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January 2023

Afr J Med Med Sci. 1993 Mar; 22(1): 31-7.

The efficacy of traditional medicine in the management of diabetes mellitus in southwestern Nigeria.

Famuyiwa OO.

Department of Medicine, University College Hospital, Ibadan, Oyo State Nigeria.

A survey of traditional healers in Ibadan, Nigeria, demonstrated that fewer than 10% of them were involved in the treatment of patients with diabetes mellitus and the total number of such patients under their care was less than 100, compared to those receiving western-type of medical treatment (up to 1000 at the University College Hospital, Ibadan, alone). An interview of 20 native practitioners revealed that they had little understanding of the nature of diabetes mellitus. Their diagnosis of diabetes was based largely on intuition and the disease was often confused with other medical problems like urinary tract infection or venereal disease. In a parallel study, 10 diabetic patients being treated exclusively by traditional healers were followed up on an ambulatory basis for periods of up to 16 weeks and another group of 8 patients had a hospital-based trial of traditional anti-diabetic medicines for about 4 weeks. Most of the patients reported improvement in their symptoms with less polyuria and improved sense of well-being. However, no objective improvement in the blood glucose was demonstrated. For the hospitalized group, n = 8, pre and post-treatment blood glucose respectively were, mean (+ SD), 13.9 (3.5) mmols/l and 14.9 (4.3) mmols/l, P > 0.50. It is concluded that the effectiveness of traditional anti-diabetic drugs in lowering blood glucose still remains to be demonstrated. Any claims of "cure" of diabetes using native medicines can be firmly rejected. However, further studies into the potential usefulness of native herbs in the treatment of diabetes must be pursued.

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