Dr Teddy Andrew Mulenga : Why Herbal Medicine is usually Harmful


Why Herbal Medicine is usually Harmful

Dr Teddy Andrew Mulenga writes: My quarrels with Herbal Medicine!

I was born in a village and i appreciate that my Mum did give me herbs to treat the various ailments I may have had.

And I survived!But perhaps this is the greatest miracle to have occurred in my life! Fast forward to 1988-1989, when l was a young Dr at Arthur Davidson‘s Children’s Hospital( Kwa Engwe) in Ndola.

This hospital is next to a sprawling shanty compound called Chipulukusu .So when ever a child got sick, the first port of call with our people was the herbalists.

I remember one herb they used for diarrhoea which at the time killed more children than i could count!Sometimes the tally of deaths in a single day could be as high as 8!

The medicine was called Chimamba, it was given orally and thru the rectum , by sitting the child in a bowl of the liquid form of the herb.

This herb was lethal, children presented with encephalopathy( brain dysfunction), renal shut down, kidney shut down. Others presented with paralytic ileus (intestinal obstruction).

All who took it ended up dead, and funny thing the mothers never stopped using it!. I found a similar drug when I went to work in Botswana in 1992.

Similar drug with similar devastating effects, they called it Monepenepe.

I tell you this was an atomic bomb as well. Our cries to mothers this time again went unheeded.

Yes most medicines are made from plants. but then they have to be processed, active substance identified, mode of action studied, side effects studied, effectiveness studied, anti dotes if any mentioned, dosages calculated..None of this is done by our herbalists.

Taking herbs becomes a risky business.

I stand here and announce that there is no such thing as a Traditional Engineer, there cannot be a Traditional Doctor!A|l medicine is the same, it needs knowledge, its either you know or you don’t.

Don’t argue, you were not there!


  1. I find it hard to agree with you. How can a medicine which severally resulted in death survive both here in Zambia and in Botswana? How can it survive at all anywhere among humans? The children died but the mothers or parents continued prescribing the same medicine?
    Second, it’s not true that all traditional medicine needed modern scientific study to formulated it to work well. Unless you mean to say that long long days ago when there was no modern science, people never used to fall sick. Or sicknesses used to heal without treatment. But of course there were diseases and people used to treat themselves. We are here today because a chain of grand grand parents survived thru the ages using traditional medicine to treat ailments. Having grown up from the village I know of traditional medicines for treating malaria, bad headache, alcers, sores, etc, At 1 time or the other my parents treated me with these medicines and I am still alive, no side effects.


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