A Kenyan university has engaged herbalists to offer health services and participate in research with its scientists and campus doctors.
Kenyatta University authorities said the herbalists had proved that herbal medicine was affordable and effective in managing some cases of prostate cancer, diabetes mellitus and hypertension.
The six herbalists, scientists and university doctors are working at the Centre for Complementary Medicine and Biotechnology, a research unit for multidisciplinary health research, biodiversity conservation and drug discovery.
The move comes at a time when poverty, the HIV-Aids epidemic and drug-resistant strains of illnesses have prompted the return of diseases such as tuberculosis, which had been eradicated.
The government has prepared a bill that, if passed, will allow use of herbal medicine in public hospitals. But the Kenya Medical Association has opposed campaigns to promote herbal medicine.
The centre is headed by Alloys Orago, professor of clinical immunology. Kenyatta analyses medicines prescribed by the herbalists to determine levels of toxicity and the correct dosage.
Professor Orago said a large number of patients were choosing herbal medicines and that they were working on affordable drugs to treat malaria, sickle-cell anaemia and certain cancers.
The move to allow herbalists to work with researchers and doctors in public hospitals has been supported by the World Health Organisation.