Zimbabwe continues to choke under the burden of diseases like Aids and cancer, but very little has been documented on the use and properties of complementary and alternative therapies.
By Phyllis Mbanje
While the bulk of the population at one point or another uses complementary medicine, there is no serious attempt by stakeholders to carry out more research on the “healing powers”.
But a group of scientists from the University of Zimbabwe are determined to pull all stops to unearth the “healing powers” of some of these natural remedies, especially given the condition of the health sector which remains underfunded.
Headed by the president of the Chemical Pathology, School of Medicine, Hilda Matarira, the team has invented a treatment approach which they have dubbed P4, (preventive, personalised, predictive and participatory).
They have researched on the role of nutritive micronutrients in managing very fatal diseases such as cancer, HIV and Aids.
“We found over 300 medical scientific reviews and over 50 000 patients abroad, claiming the utility of these treatments being followed daily in and outside Zimbabwe by over six million people,” Matarira said.
“Some sick patients in Zimbabwe, import such medicines and point of care treatment devices or go on medical tourism seeking help.”
One of their “wonder” miracles is in the form of good old mutuvi (whey), a cheese by-product.
Whey is manufactured during the making of hard cheese like cheddar or Swiss cheese.
In most instances, many people throw away this nutritious liquid which acts as an antioxidant.
An antioxidant is a man-made or natural substance that may prevent or delay some types of cell damage.
“It is readily available, cheap and a perferct natural nutrient. To those who now know its benefits, they get it from dairy companies and 10 litres is being sold for around 50 cents,” said Matarira.
Some of its properties include boosting immunity and bone heath.
Whey proteins are easily digestible, providing essential amino acids that promote muscle growth and development.
The book — Functional Dairy Products — suggests that whey proteins can be used for optimising immune function in elderly, critically ill or immuno-compromised individuals.
Whey protein is considered a super food for cancer patients, and addresses wasting and weight loss by helping tissue buildup.
It can also improve response to chemotherapy and radiation.
“We have about 50 patients with various ailments under our programme and we have testimonies of some whose conditions have been reversed,” claimed the professor.
They give information to the patients who in turn initiate the process of getting the whey on their own.
The other therapy that is being used includes silver and selenium in the form of electrodes.
“Freshly prepared electrode ionised water from silver or selenium is an immuno-booster 30 times more effective than antibiotics,” claims Matarira.
She added that according to the latest Nature Medical Journal, if used together with antibiotics, it is 100 times more effective.
“The cost of electrodes is cheaper as they last for over a year before the arms are replaced if used continually.
The cost of medical care here is some four times higher while the population is poorly resourced,” Matarira reasons.
The chemical pathologist said she had approached both the Health minister David Parirenyatwa and permanent secretary Gerald Gwinji with her innovations.
“The minister okayed our initiative, but the only challenge we have is the hospitals and pharmaceuticals who obviously would not want competition,” she said.
The senior lecturer said they were not allowed to advertise their inventions, but many people in Africa were still unable to access health care.
But she urged patients to initiate treatment early for a better chance of arresting the disease before it ravages key organs of the body.
“With this invention, we are 50 years ahead but we need to get the information out,” she said.
Parirenyatwa and Gwinji could not be reached for comment.
Earlier this year the government banned the sale of alternative medicines on the streets and the regulatory body, the Medicines Control Association of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) said this was meant to protect members of the public.
The MCAZ said anyone selling complementary medicines would be required to submit an application for authority.