World Tuberculosis Day is an annual celebration on the 24th of March. This event aims to create awareness about the social, economic, and devastating health of tuberculosis (TB). Also, it highlights the need to step up efforts to end the global tuberculosis epidemic. The date coincides with the day Dr. Robert Koch announced the discovery of the causative organism (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) for tuberculosis in 1882. With the rise in multidrug-resistant TB, scientists are exploring African herbs for alternatives. Consequently, some African herbs are showing great promise in helping patients with tuberculosis.
Tuberculosis is still one of the world’s deadliest infectious diseases. Statistics show that approx. 4,000 people die daily from tuberculosis. This can be worse with the current COVID-19 outbreak. Medical records show that fatality is higher among people with underlying health conditions. The theme of World Tuberculosis Day 2020 is ‘It’s time’. This accentuates the urgency to act on the commitments by global leaders to:
- Scale-up access to prevention and treatment
- Build accountability
- Ensure sufficient and sustainable financing including for research
- Promote an end to stigma and discrimination; and
- Promote an equitable, rights-based and people-centered TB response
The COVID-19 pandemic is straining the health system. Consequently, some TB patients may face a shortage of healthcare and medication. Therefore, it is probably the best time to consider exploring African herbs with benefits against TB. In commemoration of the World Tuberculosis Day, we present a list of 10 African herbs with beneficial properties for TB patients.
African Herbs with Positive Benefits against Tuberculosis
It is important to mention that some of the African herbs below are only cultivated in certain parts of the continent. However, because of Africa’s interconnectedness, it is possible to find them in other regions. Also, some are not native to Africa but strive well in certain parts of the continent. However, the odds are high that you will find a herb available in your region. One thing that these African herbs try to do is to eliminate the emergence of multidrug-resistant (MDR) TB. This is crucial in the fight against TB.
#10. Juniperus communis
Inasmuch as this plant is predominant in North America, Asia, and Europe, relict clusters still live in the Atlas Mountains of Africa. N-hexane extract of the aerial parts and roots yields totarol and terpenoids longifolene. Both compounds have antimycobacterial properties. However, the best activity was with totarol. The most impressive part of this study was that these compounds were less toxic to mammalian cells.
#9. Lippia javanica
This aromatic plant can be found all over Mozambique. It is one of the African herbs used for various illnesses. The leaf infusion works as a tea against illnesses like malaria, rashes, measles, stomach upset, cough, influenza, and so on. However, an ingredient, triterpene euscaphic acid, isolated from the plant had inhibitory properties against Mycobacterium tuberculosis. However, the test was carried out on a sensitive strain of the bacterium.
#8. African wormwood (Artemisia afra)
This African herb has a wide distribution across South Africa. For a long time, its predominant use is for the treatment of malaria, diabetes, colds, cough, headache, and so on. However, some in vitro studies show that it also has antimycobacterial properties. It works by reducing the replication of mycobacterium. The compounds responsible for its antimicrobial properties are Artemin and Arsubin. However, the inhibition by these compounds is dose-dependent.
#7. Bolusanthus specious
This plant is common in southern African countries including Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Different parts of the plant have been tested for antimicrobial activities. However, the part that is mostly used for tuberculosis and abdominal pain treatment is the inner bark of the tree.
#6. Leonotis leonurus (Lion’s ear or Wild dagga)
This plant is highly prevalent in South Africa. Like most African herbs, it has diverse medicinal applications. It has wide usage in the treatment of asthma, cough, bronchitis, and tuberculosis. Its organic extracts display over 99 percent inhibition against Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Scientists are screening this plant as a potential source of novel anti-tuberculosis compounds.
#5. Euclea natalensis
Hitherto, several African communities use this herb for pain relief. However, researchers were able to isolate three compounds from this plant namely diospyrin, 7-methyljuglone, and shinanolone. These compounds were tested against drug-resistant and drug-sensitive Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Consequently, they showed significant activity against the organism.
#4. Tabernaemontana elegans (Toad tree)
Traditionally, the Zulu and Venda people of South Africa use this plant to dress wounds. It has also been useful for chest pain and pulmonary diseases. There are studies that suggest that the extracts of this plant show antimycobacterial activity.
#3. Pelargonium reniforme (Geraniaceae)
This is one of the popular African herbs in southern African folklore medicine. Its main use is for the treatment of respiratory tract infection. However, it has two important root extracts namely quercitin-3-O-B-D-glucoside and myricetin. These extracts show significant activity against Mycobacterium tuberculosis. However, this only occurred at the highest concentration of 0.250 mg/mL.
#2. Zingiber officinale Roscoe (Ginger)
Ginger is a popular spice in many African delicacies. However, it has a wide application for medicinal purposes in different African communities. This is one of the plants that is widely used in Ghana for tuberculosis treatment. Studies using ginger extracts show significant activity against Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
#1. Artemisia annua
This is an annual shrub that is indigenous to China. However, it is capable of growing in sub-tropical and temperate environments. The main purpose of its cultivation is for the extraction of a chemical compound, artemisinin—its active ingredient. Artemisinin combination therapy (ACT) is the new anti-malaria therapy in many African countries. Nevertheless, it attacks molecules (heme) in Mycobacterium tuberculosis’ oxygen sensors. This means the organism can no longer detect low oxygen tension. Consequently, this prevents the organism from becoming dormant—a stage that makes it resistant to antibiotics. A microbiologist and assistant professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Michigan State University, Robert Abramovitch said,
“When TB bacteria are dormant, they become highly tolerant to antibiotics. Blocking dormancy makes the TB bacteria more sensitive to these drugs and could shorten treatment times. When the Mtb is starved of oxygen, it goes into a dormant state, which protects it from the stress of low-oxygen environments. If Mtb can’t sense low oxygen, then it can’t become dormant and will die.”
Interestingly, some of these African herbs possess phytochemical compounds that boost your immune system. This significantly improves your chance of surviving COVID-19 infection. However, we always advise that you speak with your doctor before taking any herbs—especially if you are currently on any form of medication. This is because some of the compounds in these plants can react with some compounds in drugs. Let us know other plants for TB treatment. We always value your comments.