Herbal medicine and treatment of diabetes in Africa: An example from Guinea
Use of medicinal plants is widespread in Africa, particularly in Guinea where oral transmission of practices is part of the social ritual. The purpose of this study was to determine the proportion of diabetic patients who use herbal medicine and identify the types of plants in use. Reasons for using herbal medicine and the formulations employed were also noted. A questionnaire on use of herbal medicine was proposed to all diabetic patients hospitalized or consulting the Endocrinology Unit of the Conakry University Hospital between April 1 and June 30, 2003. A total of 397 patients responded; 33% declared they used herbal medicine. They proposed many motivations, sometimes in association: belief in its efficacy (74%), easy access to medicinal plants (70%), lower cost (48%), and search for complete cure of diabetes (37%). Hearing about a positive experience had convinced 78% of the users to use herbal medicine. The majority of the users were satisfied (85%). One or more clinical manifestations occurring concomitantly with use of herbs was observed in 23 patients (18%), particularly gastrointestinal disorders (n = 10) and skin problems (n = 8). Two cases of hypoglycaemia were noted. Herbal medicine plays an important role in anti-diabetes treatment in Guinea. This type of treatment should be based on scientific evidence but very few studies have been conducted. Conditions of use should be better defined and patients should be informed of potential adverse effects.