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  Table of Contents  
Year : 2018  |  Volume : 9  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 60  

Self-medication with herbal medicines, an untamed threat to global health

1 Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, Nigeria
2 Department of Human Physiology, Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of Jos, Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria

Date of Web Publication21-Aug-2018

Correspondence Address:
Enegide Chinedu
Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jpnr.JPNR_8_17

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How to cite this article:
Chinedu E, Jacob DL. Self-medication with herbal medicines, an untamed threat to global health. J Pharm Negative Results 2018;9:60

How to cite this URL:
Chinedu E, Jacob DL. Self-medication with herbal medicines, an untamed threat to global health. J Pharm Negative Results [serial online] 2018 [cited 2020 May 29];9:60. Available from:

Dear Sir,

Herbal medicine has metamorphosed into a major component of traditional medicine all over the world, including African medicine, homeopathic, ayurvedic, naturopathic, traditional oriental, and native American medicine. Statistics have shown that the use of herbal medicine is constantly rising globally both in developed and developing countries. According to the World Health Organization estimate, about 80% of the world's population depend on herbal products for primary health care.[1] Reports have also shown that not only have the use of herbal medicine increased, but also the pattern of use has changed, as self-medication with herbal medicine increased between 1997 and 2002 by 10% and this have even increased since then.[2] The use of medicinal agents (including herbal medicines) for curative or prophylactic purposes without prescription or advice from an appropriate health professional is referred to as self-medication.[3] Exclusive self-medication with herbal medicines prepared and dispensed by unscientifically trained herbalists for the treatment of diseases is a common trend in various parts of the world (especially in Africa). Herbal medicine has constantly maintained increasing popularity and use globally,[4] this have elicited concerns regarding the efficacy and safety of their use. Reports have shown that a robust proportion of the herbal medicines being used globally are by self-medication, while some even depend on information from retail outlets and advertisement in the media for their use. However, most of these claims are usually mere speculations without scientific back-up. Herbal medicines are now even available on drugstore shelves and in health food stores, hence increasing the potential to self-medicate than ever before. Although there are several herbal medicines currently available, only very few have been verified and standardized scientifically with respect to their efficacy and safety.[5] The increase in popularity and patronage of herbal medicines and hence self-medications, have necessitated concern based on the adverse effects of potentially toxic constituents (such as diterpenes, pyrrolizidine alkaloids, benzophenanthrine alkaloids, saponins, lectins, viscotoxins, cyanogenetic glycosides aristolochic acids, and furanocoumarins) in several plants.[6] Reports have even shown that some herbal medicines are toxic at high doses, while others have the potential of eliciting different adverse effects after prolonged use.[4] However, a large portion of the global community is unaware of the adverse health effects that may accompany the use of herbal medicines.[7] Due to this ignorance, self-medication with herbal medicine has risen to be a significant threat to global health, but only a little effort has been put to tame this threat. It is therefore important for governments and agencies involved in the health sector to take urgent steps such as making policies as well as embarking on programs that will sensitize the public on the health dangers of self-medication with herbal medicines (especially with nonstandardized products).

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

World Health Organization (WHO). Traditional Medicine. WHO Fact Sheet No. 134. Revised. World Health Organization; December, 2008.  Back to cited text no. 1
Blumenthal M. The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs. Senior edition. Austin: American Botanical Council; 2003. p. 90.  Back to cited text no. 2
Covington TR. Nonprescription drug therapy: Issues and opportunities. Am J Pharm Educ 2006;70:137.  Back to cited text no. 3
Patrick-Iwuanyanwu KC, Amadi U, Charles IA, Ayalogu EO. Evaluation of acute and sub-chronic oral toxicity study of baker cleansers bitters - A polyherbal drug on experimental rats. EXCLI J 2012;11:632-40.  Back to cited text no. 4
Cheng CW, Bian ZX, Wu TX. Systematic review of Chinese herbal medicine for functional constipation. World J Gastroenterol 2009;15:4886-95.  Back to cited text no. 5
Fennell CW, Lindsey KL, McGaw LJ, Sparg SG, Stafford GI, Elgorashi EE, et al. Assessing African medicinal plants for efficacy and safety: Pharmacological screening and toxicology. J Ethnopharmacol 2004;94:205-17.  Back to cited text no. 6
Matthews HB, Lucier GW, Fisher KD. Medicinal herbs in the United States: Research needs. Environ Health Perspect 1999;107:773-8.  Back to cited text no. 7


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