Local Herbal Tea May Be The Long-Awaited Cure for Malaria
Malaria is prevalent in Africa and this prevalence has led to the illness being readily treated by a simple visit to the local pharmacy (which could just be a kiosk by the roadside). To demonstrate how common place malaria is, drugs used in the treatment of the illness are so well known that they can be readily named by roughly anyone you ask on the street. However, even though malaria is easily treatable, its existence leaves a huge negative impact on the continent — something I address quite comprehensively in another post (see my article titled “Fighting Malaria in Africa”, posted August 8, 2015).
So, it’s with good news that I read that a herbal tea, called Saye — which has been drank in the country for more than 30 years and could combat malaria — was clinically tested against a conventional malaria drug in July of last year, thanks to funding from the Burkina Faso Ministry of Health. Alas! no word on the outcome of the clinical trial, but you can be rest assured that I’ll do my very best to find that story and share it with you once I have it.
The Saye tea was first licensed as a herbal medicine in Burkina Faso ten years ago. However, the compounds it contains that might act against malaria were yet to be identified. So leading up to the clinical trial in humans (in July 2015), laboratory tests were conducted with the results of these tests leaving a lot of questions unanswered on the potential effects of the trial on humans, given that there are many examples of drug tests done in petri dishes and in mice that failed to show the same results in later tests involving humans.
From what I gather, the critical thing with Saye is that it reduces the count of malaria parasites in the blood vs clearing the malaria parasites completely and thereby curing the patient. So though helpful, the reduced malaria parasite count still leaves the patient in need of something to clear up the illness completely, unless the illness could get worse (the parasites could ultimately multiple) and then kill the patient. This all means, to me at least, that drinking Saye still leaves patients at risk — though it provides temporary relief (given that the illness may be less severe for a short while due to the reduced parasite count). There’s also the risk of herbal medicinal use resulting in resistance to antimalarial drugs.
Obviously, extensive additional studies need to be conducted before the benefits and risks of Saye are fully understood and properly harnessed. So, I’m very curious to see where this lands. My hope is that, worst case scenario, Saye could be recommended in such a dosage that it’s helpful to less financially-advantaged families. Even better if the tea is able to be grown by locals — thereby eliminating the need for funds (which may be scarce) to buy drugs at the local pharmacy. The government of Burkina Faso has expressed an interest in using the trial’s results to create standards and dosage recommendations for Saye. So for now, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
Would you drink Saye to combat malaria? Why or why not?