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Effect Of Herbal Medication Use On The Kidneys   
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Dr. Elliot Koranteng Tannor (Physician Specialist/Nephrologist) of the Komfo Anokye Teaching hospital is calling for studies on the side effects of herbal medications on the kidney, and says claims that herbal medications have no side effects are not wholly true.

The use of alternative herbal remedies is on the increase worldwide and also in Ghana. It’s been suggested that orthodox medicine may not have all the answers to health problems. Most patients find solace in herbal medications and other alternative remedies for their health problems.

The popularity of herbal medicines is based on the fact that it is thought to be natural with no side effects. But this has been proven not to be entirely true in most cases. We see side effects of herbal medications in our hospitals sometimes.

In most cases, the source and composition of these medications are shrouded in secrecy. Some are handed over from generation to generation and are not declared as they may lose revenue as it is their intellectual property. Potentially toxic substances may be added to improve potency but this comes with more side effects. Some of these herbal remedies have not been tested for efficacy and most importantly safety especially on the kidneys.

The Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) and the Centre for Research into Plant Medicine have improved research in herbal medicines. The introduction of a degree program in herbal medicine at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) may have increased credibility in the use of herbal medicines in Ghana.

We have progressed from no clear dose regimens in herbal medications to clearer doses and nice packages. Some herbal medicines are sold in pharmacy shops together with orthodox medications and are well patronized.

Despite all these improvements, we are still seeing patients come in with complications after herbal medication use. In most cases these patients arrive late in the hospital and the history of herbal medication use may be missed or downplayed. Patients blame their complication on anything else but the herbal medications they are taking. There is utmost trust in herbal medicine in Ghana, a trait orthodox medicine can only wish for as most people believe orthodox medicines are the only ones with side effects.

Most herbal medicine prescribers’ don’t admit their medications have side effects. They may not even be aware if there are any as they have not researched into the side effects of their medicines on the various organs. Some patients report with side effects to the liver, the blood cells, the heart and the kidneys after the intake of some herbal medicines. I have peculiar interest in the side effects on the kidneys as a kidney doctor which we see a lot of in Komfo Anokye Hospital.

The kidneys are responsible for clearing the medications from your body after they have performed their functions. These medications have the potential to harm the kidneys in the process. As the kidneys are destroyed, they lose their ability to clear the medications and this leads to more side effects. I have not seen any advertisement yet that cautions patients not to take a particular medication when they have decreased kidney function or kidney failure. Any medication with known effects on the kidneys should be avoided in those with kidney disease or the doses adjusted to prevent further damage to the kidneys. I wonder if such precautions are taken by herbal medication prescribers in their work. I will recommend they do. I do not also know whether there are studies to ascertain the effect of most of these herbal medications on the kidneys at functional capacity. They do not adjust the doses of herbal medications in relation to kidney function.

I am not by my article suggesting that herbal medications are not potent. They may be potent but their side effects need to be researched thoroughly including effects on the kidneys. These side effects need to be declared to the general public. The public needs to be protected.

When the kidneys are affected, some may recover when the culprit medication is identified early and the kidney failure adequately treated. In some cases, short sessions of dialysis (machine to clear toxins from the body) may be required. When there is prolonged intake with permanent damage to the kidneys, management requires expensive procedures such as dialysis permanently and most patients cannot afford it.

My concern as a kidney doctor is to make sure there are no effects on the kidneys. We are seeing younger patients coming in with kidney diseases after consumption of all sorts of herbal medications. Most of these patients admit to taking some herbal medication prior to admission or some time ago. Studies have been conducted that report kidney damage from the use of herbal medications. Kidney diseases are on the ascendency in Ghana and we believe the increasing use of herbal medications may be associated.

Don’t just be interested in the satisfaction a medication gives in terms of your pain management or the aphrodisiac effect to satisfy that girl. You may enjoy the temporary effect but suffer the long term side effect immediately or sometime later. Public awareness and regulation of these medicines are needed if we are to tackle this menace in Ghana.

Thank You
Source: Daily Graphic

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