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Kookoo aduro - traditional, herbal medicine and curing AIDS

Posted by abocco on Tue, 05/15/2007 - 10:58 GhanaThink Managing Executive

...Sounds on da ground and seens on the see-ins

My first reaction was to laugh it off. Ghanaweb is at it again, sensationalising another headline. But as I continued to read, it sounded more 'authentic'. Besides, I have strong beliefs in traditional medicine and KNUST was ever present in this scenario. We have heard all the facts about HIV-AIDS but with the recent pronouncement from Gambia about a cure/treatment and now with this revelation from Kumasi (Ghana), should we paying some more attention and giving more credit to traditional medicine? 4x4's Kookoo Aduro is a tribute to our herbalists and medicine men.

Kookoo aduro is one of the hit songs from 4x4's debut album, Siklitele. Jama, which I previously blogged about is on the same album. Recently, they were in the news for planning to introduce crunk music into the hiplife scene. Kookoo aduro talks about the work of the herbalist, how they move from trotro to trotro selling their medicines, the kinds of diseases they cure, etc. Kookoo is the Twi word for 'piles' or 'haemorrhoids'. The herbalist sells medicine for various kinds of ailments and is a walking pharmacy. It is quite a funny song, reminds me of the countless times I've been riding buses in Ghana only to have one passenger request permission from the driver to address the passenger crew so (s)he can sell something. I can never forget the Akobalms and Mercy Creams of yesterday, their jingles are stuck in my head.

I don't think a lot of people doubt the ability of herbalists in Ghana. A lot of people still entrust their health in the hands of traditional priests. If you think I am lying, get off your high horse in Accra and go to the villages. :-) Even Hollywood is agreeing - remember when the older doctor (white) in 'The Last King of Scotland' told the Scottish gentleman who had just arrived to assist him that 80% of the people he was supposed to serve preferred the native doctor to him? When my friends and I bruised ourselves playing gutter-to-gutter back in the day, we often sought herbs to treat our wounds. I also guess Madam Catherine must be a successful business for its promoters to continue advertising the product left, right, center.

So generally, when we hear of an AIDS cure/treatment in Kumasi, is our first reaction to laugh it off? Are our herbalists not capable of pulling such a feat? I think they are. This time around, Mr. Kamara Agyapong has been running trial tests over a long period of time with medical personnel from KNUST (the self-proclaimed 5th best technical university in the world). 2 of his patients have reportedly been cured/treated of AIDS due to the brilliance of Koankro, the herbal mixture. Koankro apparently means non-curable. Hmm.

It's nice to hear that KNUST is involved in this effort, but this story could become more remarkable, if we paid more attention to herbal medicine on an institutional level. Too many biochemistry and chemical engineering students in Ghana complain about lack of job opportunities in those fields and end up setting up wholesale or retail businesses. There is only one Noguchi memorial insitute the last time I checked. We need more Noguchis, more to make sure these brains do not go to waste. Heck, there is even a whole major called herbal medicine in KNUST and they share the same building as the pharmacy students. There is also the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research. So academia is doing its bit, bit by bit. I hope the herbal medicine students are not being trained to prescribe drugs. The raw materials are there, the personnel is available, Mercy cream is a lucrative business, so what are we waiting for?

Which brings me to my next point. I was wondering the other day, what can you find in a typical pharmaceutical store in Ghana? The tide is changing. Many pharmacies sell herbal medicine too and as you can see in the picture, some shops exclusively deal in herbal medicine. The ease in selling them is no more a problem since they are well packaged and marketed. Kinapharma is one of the major players in this industry and they even sponsored Ghana's premier football league a couple of years ago. Collectively, people know about Kinapharma, but how many people can identify three or four of their products? When someone comes to your pharmacy/drug store to buy Kinapharma, you should know there's a communication problem.

I hope this is not the last that we'll hear of Mr. Agyapong and Koankro. I suppose the Gambian president is quietly working on his own cure so as to broadcast more good news at a later time. I am positive about the abilities of traditional and herbal medicine in Ghana and once, we marry our roots with technology, we should go a long way. AIDS is destroying the social fibre of the African people and it would be appropriate if we could arrive at a cure/treatment to stop the bleeding.

