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Health risks of alcoholic herbal beverages

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By Mercy Kelani

Potentially, herbal mixtures contain toxic ingredients harmful to humans.

Alcoholic beverages have a solid history in Nigeria as many people use them for medicinal purposes and in recent years, their production and consumption has increased drastically. Health experts have revealed that this development is associated with potential health risks and there is an urgent need for regulation and awareness of the dangers of consumption. Previously, herbal drinks were usually used as a remedy for diverse health conditions. However, with its consumption by many people it has been become a problem in Nigeria, as they lack understanding of its potential dangers.

These herbal beverages are produced by fermented herbs, roots, alcohols and other natural ingredients and they are most often sold in illegal markets. They do not bear the same safety standard as actual commercial beverages. The major concern about these drinks is their likelihood to possess toxic ingredients. Research has it that in many of the drinking joints, activities are alive in the early morning and in the evening. Some customers admitted that they resorted to drinking alcoholic herbal beverages for its ability to get one high with a small amount of money while treating an ailment.

Consumption of these beverages can cause neurodegenerative disease.

According to a research titled , “The Nigerian Psychoactive Alcoholic Herbal Mixture Impacts, Behavioral Performance and Caused Brain Biochemical and Histopathological Alterations in Mice” conducted by researchers from the University of Ibadan, Oyo State. It was discovered that this mixture is able to cause neurobehavioral and biochemical perturbation in mice. The result also showed an enhancement in reduction of locomotor activity, and impaired motor coordination in mice after administration of an alcoholic blended mixture.

The study gave evidence of behavioral perturbation which includes anxiety, brain biochemical changes, and poor working, memory. This reveals that consumption of the mixtures can cause and awaken neurodegenerative diseases in human beings. Some of these herbal drinks have high levels of methanol, which is capable of causing blindness and death, unhealthy interaction with medication, or exacerbation of existing medical conditions. The Nigerian government will address this problem by banning production and sales of specific brands.

Excessive consumption can cause exposure to internal organ damage.

Director of Savehealthy Pharmacy, Giginna Mathias, stated that these beverages lack a significant part of drug formulations. According to him, there is no specific dosage for alcoholic mixture beverages, so it lacks standardization. He added that there are potential risks to health as alcohol can be abused and is capable of building a tolerance in human system. Standardization refers to the quantity of the substance that is needed to be taken for a required result.

Sequel to the health expert, there is a perception that alcoholic mixes are capable of treating a specific ailment because those who consumed them believe that if they are sick with any kind of sickness, it will take care of it. As a result, they tend to take more than is required, causing exposure to internal organ damage and kidney and liver dysfunction. This is mainly because there is no approval system from NAFDAC, regulatory agencies or pharmaceutical council that what producers sold today must be sold the next day.

These remedies have no segmented usage for users.

Complementing the statement of Mathias, a Plant Physiology and biotechnology expert at the University of Nigeria, NSUKKA, Mr. Hyacinth Obayi, affirmed that herbal remedies have no segmented usage. Producers of these types of beverages encourage people to take as much quantity as they want, claiming it is a natural product, which is wrong. The experts asserted that manufacturers of alcoholic blended formulations have been unable to determine the actual dosage which in turn affects the transformation in the liver.

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