Locals turn to home herbal medicine as NCDs rise

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Margret Desi from Vure village in northern Choiseul traveled to Honiara when relatives told her demand for Regukamaha was high. She has been in Honiara for almost two weeks, selling Regukamaha as a street vendor.

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are on the rise, and many who suffer from these health complications are turning to homemade herbal remedies for treatment.

One of the most popular traditional herbal medicines is called Regukamaha, made from the bark of a tree that is found only in the deep jungles of Choiseul province.

Margret Desi from Vure village in northern Choiseul traveled to Honiara when relatives told her demand for Regukamaha was high. She has been in Honiara for almost two weeks, selling Regukamaha as a street vendor.

“I am here to sell this traditional medicine, there is a high demand here in Honiara. I sell SBD 70 for the big bottles and SBD 30 for the small bottles.

“My customers are not only locals but also people from outside the Solomon Islands, especially Chinese and Filipinos, so I’m not just selling, but making good friends.

“The drug helps with high blood pressure, muscle aches, liver problems, general body aches and other NCD-related illnesses.

“Regukamaha is widely used in Choiseul by our ancestors, so we inherit this know-how from generation to generation,” explains Margaret, holding one of the bottles.

She says the production process is not easy as she has to walk for hours in search of the Regukamaha tree, which is often found deep in the jungle.

“Once I extract the bark, I go home and boil the bark in fresh water for 3-4 days, or at least until the water changes color. The important thing is to make sure my ratio is correct, and that will be indicated in the color, so once I get the color right, I bottle it to sell,” Margaret explained, shaking one bottles to show color consistency.

Despite its popularity, the Department of Health says it’s important for patients with NCD-related health complications to stick to modern medications and maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle.

“There is no substitute for good nutrition and taking medication as prescribed, especially if you have been diagnosed with hypertension, high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes. We must be clear that the only drugs known for these conditions are those prescribed by doctors,” said a chief doctor of the diabetes center of the national reference hospital.

“Not all traditional medicines work, and we continue to tell our patients that they can be dangerous, even fatal, if taken over a long period of time. We find that some of our patients develop liver problems, and we can say that is caused by these traditional medicines,” she said.

“We told our patients not to mix modern and traditional medicine because it can lead to other health complications, what we know is that no traditional medicine has cured NCD-related diseases. .”

Extensive research conducted in 2011 revealed that out of 291,444 adults in the Solomon Islands between the ages of 20 and 79, 45,465 had diabetes, or 15.6% of the sample population.

The numbers have increased dramatically in recent years and in 2021 it is estimated that almost 20% of a sample of similar size have diabetes.

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