Full Kookoo aduro lyrics.
Scroll down at this link to listen to the song
Photo by Blackwise shows a herbal centre


Comments

Afro herbal medicine and HIV

[quote=abocco]

...Sounds on da ground and seens on the see-ins

My first reaction was to laugh it off. Ghanaweb is at it again, sensationalising another headline. But as I continued to read, it sounded more 'authentic'. Besides, I have strong beliefs in traditional medicine and KNUST was ever present in this scenario. We have heard all the facts about HIV-AIDS but with the recent pronouncement from Gambia about a cure/treatment and now with this revelation from Kumasi (Ghana), should we paying some more attention and giving more credit to traditional medicine? [/quote]

Frankly, i wouldn't mind if a cure was found in Ghana or Gambia. Just so long as it is found in Africa, we can all stand tall and proud and say to the critics that if they say it originated from us and our monkeys the good Lord has given us the upper hand in finding a cure.
And i would love to see the likes of Glaxo-Smith-Kline, Bayer, Wellcome and all the fat phamaceutical cats get slumps in their monopoly and see who gets the last laugh.

Funny i saw this blog Abocco, only this morning there was a medic on BBC honking the horn that HIV was more prevalent in homosexuals and people from sub-Saharan Africa(eei?). Because apparently people who get infected in the UK get it from holidays abroad. Wow! i didn't know we had such a huge tourist flow in Africa (with the exception of South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania of course or Tunisia because it is close to Europe or Egypt because the Pharoah beckons). Last time i looked the majority of tourists from the West, especially Europe flock to Greece, Spain and the Algarve. Or chase the ski slopes of the Swiss Alps and Canada. The Afro mosquito brigade have always made sure that for a long time we are not the most popular of destinations.
These findings and links just doesn't wash and add up and i am one of the few sceptics who think that there is more to the disease than tracing it to some monkeys in the Congo(But that is another story).

Moreover,If the level of suffering due to lack of medication in Africa was less, no one will be any the wiser to numbers and head counts. But obviously because sufferers in the West have more opportunities and help, no one knows who is a carrier and people will have you believe that the majority of carriers are in Africa. As usual it's the DARK CONTINENT who gets the blame for any negative thing. Black only gains respect in oil, evening dresses and precious stones like onyx.
On top of that, no mention will be made about efforts by African governments which has seen a huge decline in infection rates as opposed to people from the West who keep seeing an increase.

Anyway, coming to the topic of herbal medicine we have been reliant on them for generations(Man, i tried a traditional cold/headache remedy in the form of a snuff once...talk about sneezing for the Olympics but boy did it work!) but they were more like home remedies and traditional medicinal practitioners who led the way. It is refreshing to see that in the past few decades an association of traditional herbalists has been put in place and quite recently our labs and biochemists getting involved with them to take on issues such as right constitencies and dosage and hygienic practises which to some extent wasn't the strong point of herbalists.
It has been said that the HIV virus can be quite latent in gland nodes, which is why it is difficult to cure it outrightly. Lets hope extensive research into this new findings show that it kills the virus outrightly instead of just a white wash. And if we hit the jack pot with this find, i hope the originator aided by the government keeps the remedy a guarded secret so it doesn't fall into some opportunistic hands.

THE CRINGE FACTOR! WHAT MAKES YOU THINK THAT GOD MADE THREE WORLDS AND THAT I COME FROM THE THIRD WORLD. THE ISSUE OF RACE IS GEOGRAPHICAL AND NOT A STATUS SYMBOL AND NEITHER IS MY SKIN BLACK NOR YOURS WHITE.


clinical trials

I would like to see some innovation and the development of custom clinical trials for "herbal" medicines. I would be interested if anyone knows of the existence of clinical research organisations in ghana. Throughout the world most of these medicines are not sufficiently tested. Ignorant people love to criticise "big pharma" but I prefer to rely on classical peer review to reveal those instances of dubious efficacy claims.
It's all very well stating and observing that product x shows some form of efficacy, but the real advanced knowledge is to be gained in demonstrating a fundamental understanding of how such efficacy occurs. Of course such understanding allows the development of intellectual property, with the ability to identify further advances in knowledge.
Unless empirical data exists, treat such medicines with scepticism.


Re: Clinical trials

If you read Aboccos blog carefully no less than three names came up including a faculty in KNUST,KINAPHARMA, NOGUCHI MEMORIAL INSTITUTE AND THE KOANKRO PLACE. On top of that Ghana currently has a traditional herbal medicine PRACTITIONERS ASSOCIATION complete with laboratory testing procedures et all. There's also the Pharmaceutical Society... the Umbrella group of all,and CSIR chips in as well. So in effect, nothing goes on the market without authentication of which clinical trials are of the utmost importance.
All the companies who produce medicine from Danafco to the producers of Akobalm all go through rigorous checks and trials before their products can be certified. And Lest we forget, the big stamp of approval from the Ghana Standards board is also a big part of it.
Major hospitals like Korle-bu or Okomfo Anokye are also places where clinical trials are carried out all the time.

