An investigation of the antidiabetic herbal remedies used by traditional healers in Northern KwaZulu-Natal and their effect on blood glucose levels.
Ziqubu-Page, Thembelihle Thandekile.
MetadataShow full item record
This research study undertook to investigate and evaluate for efficacy and safety, the herbal remedies used for treating Diabetes mellitus in northern KwaZulu-Natal. In addition, it sought to gain knowledge and better understanding of traditional healing systems and the medicinal use of the natural flora. During the process of assimilating the desired information, the epidemiological and socio-economic factors which determine the form of medicine chosen by rural people in the region, were quantified. Both aspects of explanatory studies i.e. experimental and observational were used. Firstly, to evaluate the safety of the two herbal remedies, laboratory animals were given an oral dose of the herbal medicine and observed for a period of 14 days. Efficacy was assessed by treating Streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats with the herbal remedies and comparing their effect on blood glucose with that of a conventional sulphonylurea. The second part of the study was observational and it involved monitoring human subjects (patients) for twelve months, who were already taking the herbal preparations (n=56) and comparing their prognoses with that of a group taking conventional medicine (n=97). A third group using both types of medicine (n=42) was included as control measure for a possible confounding factor. Main outcome measures; Both subjective and objective measures of the perceived health of the diabetic patients were measured, as well as the determinants of using traditional medicine versus conventional medicine. The battery of toxicity tests which utilises behavioural and functional observations of the laboratory animals, yielded no signs of toxicity or abnormal behaviour. The histopathological examination results of the sample organs from the treated rats also revealed no signs of abnormality that could be attributed to the herbal remedies tested. There was no sex variation recorded in the response. The first HP tested (HP-1) demonstrated minimal hypoglycaemic effect whereas HP-2 significantly lowered the blood glucose of the streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats by an average of 59%. This was comparable to the conventional medicine (Glibenclamide) used in the experiment. After 12 months of follow-up, 93 % of traditional medicine users (n=56) were convinced that their blood sugar was controlled because of the traditional remedy they were using. The proportion of diabetic cases who used conventional medicine were no better off than those who used traditional medicine or vice versa. Health status and the financial situation (income) of the respondents greatly influenced their choice for diabetic treatment. The herbal remedies that were investigated were non-toxic and safe for use and internal consumption. One preparation demonstrated a significant hypoglycaemic effect, which was comparable to the conventional allopathic medicine used in treating Diabetes mellitus. This study should serve as a springboard to encourage more pharmacological evaluation of herbal medicines.