Adebukola Adefule-Ositelu is a professor of Ophthalmology and Chairman, Lagos State Traditional Medicine Board (LSTMB). Adefule-Ositelu, who also discovered a bitter kola-based eye drop for glaucoma, in this interview with CHUKWUMA MUANYA and CHARLES OZIOMA spoke on how far she has gone with her work.
How far have you gone with the bitter kola-based eye-drop you discovered ten years ago?
The work is concluded and we have presented it at the World Ophthalmology Conference. The only thing with Nigerians is that we prefer orthodox medicine to the traditional ones. But what I am happy about is that if it is rubbish, you will not see it on the Internet because it is on Google already. If you Google glaucoma and natural product, it is my name that will come first. Many people have done researches after what I have done but it is my name that will come first. Also, we published all of our tested theories in scientific journals. We took swoop from the patient eye from the clinic to remove their discharges from their eye, took to the lab then we matched it comparatively with Garcinia kola (bitter kola) and it computed very effectively and it proved it as antibiotic.
Then fortunately enough, it was the Harmattan period when Apollo was circulating. We applied it on conjunctivitis and it worked. I accompanied one of my relations to visit the children at Meran. None of the teachers were around; it was the Open Day. We discovered that about eight of them had Apollo and even the boy we went to visit had Apollo. I was carrying the bitter kola eye drop about.
Since I saw that it was working for animals, I started using it on myself because I had trace of glaucoma.
So, I just brought it along and since there was no one to take permission from, I thought it would be risky for me to just leave the children after applying the eye drop because I will not feel comfortable. After inserting it, within two hours, they started feeling better, which prompted us to do a study on Apollo, which was the second paper, and the eye drop came out as truly antiviral. Then we also compared it with fungal infections. We took fungal discharges from patient and it compared comparatively with conventional antifungals. The study came out very well, which proved the eye drop was antifungal. So, we got volunteers on human beings, people who were interested and we did this study in three universities- Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Obafemi Awolowo University and National Eye Centre at Kaduna. And I’m happy because all of us who did that study have become professors. The research contributed a lot to our upgrading. And we were also able to discover that it was very effective on open angle glaucoma and also ocular hypertension. And since then, those who volunteered, up till today, have refused to stop using it. They still demand for the eye drop and they are spreading the good news. I also went to a laboratory in Texas, United States. I took the prepared one and took fresh Garcinia kola nut with me. I saw one of their leaders there, Dr Mac Donald. He took it but it took me about two years to get anything from them. I just kept pestering them and by the time they released it, we saw the beautiful properties. They analysed it and it was very helpful. So, proving to us that what those of us were experiencing were actually true with what they have found. But the only thing they told me was that they had a lot on their hands and they would not be able to join me. But we continued here and we were able to produce so many papers. I also sent to Cameroon, the University of Buea, to be precise. They even found some other properties apart from what we knew, which was quite interesting.
From there, we started to refine the product, to do the packaging, make it international.
Then I went to the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) before it was inaugurated, which was in 1987. It officially started in 1987. About nine papers have been published. Although the NAFDAC process was so rigorous, I finally got it registered.
What have been the challenges encountered in developing the product?
Well, number one is the African attitude. We need to embrace our own. I am a Reverend and a strong Christian and I do my best to follow the doctrine of Christ but then, for you to say African products are fetish or they are cultic, it is very unfair and ignorant. Although I make a joke out of this but when the white man came, we had enough power and authority to have restricted them. Ordinarily, words that the Yoruba can say to them would have stopped them completely from invading. But there is something wrong with us: greed, lack of love, selfishness and inferiority complex. Because we were fighting each other, they allowed slave trade and they were prospering, selling their fellow humans. The white saw that this thing they were doing was not so good but they were after their own interest. Then they brought the Bible, Quran and taught us to close our eyes. While we were praying, they started pilfering everything we had. They removed all the best things in our lives and left us with empty brains. It led to them whitewashing our brains, so that we have no confidence in ourselves. We feel inferior. And most of the things we have, they do not have, if we are to be frank about it.