Regarding big Pharma (obviously you think it is ignorant to criticise them), i hope you do realise that the majority of deaths from HIV/AIDS in our continent is due to lack of medications or more importantly the affordability of it.
Some of us would love to see the day the scales were tipped so the antidote is found on our shores(which would be affordable of course), so millions of lives can be saved.

Under trade laws rights to prototypes can be held for 5 years sometimes longer before it can be made universal but casting my mind back, the battle to have HIV medicine produced in Africa at an affordable rate has been met with a lot of stiff unwillingness by the big Pharmas. Anybody who has been following affairs would remember Nelson Mandela being at the fore-front to champion this for South Africa. So far the majority of help that has gone into helping financially deprived sufferers is the good work of philanthropists and aid agencies. Without their help millions more would have died than the current toll. So you see my brother,there are issues out there that need to be criticised for the sake of our people. Unless of course it doesnt matter to you.
And I dont believe big Phamaceutical companies always have the answers either. If they did, there would have been a cure for HIV, CANCER and HEART diseases amongst other things by now. They have their limitations and most of their medicines come with side effects. Considering most of the vitamins and minerals the body needs are actually derived from the food we eat, i think the side of medicine that deals with plant material has a lot to offer too. All available options need to be looked into. Nothing is impossible.

THE CRINGE FACTOR! WHAT MAKES YOU THINK THAT GOD MADE THREE WORLDS AND THAT I COME FROM THE THIRD WORLD. THE ISSUE OF RACE IS GEOGRAPHICAL AND NOT A STATUS SYMBOL AND NEITHER IS MY SKIN BLACK NOR YOURS WHITE.


reassuring infrastructure

Good to read that various organisations are creating the necessary foundations to facilitate research. With luck we will see some spin-off companies emerge, especially via flotation on gse so I can invest for some profit (but I digress I little).

Personally, I'd rather we focussed on prevention rather than cure. Let's be honest, if you don't engage in dubious illicit drug and/or sexual activity, you aren't going to contract hiv/aids. (Contraction via incompetent hospital sterilisation procedures is beyond this statement of course.)

Having said that the so-called hiv/aids pandemic (it isn't) in africa is not going to be solved by big pharma. Pay advanced economy research laboratory costs and then market at below cost to a continent with pitiful purchasing power? Never going to happen.

The answer to medications being too expensive from big pharma, is not to go begging bowl in hand (as usual) asking for the cost to be dropped, but to develop an african environment (as described previously) for "african pharma" instead to identify, patent, manufacture and market those medications.

Please don't make the naive mistake of thinking "it's natural, so it must be safe"; wrong, big time.


Misconception

[quote=r]The answer to medications being too expensive from big pharma, is not to go begging bowl in hand (as usual) asking for the cost to be dropped, but to develop an african environment (as described previously) for "african pharma" instead to identify, patent, manufacture and market those medications.

Please don't make the naive mistake of thinking "it's natural, so it must be safe"; wrong, big time. [/quote]

I dont think you understood what I said regarding HIV medication and the efforts to have it produced locally. It's not about begging big Pharma for cheap hand outs or reduced prices(they wont do that anyway...they enjoy the monopoly). Its about lifting the patent rights so other nations can formulate the medicines locally in their own laboratories. A move that will drive the cost of such medicines down and make them readily available instead of always looking to expensive imports. The medicines exist but they are out of reach because of affordability issues. The formula is well known but patent rights are a hindrance. Hence peope are dying unneccessarily when they could have been saved and babies are being born infected whereas if expectant mothers got treatment a whole generation will be born HIV negative. These are some of the challenges facing Africa now.
Regarding herbal medicine, it might suprise you to know that i am not naive at all. Toxicity can occur in any formulation and i am aware of that. I never said herbal medicine was fool-proof. I said it had a lot to offer.

THE CRINGE FACTOR! WHAT MAKES YOU THINK THAT GOD MADE THREE WORLDS AND THAT I COME FROM THE THIRD WORLD. THE ISSUE OF RACE IS GEOGRAPHICAL AND NOT A STATUS SYMBOL AND NEITHER IS MY SKIN BLACK NOR YOURS WHITE.


