China exports its traditional medicine to Africa


Hing Pal Singh is among dozens of patients having daily appointments at the Oriental Chinese Herbal Clinic in Nairobi.

Singh, 85, has suffered from spinal problems for five years and is now trying herbal remedies.

“There is a slight difference,” Singh said. “…It’s only been a week now. It will take at least another 12-15 sessions. Then we’ll see how it goes.

Traditional Chinese medicine is becoming increasingly popular in Africa, according to a 2020 study by Development Reimagined, an international consulting firm in Beijing.

A February 2020 op-ed by a Beijing think tank researcher and published in the state-run newspaper China Daily said such traditional medicine would “boost China’s economy, contribute to global health, and prove to be a boost to China’s soft power.”

Potential damage

Conventional doctors such as Sultan Mantendechere, however, say patients overlook the potential harm certain herbal remedies can cause, especially if used too frequently or in too high a dose.

“They work in a number of circumstances,” Mantendechere said. “Having said that, our main concern as practitioners, doctors, is that the use of herbal medicine is not as regulated as we would like.

Although the safety and effectiveness of traditional Chinese medicine is still debated around the world, herbalists such as Li Chuan continue to grow in popularity among those seeking alternative medicine.

FILE – In this March 13, 2020 file photo, bowls containing prescriptions for traditional Chinese medicine preparations are stacked on a counter at the Bo Ai Tang Traditional Chinese Medicine Clinic in Beijing.

Li said some of his patients benefit from purported cures for COVID-19, although there is little scientific evidence that they can help fight the disease.

“Many people buy our herbal tea to counter COVID-19,” Li said. “The results are good.”

Conservationists fear the growth of traditional Chinese medicine could encourage poachers to prey on endangered wildlife such as rhinos and certain types of snakes used in potion-making.

Daniel Wanjuki, ecologist and senior expert at Kenya’s National Environment Management Authority, said “people saying that rhino horn can actually be used as an aphrodisiac, it’s led to almost complete eradication of the rhinoceros species in Kenya and Africa in general.

Economical — so effective

Kenya spends about $2.7 billion each year on health care, according to national statistics.

Kenyan economist Ken Gichinga said herbal medicine could significantly reduce African medical expenditure if proven effective.

“Africans spend a lot of money traveling to countries like India and the United Arab Emirates for treatment” and would benefit if herbal medicine “could provide more natural and cost-effective health care,” he said. -he declares.

In 2021, Kenya’s national medicines regulator, the Pharmacy and Poisons Board, approved the sale of Chinese herbal health products in the country. Practitioners like Li hope more countries will endorse Chinese herbal medicine in the future.


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