EXPERTS on traditional medicines have supported the government position on the use of alternative remedies, including steam inhalation therapy, to fight coronavirus infection, calling upon the public to seek advice from the practitioners on proper use of the medicines.
They said that the reminder by the government to encourage the use of traditional medicines calls for joint efforts between traditional medicine practitioners and other stakeholders to use their knowledge and expertise in serving the public and ultimately obtain a cure for the respiratory disease.
Addressing the nation last week President John Magufuli advised Tanzanians to use alternative remedies such as steam inhalation therapy to ease the symptoms of COVID -19.
“Steam inhalation is scientifically clear since vapour produced above 100 degrees centigrade can easily dissolve the virus because it is simply an oil,” Dr Magufuli said.
Traditional Medicine and Environmental Protection Organisation (TRAMEPRO) Secretary General Boneventura Mwalongo said that traditional remedies are not new because they were used by our ancestors.
Mr Mwalongo said it is upon the experts and other stakeholders to device ways of safeguarding traditional remedies and ensure their proper use by the public.
“Steam inhalation therapy was used before, during and after colonialism in our country to treat various diseases such as respiratory-related like difficulties in breathing, cough and flu … we also have medicines for strengthening body immunity,” he said.
He called for a thorough research on how patients can use traditional medicines within their localities.
“This will help to show the contribution of traditional medicines in serving the citizens, nation and continent in general,” he said.
Mr Mwalongo, however, said that traditional medicine practitioners in collaboration with experts from research institutes, including Muhimbili University of Health and Allied sciences (MUHAS), National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR ), Sokoine University for Agriculture (SUA), Tanzania Forest Service Agency (TFS) and Government Chemist Laboratory Authority can use the natural plants available in the country to come up with medication for the disease.
The Director of the Institute of Traditional Medicine at the Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS), Dr Joseph Otieno, said that steam inhalation was not a preventive measures, but rather, can be useful to a patient who has contracted the respiratory disease.
He said steam therapy is used to treat a number of diseases, including stress to reduce the amount of cholesterol in the body and regulate blood vessels.
He advised the public to continue taking steam therapy even after the COVID-19 is eradicated. Dr Otieno further said that people taking steam therapy should not mix more than three herbs for the medicine to be effective and close their eyes to avoid damaging the organs.
They should only inhale the steam for ten minutes once per day and for those who have already contracted the disease, they should do it thrice a day.
“Children under three years and elders with epilepsy and blood pressure should not undergo steam therapy,” he said.
He added that ginger, cloves and lemon can be mixed with tea and used by coronavirus patients after every ten minutes.
A member of the Organisation of Traditional Healers and Local Midwives (UwawataT), Mr Haji Babu, said that steam therapy has attracted many people.
He said steam therapy was used by our forefathers especially in treating chronic diseases which could not be cured by conventional medicines.
Mr Babu said steam inhalation helps to various diseases hidden in the stomach because the process helps a patient to excrete waste from the body.
He said people should seek advice from traditional medicine practitioners on the proper use of the medicines to avoid side effects which may occur due to Early this month Muleba South Member of Parliament, Prof Anna Tibaijuka advised the government to have an alternative plan in the fight against coronavirus pandemic.
She said although patients were treated using conventional medicines, even traditional ones have proved effective in other nations in managing the disease.
Prof Tibaijuka said it was high time the government encouraged the use of traditional remedies, especially steam therapy.