Herb may harm HIV positive people
By Sibongile Mashaba
Products of the moringa tree have been cited as potential danger to HIV positive people on anti-retroviral drug treatment.
A two-year study by a researcher in clinical pharmacology at the Stellenbosch University, Dr Charles Awortwe, has found that the herbal remedies from moringa could have toxic effects when used concurrently with anti-retroviral treatment (ART) and other conventional medicine.
The study looked extensively into traditional medicine Moringa oleifera, whose products include capsule, powder, tea and oil, which are said to boost the immune system.
However traditional medicine expert Nceba Gqaleni of the Durban University of Technology has raised questions about Awortwe’s study.
“Modern drugs are known to have side effects. Some people may want to use traditional medicines to treat them. A person who has cancer loses their hair and weight and may believe that using moringa will help boost their appetite.
“Is the researcher saying that they should not deal with side effects caused by conventional drugs,” asked Gqaleni.
Traditional Healers Organisation’s national coordinator Phephisile Maseko slammed the study: “We work in healing people and are not an appendage of western medicines. They can do their studies but we will continue healing people.”
Maseko said when a patient consults, the healer would ask if they were taking western medicine or not.
“We do not advice them to stop taking drugs but we give them traditional medicines to take together with the drugs. Imbiza (a concoction) boosts their immune system,” said Maseko.
Awortwe said up to eight in 10 people with HIV in SA use traditional medicines at some time and warned that “traditional medicines can make prescribed medications ineffective or toxic to the body.”
Awortwe said toxicity due to the combination of traditional medicine and western drugs could result in liver damage.
“Ineffectiveness of drugs as a result of intake of traditional medications leads to treatment failure. It (moringa) is also used as an aphrodisiac or to prevent pregnancy, however none of these uses are currently supported by good scientific evidence. A major concern is the concomitant use of herbal medicines alongside conventional drug treatments.”
Awortwe said moringa was rich in protein, calcium, iron and vitamin C and is used in the management of about 300 medical and lifestyle conditions, including HIV, cancer, arthritis, asthma, high cholesterol levels and high blood sugar levels (hyperglycaemia).
He said one-third of cases of acute kidney failure in Africa were estimated to have been caused by traditional medicines.
Lois Roos of Garuda Naturals, a company that packages and distributes moringa products, said the company did not market or claim that moringa was a medicine, traditional or otherwise.
“We offer moringa products as a nutritional food source,” said Roos. Sowetan