Traditional medicine resources in the fight against Covid-19

What role can traditional medicine play in the fight against COVID-19? Prof. Rokia Sanogo shares her experience in Mali.

Stand mit traditionellen Heilmitteln

Bild: von Salomon Djidjoho For many people in Africa only traditional remedies are affordable.

Traditional Medicine is an opportunity in the fight against Covid-19. Throughout history, traditional medicine has been a source of medical treatment for diseases such as malaria. The contribution of traditional medicine in the management of Covid-19 may complement healthcare prevention and medical care services.

With regard to the management of the Covid-19 affected persons in Mali, we have analysed the experiences of using medicinal plants in China and elsewhere, and proposed improved traditional medicines with antiviral activity that have produced effective safety and quality data. Our aim is to build on the consolidated experience of using herbal tea products in the management of viral diseases in conformity with the protocols validated by the established ethics committees.

It is possible to use the numerous results obtained on African plants to develop drugs for the treatment of fever, dry cough, breathing difficulties and acting on the immune system in people with Covid-19. In the fight against this pandemic, the Department of Traditional Medicine (“DMT”), in partnership with the Malian Federation of Traditional Therapists and Herbalists Associations, carried out information, awareness, communication and capacity building activities via the conventional system with a view to combating this pandemic.

There has been a great mobilization of traditional healthcare practitioners and other shareholders to propose traditional herbal treatments. At the level of the DMT, literature researches have provided safety, effective and quality data on medicinal plants for improved traditional medicines and traditional recipes. The results obtained are repertories of improved traditional and herbal medicines with effective safety and quality data, including antiviral, bronchodilator antitussive, antioxidant and immune system strengthening properties. These therapeutic potentialities can contribute to the management of persons affected by Covid-19. In this context, the DMT, in partnership with the National Association of Pharmacists in Mali, made provision of the BALEMBO Syrup to the designated healthcare centres for the treatment of people suffering from dry cough related to Covid-19.

However, in the absence of specific treatments for Covid-19, there is crucial need to conduct researches on medicinal plants applicable to traditional medicine. It is within this framework that the DMT of Mali had submitted research protocols to the scientific projects appraisal committee of the Ministry in charge of research. These protocols will help to identify traditional remedies and medicinal plants used jointly and severally at different levels alone and/or in combination with conventional treatments: to propose integrated treatment with herbal teas and to study in vitro the antiviral activity of plant extracts on the coronavirus in collaboration with the training and research centre on malaria. The expected results will help to address public healthcare, scientific and socio-economic issues. These concrete actions are in favour of the establishment of partnerships between the two healthcare systems in healthcare and to contribute to the strengthening of local health systems and the improvement of the health status of the populations of Africa.

For prevention purposes, it is necessary to work with prime traditional medicine practitioners, healthcare workers at the community level. They are leaders who are listened and respected. It is important to involve these practitioners in epidemiological surveillance, information, awareness-raising, prevention, referral and healthcare activities as part of the national response.

To this end, we must take into account their experiences, listen to them, and identify their proposals and good practices in favour of prevention and healthcare.

 This approach makes it possible to develop outreach awareness-raising and communication messages in accessible, understandable, acceptable and appropriate language. It will also be necessary to strengthen institutions and research networks on plants used in traditional medicine for the development of phytomedicines and the characterization of active ingredients against coronaviruses.

Consequently, an inclusive mobilization of traditional medicine resources is important for more effective control of Covid-19.

Rokia Sanogo is head of the Department of Traditional Medicine, expert of the West African Health Organization for Traditional Medicine andcoordinator of the thematic and research programme Pharmacopoeia and Traditional African Medicine of CAMES. She is also a laureate of the Kwame Nkrumah Scientific Prize of the African Union for Women and a full member of the Malian Academy of Sciences.


Referat Afrika


Dr. Henrik Maihack


Konstanze Lipfert

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