Civilization started here, even vaccination started here. It was during the time of smallpox when people were having smallpox. I am talking of years, centuries back. But we do not do it anymore. Now, the Bible I was referring to in the first chapter says God created every plant. That same chapter, verse 29 says, “All the plants are for your food.” At the last page, it says the leaf is for healing of the nations. And who are the nations? We are. If we are doing traditional thing, do it the proper way and not to hurt another person. We are promoting God’s and natural work. If you have constipation and you take a lot of oranges, it helps, unless there is something else attached to it. We have our own things. Let us begin to wake up from the deadly slumber and begin to appreciate what we have, explore them, analyse them, standardise them and get them ready for consumption because that’s the way I see it. We also have the cure for Ebola but people won’t look at it. It is what the white man does that is more effective as far as they are concerned.
Already, we have treatment for COVID-19 but the vaccination is more important and so on and so forth.
India, China and other European countries are taking undue advantage of us because of our attitude. But we can change our attitude and value ourselves more. Now, talk of fetish and cultic; it is in the Bible and Quran. The devil is there. It is what you chose to be. If you want to be good, be good and vice versa. It is not our traditional things that are bad; it is the attitude of the people. It is not what God has blessed us with. It is a very rich endowment. We are looking up to the government to give us enough support because this place is not befitting. We need a better place where we can carry out researches and document.
What has been the support from the Federal Ministry of Health, NAFDAC and other government agencies?
No support whatsoever.
What informed the research into herbal eyedrop, especially bitter kola?
I got the notion from an octogenarian who I have been treating for about 15 years at LUTH. He just decided to send me the recipe he was using, which I did not know and understand. He just said he wanted to give me something. Then after examining him, I was going to give him another prescription. He told me to wait. He brought out all the prescriptions I have been giving him for years. He told me he had not been using my medicine; he has just been coming, so that I examine his eyes, do investigation and confirm the efficacy of what he had been using. He then told me how to prepare it. He said the problem runs in his family. I thanked him, accepted it from him and put it in my drawer. When it got to my stage of promotion… If you get to my stage and you do not do research, you will not get promoted. I remembered what the octogenarian gave me and brought it out of my drawer and I had to write for a grant, which University of Lagos gave me. I started with animals, different types of animals and the result was very interesting. We had to gag one of the animals (dog) and within two weeks of postulating this thing to the eyes, we discovered that we did not need to gag the dog because it was so friendly and even wagging its tail at us, which means something good was going on. The other animals too did portray interesting attributes.
You also said you have a bitter kola cure to Ebola?
Google and check! I was a guest speaker at NAFDAC’s conference, and the topic was collaboration between orthodox and the traditional medicine practitioners. That was the time Ebola came out. I also said at the event that, look at how God has been magnanimous. See what he said we should use for Ebola – Ewedu and bitter kola.
Why are you so confident about the efficiency of bitter kola?
Of course, I am because I was once a patient too and a first-hand witness. See me now. I do not put on glasses again. I started putting on glasses at age 15. But since I started using bitter kola, I stopped using glasses. I read and write easily without glasses because bitter kola has reversed the damages. It has regulated my pressure. The blood vessels are flowing properly. It also has some antioxidants that are producing vital health to the layers of the eyes.
What have been your challenges as an opthalmologist venturing into traditional medicine?
I don’t know how I got into traditional medicine. After all these researches and publications, I had to do my inaugural lecture in 2010. Usually, the university will publish just before the inaugural lecture and they did.
