbal specialists in Kenya are yet to prove that they can serve as an alternative healthcare delivery system. Commercialism and charlatanism have taken the better part of their profession and this is the reason why I personally have a low opinion of them. It’s high time they come up with structures that will clearly indicate their mode of treatment. For now, I will highly recommend my dear readers to shun away from Herbal treatment.


Afya Yangu; Bidii Yangu
Afya Yangu; Bidii Yangu