Kenyan scientists have announced that they have discovered more than 20 different local plants that can be used to cure some of the most common types of cancers.
The team, which is comprised of researchers from various local universities and officials from the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), presented its findings at the annual scientific conference organized by the institute.
“We could learn from the Chinese who are doing a lot of clinical and other scientific work on their herbal medicines while concurrently using them in their hospitals,” said Julius Wanjohi Mwangi, a professor of Pharmacognosy (the study of medicine derived from natural sources) at the University of Nairobi.
The conference saw more than 30 researchers, who are from various local university, attend.
Most of the plants the scientists reported are widely used locally for medicinal purposes and many specifically for treating cancer.
Sabina Wangui Wachira of KEMRI said that 60 percent of anti-cancer agents that are currently being used in Kenyan hospitals are derived from natural resources.
“Over 60 per cent of currently used anti-cancer agents are derived from natural sources,” explained Sabina Wangui Wachira of Centre for Traditional Medicine and Drug Research at Kemri. “Our work was to provide scientific evidence to support claims that some Kenya medicinal plants are active against cancer.”
Red stinkwood (Prunus Africana) was one of the plants investigated and is currently being used for the treatment of prostate cancer.
She told of their drawback in trials with the local confetti and the pepper-wood trees, the latter known as Mkaa in Kiswahili.
The two trees, the researchers reported had shown little activity against breast cancer but were very effective against the cell lines of colon cancer. Crispus M Ngule of the same department at Kemri told of their experiments with tamarind fruit (Mkwanju) and pearl millet.
They tested extracts from these plants against prostate, cervical and breast cancers and found them to be highly effective.
Cancer is the third-highest cause of morbidity in Kenya, after infectious and cardiovascular diseases. It is estimated to be responsible for 7 percent of the total deaths reported annually in Kenya.
“We are happy scientists are now confirming what we have always known and practised. It is then time to convert the knowledge into products and service,” said Dr Shadrack Moimett of Koibatek Herbal Clinic in Eldoret.
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