Many of them turned up at that lecture. At the end of the lecture, some of them waited and introduced themselves to me and told me they were going to invite me to their meeting, which I attended. And from there, they made me the chairman of something there. And seeing their need, I started to train them. I was arranging seminars and workshops for them. From there, I meet the chairman of the board, the former chairman before me, Dr. Bumi Omoshehinde, who also was my student in the medical school, who was quite impressed along with the registrar. I also got them involved in this training and seminars and I made sure that all the participants came to register at the board. Most of them were just practicing it and not being professional about it.
As the chairman of Lagos State Traditional Medicine Board, what has been your impact/achievements towards developing the practice?
A lot has been done. Unfortunately, the last chairman did a lot of work but he wasn’t replaced and there was a vacuum for five years. So, by the time this new board came on, there was no structure on ground for it to work with; just a coordinator who was a biochemist and was using his energy and interest to run the place. It has been very tough since we took over. Even this very office just recently got renovated because it was flooded, and rats and cats were sneaking in. Also, there were problems with the President and Prince because everyone was claiming to be chief but we were able to reconcile them and make them understand that without unity, we cannot achieve anything. We also retrained them. Traditional birth attendants, Baba Ashegun, Alagbos, faith-based, and so on are being captured and retrained. The only thing left now is monitoring and enforcement but we have no vehicles to do that.
Traditional birth attendants have been crucial in health delivering in Lagos state. How far have you gone in integrating and training them?
They have gone far. They are well organised and monitored. Even during the five years when there was no board, they still kept on organising themselves. They have associations in the six zones of Lagos which are: Ikorodu, Badagry, Lagos Island, Ikeja and Epe. These people are recommended to come to the board for six weeks training after which they are given certificates and not left to practice.
After that, they are sent to the general hospitals and see how they can improve upon their own skills. When they are through, they go for another three months training at Lagos State Polytechnic (LASPOTEC) for more intensive training. The birth attendants deliver twins, triplets and what have you without any problems whatsoever. Although, we have some fake birth attendants around popularly called quacks, which are not trained but are auxiliary nurses being trained by the orthodox doctor. But because they cannot match well, they think there is a loophole in the traditional side, they now switch to claim traditional practioners.
These people are the ones causing the problems by setting drip, which traditional practioners do not do.
Do you have the traditional cure or treatment for Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)?
Well, I know they have things that will bring the CD4 (a marker of the immune system) down, will improve wellness. The viral load will be reduced to next to nothing. It boosts their immunity but I am still searching for those that really cure HIV. I want to test the drugs of those that have the cure in my clinic personally by bringing those that have tested positive previously and got cured outrightly by the medicine before we call it a proof.
Cancer has become rampant in the society, what is Lagos state Traditional Medicine Board doing about it?
Some cancer run in the family while some are due to reckless way of life, then some are due to what we consume especially fast foods. We advise people to take natural products like vegetable instead. We also have antioxidants and immune boosters like the ginger and garlic. We do have the cure for cancer. In fact, we have cases of cures and I am one of them. I had kidney problems. But we have many other examples. And very soon I’m hoping we’d be able to get journals for better articulation and documentation of the cases and also inform the populace. Recently, which was on the 11th of this month (November), there was a 4th anniversary of Nigerian herbal practioners where they chose to treat ten cancer cases free, ten sickle cell anaemia free and ten cases of people with fibroids free. We attended and it is going on. So, we are trying to collate data and if given the time and resources, we will do it.
The market for anti-ageing natural supplements and detox diets are booming in Nigeria. Can natural supplements indeed prevent or delay ageing? Do you recommend detox diet?
Of course, detox will remove poisons from you and the free radicals will attack your hormonal cells. So, detox is important and I strongly recommend it. It removes all the unwanted radicals that are moving freely and can attack any of your organs, which can cause them to malfunction. And apart from exercises, when you eat well, you do not age fast and automatically have better health.
What is your recommendation on how to improve healthcare in Nigeria?
Again, eat home-based food. Appreciate and eat what God has given us here. We do not need polish rice, Ofada rice, the beans are there for us. Seasonal fruits, water and vegetables too.