GhanaThink Managing Executive

re: koankro - expenses and costs

concerning clinical trials, it seems there is a lot of activity on that front like I talked about earlier.
HIV-AIDS is a tricky issue, it's difficult to communicate the legitimacy of Koankro on many levels, mostly to the educated folk. It may not even be a question of 'can herbal medicine cure AIDS', it's more like 'AIDS cannot be cured. Like Omanba mentioned, ARVs are mad expensive and our countries cannot afford to subcribe many people to treatment. Here's where Koankro comes in, a cheaper way to do the same job and improve the lives of our populace. We cannot begin to discuss the grave effects of HIV across the continent, not just in the numbers but the people it is affecting, destroying the social fabric of our communities and taking away service providers, etc

The issue of prevention versus cure is always a hot topic when it comes to AIDS. I strongly believe in the ABC's and this may be in another discussion, but we have to check a few cultural and moral factors to control the contraction of the virus. Maybe rightly so, I see money being spent on HIV-AIDS education than buying condoms, providing funds for herbal medicine research, etc.

the destiny of a nation at any given time depends on the opinions and contributions of its young men and women.


don't like patents?

Then acquire the innovation to develop your own patents!

There's nothing to stop reverse engineering; in fact the Indian pharmaceutical industry, for many years prior to wto agreements, thrived by doing so. It is because indian firms have diversified away from low margin generic manufacture and onto new product developments that patent infringement has become more stringently enforced.

Why should big pharma donate patent rights for others to enjoy the benefits of innovative research?

Alternatively, some firms choose to forgo patent rights in exchange for other models, such as licenced manufacturing. In the free market of course, firms are perfectly and rightly free to decide which business model to pursue. Personally, I like the latter.

If these herbal medicines are mere poor man's versions of anti-virals, they are not cures, only treatments (by definition). In advanced economies, for those with hiv it is economically viable to purchase such drugs as the economic output justifies.

I see little justification for revenues are diverted for hiv anti virals, whilst funds are not available for malaria, are far more deadly and distressing disease than hiv/aids will ever be.


Re:don't like patents?

personally, i think when it comes to matters of life and death, we really should put aside patents and take whatever knowledge is available to save lives. yes, i understand the implications but what's more important - human life or money? drug companies can help by making drugs or royalties cheaper but if they refuse, there's no reason to sit around and watch people die.


Research is Important

[quote=r]Then acquire the innovation to develop your own patents!

If these herbal medicines are mere poor man's versions of anti-virals, they are not cures, only treatments (by definition). In advanced economies, for those with hiv it is economically viable to purchase such drugs as the economic output justifies.

I see little justification for revenues are diverted for hiv anti virals, whilst funds are not available for malaria, are far more deadly and distressing disease than hiv/aids will ever be.
[/quote]

Is there a need for things to always have an European or American stamp before being considered a rich man's version? And considering the extensive research being carried out on the new finding is by a well established scientific institution will you dismiss their proof if it turns out it offers an outright cure on the basis that it was made in Ghana and is herbal based?

I disagree with you that there is no justification for putting revenue into anti-viral research. That will be you contradicting yourself. One minute you call for innovation to find our own then the next minute you think it is not viable.
To me, nothing compares to HIV...a disease that destroys immunity and makes the body open to all manner of infections. The fear and panic; the death toll and expense surrounding it says it all. The Cancers and heart diseases and malaria(to name but a few) of this world are all curable or can be stabilised if caught in time. With HIV there is no such possibilitis. Once you have it you are prone to other ailments as well and not dealing with just the one. And until there is a cure, no country can rest on its oars.

THE CRINGE FACTOR! WHAT MAKES YOU THINK THAT GOD MADE THREE WORLDS AND THAT I COME FROM THE THIRD WORLD. THE ISSUE OF RACE IS GEOGRAPHICAL AND NOT A STATUS SYMBOL AND NEITHER IS MY SKIN BLACK NOR YOURS WHITE.


