Ugandan universities start teaching herbal medicine
Uganda government and three universities will be teaching herbal medicine as a measure to improve quality of products on the market.
A quality assurance assessment training package for occupation herbalists has been developed by the Directorate of Industrial Training in collaboration with National Drug Authority and is currently being taught at Avance International University and will be replicated at Makerere University and Mbarara University of Science and Technology.
The curriculum based on module assessment is divided into four levels. Beginners’ level which takes three months and entails herbalists to discuss what they have manufactured and are guided on quality; then level one that equips herbalists to establish and maintain a herbal garden, harvesting medicinal herbs and entrepreneurship skills.
Level two covers post-harvest handling of medicinal herbs, dispensing herbal medicinal plants and business management.
Level three and the last one looks at processing, packaging, labelling and storage of herbal medicine, patient treatment, marketing, occupational health, safety and environment protection.
The entire study program, which was developed in collaboration with Chinese herbalists, takes three years and is overseen by Dr Grace Nambatya, the Director of Natural Chemotherapeutics Research Laboratory.
At Avance International University 89 students have completed the beginners’ level that started in September 2019 but was disrupted by Covid 19, and are yet to enroll for level one. The students were taught by two western medicine doctors (one being a chemist) and two herbalists.
Most of the students are practicing herbalists and had opportunity to test their products at the University’s laboratory for certification by both Uganda National Bureau of Standards and National Drug Authority.
Avance links qualified herbal medicine practitioners with different regulatory agencies after awarding herbalists with Competence Based Assessment certificates. Avance teaches herbalists basic training on human anatomy and physiology, drug dispensation and dosages and good manufacturing procedures as required.
“We appeal to all herbalists to come and study so that what they are selling on the market is safe and genuine medicine,” said Sebunya Adam, the Deputy Academic Registrar of Avance, in an interview.
At Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) a department for herbal medicine called pharmbiotrac with over 100 students studying masters’ degrees and PHD level has been established.
Research at the University recently led to discovery of a formula of herbs for effective healing of wounds—both internal and external—and burns that rarely heal using conventional medicine.
The researchers include Prof Baruga Evariste, a Urologist and founder of Medical Research Centre and a team of scientists from MUST that include Associate Professor Ogwang Patrick Engeu, Angupale Jimmy Ronald and Oloro Joseph.
More than 60 percent of Uganda’s population depends on tradition medicine because it is accessible, affordable and culturally familiar.
With an estimated traditional health practitioner for every 200-400 Ugandans (compared to one western trained doctor per 20,000), herbal medicine has long been used to manage a range of common conditions including malaria, digestive and respiratory problems, toothaches, skin diseases and childbirth complications.
The Ministry of Health has recently recommended that traditional healers be incorporated in the mainstream health sector as private partners that have a huge role to play in primary health care.
More recently, a new policy on traditional and complementary medicine has been drafted to regulate the practice of traditional medicine, to focus on research and development and to encompass protection, cultivation, propagation and sustainability of traditional medicine plants.
The Ministry of Health has also submitted a Bill for the establishment of a semi-autonomous body, the National Council of Indigenous and Complimentary Medicine Practitioners, to support collaboration between the modern health sector and traditional practitioners and to regulate the latter, while protecting their intellectual property rights.