When Naliki Nusula’s 11-year old daughter accidently poured very hot tea on herself and seriously burnt her thigh she was worried how fast her girl would heal or if she would heal at all. But somebody tipped her to use Jena Cure.
She picked the herbal at a Pharmacy at Alkright stage, Entebbe road at 5,000 Uganda shillings, and it worked for her. After smearing three bottles of Jena Cure on her daughter’s skin it started regenerating. And in only two weeks the young girl healed completely. There was no pain during the healing process, and neither scars appeared.
Jena Cure is a product that resulted from almost two decades of intense research by Medical Research Centre in collaboration with Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) sponsored by National Agricultural and Research Organization.
Prof Baruga Evariste, a Urologist and founder of Medical Research Centre says they embarked on their research journey in 2006 after he prematurely ended his teaching career in South Africa and returned home to study how plant science could heal the several ailments affecting Ugandans.
“I noticed that most doctors could diagnose diseases but fail to get effective drugs to heal their patients. This is why patients are running from professional medical services to find help from traditional healers and pastors. I promised to change this. For fifteen years I have studied the value of plants. I have discovered it is possible to use our own traditional medicines other than western medicine and get excellent results,” said Prof Baluga.
Injury is one of the leading causes of death in children and working adults in almost every country and there are more than five million injury-related deaths every year, as well as a tremendous burden of disability.
Baluga and a team of scientists from MUST that include Associate Professor Ogwang Patrick Engeu, Angupale Jimmy Ronald and Oloro Joseph will by next month agree on the final formula of herbs for effective healing of wounds—both internal and external—and burns that rarely heal using conventional medicine.
In the study done between August 2016 and February 2017, Ogwang Patrick Engeu designed the study, wrote the protocol, participated in experiment and wrote the final manuscript. Angupale Jimmy Ronald participated in the experiment, performed the statistical analysis and wrote the first draft of the manuscript. Oloro Joseph participated on the experiment and reviewed the manuscript. And Baruga conceived the research idea, co-designed the study, interpreted the results and reviewed the final manuscript.
The team first tested toxicity of their combination. “Toxic herbs shouldn’t be used,” said Baruga.
They are now waiting for international approval to patent their formulas before they can disclose more details about the combination of herbs used to heal wounds. Baruga says their herbal medicine healed 15 patients suffering from severe wounds during clinical trials.
In their paper published by the British Journal of Pharmaceutical Research in 2017, the scientists indicate that Zanthoxylum species also known in local dialect as entale yirungu was part of the ingredients used to find a cure for wounds.
Zanthoxylum species shows great potential for use in stimulation of collagen formation, shortening wound healing time and promoting natural wound healing mechanisms.
This mechanism offers great hope for a cheaper alternative for healing of difficult to heal wounds and needs further exploration for possible development into a drug for wider clinical application as a low cost alternative.
The stem bark of Zanthoxylum species is largely used by communities and herbalists for wound healing in South Western Uganda.
Herbalists in Budibugyo (South Western Uganda) discovered the usefulness of Zanthoxylum species stem bark powder (a Zanthoxylum species of the family, Rutaceae) in management of both acute and chronic wounds.
An ethnobotanical survey reveals that 38 plants as being important for treatment of wounds. The most represented families were Asteraceae (26.3%) and Solanaceae (15.8%); Bidens pilosa L, Musa paradisiaca L., solenostemon latifolius, Ageratum conyzoides L., Hoslundia opposita Vahl. and Microglossa pyrifolia (Lam.) Kuntze were the most widely used.
Aloe vera continues to be a first-line treatment for burns, ulcers, and surgical wounds. Aloe vera contains many natural bioactive compounds, including pyrocatechol, saponins, acemannan, anthraquinones, glycosides, oleic acid, phytol, as well as simple and complex water-soluble polysaccharides.
To clear the path for his research, Prof Baluga first studied all diseases and classified them according to their causes to determine proper diagnosis. He discovered that there were six groups of diseases that affect humans.
They include; those that come from outside the cell e.g infections by germs, those that are produced by the body itself resulting from misbehavior of the nucleus eg tumors and those caused by free radicals e.g. poison and diabetes. The other diseases, according to Prof Baruga are caused by organ failures, bleeding and blockage.
“So why do we suffer? I have been thinking about this diagnosis for 35 years. That is why I came back—to use plants for treatment of the six groups of diseases. We have been failing because of improper diagnosis of diseases. If you are a doctor why use machines to diagnose diseases all the time? We are not supposed to suffer premature death. At least everyone should live upto 100 years,” says the former lecturer at the Medical University of South Africa (formerly for black South Africans), which was closed after an end to apartheid rule.
Prof Baruga said he has discovered that three herbs can heal all the six groups of diseases that cause cell damage. Baruga says plants have different and multiple compounds that easily heal ailments unlike western medicine.
For wounds and burns interventions like stem cell treatment have been considered but this is too expensive for the ordinary patients especially in developing countries like Uganda. Also administration of oral and topical antibiotics has been other options but is rarely successful in treating non-healing wounds.
According to Sasidharan (2010) nearly six million people suffer from chronic wounds worldwide and the prevalence of chronic wounds in the community was reported as 4.5 per 1000 population, whereas that of acute wounds was more than double, at 10.5 per 1,000 population.
Despite deliberate efforts to treat wounds, some specific ones due to influence of some disease processes like diabetes mellitus, HIV and varicose ulcers among others have been unhealable and have continued to be entry point of disease causing organisms that can eventually lead to amputation or death of the patients.
Wounds can be broadly classified into acute and chronic wounds depending on their aetiology. Acute wounds occur most commonly due to accidents such as trauma or burns. Acute wounds should normally heal in a short duration provided the right treatment is given. In wound healing, it is always pertinent to achieve rapid and complete wound healing since the resulting scar tissue will be more satisfactory. Hence, the goal of every medical practitioner treating wounds should be to achieve early wound healing.
Chronic wounds take a longer time to heal or sometimes even recur due to the underlying pathology. Hence, the underlying problem should first be identified and treated accordingly. When treating chronic wounds, it is important to note that biofilms play an important role in the prevention of wound healing. These biofilms harbour various microorganisms which delay the wound healing process. Due to the rise in antibiotic resistance, alternative/traditional medicines are increasingly becoming popular to overcome these multi- resistant organisms.
Hard-to-heal wounds become “chronic” for a number of reasons, including underlying conditions such as diabetes, vascular disease, hyperglycaemia, ischemia, and neuropathy. The underlying cause of the wound is often used to describe the wound: diabetic foot ulcers, venous leg ulcers, arterial leg ulcers, and pressure ulcers.
Nonhealing, chronic wounds clearly pose a risk to the health and well-being of patients who often suffer from pain, impaired mobility, excessive exudates, wound malodour, and restricted social life, resulting in substantial disruption, morbidity, and indirect costs to social and healthcare systems.
The Ugandan scientists say they will embark on finding effective herbal medicines for all the six groups of diseases mentioned earlier after they successfully patent their formula for wounds and burns.
A laboratory has been set up in Entebbe and a department for herbal medicine called pharmbiotrac with over 100 students studying masters degrees and PHD level has been established at Mbarara University of Science and Technology. The World Bank has also offered $6m to boost the research.