AIDS and health policy

Thabo Mbeki got alot of beef for suggesting that more resources should be channeled towards alleviating the poverty problem in Africa rather than the AIDS issue. He may have been misunderstood and named as a denialist, but I will be that one person that agrees with him entirely. From my own research, it appears as though AIDS and poverty have a strong correlation in Sub-Saharan Africa (as anyone would guess). Abocco talks about the ABC's of preventing contraction of HIV, which I agree with 600%, but what has that done for us? AIDS is still acceleratingly detrimental to our societies. We won't even begin to talk about the devastating economic consequences. I've been looking into health systems of countries like Uganda, which have managed to decrease their prevalence rates by implementing behavioral changes. Zimbabwe is another one, although health policy makers (in the West, I must add) suggest that this is entirely due to heightened death rates. I won't argue that. But I do believe that while implementing such "fight AIDS" programs, we need to fuel more energy and resources in making sure our people are healthy, educated and at some optimal state of well-being, whatever that is. Basically, that we are attacking the poverty issue concurrently with the AIDS issue. AIDS is everywhere. No doubt about that. The problem with AIDS in Africa specifically, and why it leads to such high death rates, is the fact that our environments are not condusive to "living with AIDS" per se. We are more likely to live shorter, and be more prone to opportunistic diseases like Malaria, TB, flu, etc. Another frustrating thing is seeing how many international NGOs working under foreign legislations are coming in to African countries, and doing things the way they see fit. I won't say they are all detrimental to our soceties' independence, but I think our governments should be heavily involved in these processes, and perhaps public health officials should re-evaluate their budgets. I'd rather mandate education on sex, sanitation etc, and create more industrial jobs in slums than distribute condoms and "beg" for ARVs. As for traditional/herbal medicine...i'd LOVE to do my graduate thesis on this. All I will say is, growing up, my mother struck a healthy balance between making us line up for swazi concoctions of aloe vera, and unnamed boiled leaves to keep our immune systems healthy, and taking us to the nearby missionary hospital when we developed a flu or needed a tooth taken out (hmmm, actually my first tooth was pulled out by my father who tied it to a string tied to the door, and then shut the door abruptly. how lovely it was). I am a proud believer in herbal medicine. But I think we should be focusing our attention on large-scale, long-term solutions that will lead to healthier and wiser nations, not necessarily, the fewest number of HIV patients today (although...if we can do that, that would be lekker too).


Re: AIDS and HEALTH Policy

The ABC's of Prevention against contraction of HIV have worked. Rightly so because through programmes and projects people in Africa have been made to know what they are up against. It is one of the noted successes in the fight against AIDS and without it millions more would have contracted the Virus or died. Thus we cannot be complacent and say that it is not a priority, for as long as new generations are coming through the message must be on-going.
The best thing is to implement the ''FIGHT AGAINST AIDS'' programmes alongside the need for BETTER LIVING STANDARDS(as you rightly noted). However,to suggest that one be sacrificed for the other will only bring us back to where we started.

Neither can we overlook the fact that until Africa comes up with its own findng and help for its Aids sufferers,we fight in vain. Philanthropists can only touch on a certain percentage but the greater part is down to the Continent. Those who are well do not need a doctor but for the sake of the Infirm we must not neglect, but fight on. I am passionate about the need for research into finding our own CURE or ARV's because we are not dealing with just adults here. There are children out there who were born infected and are going to be the next generation. We cannot just sit by and watch time tick by, what with the existence of afore-mentioned hindrances to getting medication to Carriers.

When you look at issues like Malaria and TB in Africa, a lot of factors point out to our Insanitary lifestyles in Society and unwillingness to allow preventative methods that have long being trumpeted to sink in. Millions of money can and have been pumped in this direction but if the fight doesn't start with the willingness of people to look to themselves, then Govts fight in vain. Being poor doesn't justify having dirty surrounding or being unhygienic. Choked open gutters, littering, spitting, urinating and defaecating anywhere, unhygienic refuse and sewage disposal, lack of desilting and weeding swampy areas close to habitats in order to ensure flow of water and stop creating breeding grounds for Mosquitoes...the list is endless. Nothing that hasn't been pointed out year in year out amidst a whole range of preventative measures like grants for mosquito nettings and anti-malarial medicines and yet Malaria is still killing Thousands in Africa each day. Why?

Regarding herbal medicine, i think too much emphasis is being made on the current finding for the mere fact that it is herbal. Afterall medicine is medicine whether it is a tablet, capsule, caplet, tincture or syrup, crystal or powder. To me what is important is that it works. We should give such finding all the support we can. Africa is sitting on great resources that it refuses to explore. We are always looking WEST instead.

THE CRINGE FACTOR! WHAT MAKES YOU THINK THAT GOD MADE THREE WORLDS AND THAT I COME FROM THE THIRD WORLD. THE ISSUE OF RACE IS GEOGRAPHICAL AND NOT A STATUS SYMBOL AND NEITHER IS MY SKIN BLACK NOR YOURS WHITE.


Traditional and Conventional Medicine

Congo seems to be leading the way

http://allafrica.com/stories/200706070772.html


indigenous knowledge, health, and HIV/AIDS

For more info about other efforts in Africa to treat AIDS patients and to prevent the spread of AIDS using local and indigenous knowledge, check out the World Bank's Indigenous Knowledge Website:

http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/COUNTRIES/AFRICAEXT/EXTINDKNOWL...

http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/COUNTRIES/AFRICAEXT/EXTINDKNOWL...