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Nigerians prefer alcoholic bitters to beer

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By Mercy Kelani

It is mostly consumed by men for its medicinal and aphrodisiac effects.

Alcoholic bitters in sachets and bottles across Nigeria are available as the requests for these effective beverages, with alleged health advantages, never cease. As a matter of fact, almost every week, new brands are produced, making it difficult for aficionados to maintain the flavours and names of the latest inventions. It is seen that the more effective the manufacturers claim their alcoholic product to be, the greater the request from customers. For example, lovers of alcoholic bitters are specifically attracted to bitters that manufacturers claim are mixed with bark from Ondo, Osun state or Ghana.

The notion that these beverages are beginning to work as opposition to traditional beers is prevailing progressively. A trader who runs an alcoholic drinks joint in Isheri, Lagos, Godwin Olaleye, stated that these drinks are currently on an equal footing, contending with beer. Hence, he affirmed that he stayed observant in ensuring that he has enough stock, based on the rising demand for the beverages. Also, Godwin’s customer affirmed the potent importance of the beverages in comparison to beers, stating that four of his favourite sachets of bitters will be enough to get him tipsy, in contrast to beers.

There are health risks associated with consumption of these beverages.

A furniture maker, Nosa, said that consumers’ desired effect is achieved by taking few sachets as it is also medicinal. Likewise, a vulcanizer stated that beer made him develop pot belly while alcoholic bitters combat it. It has been discovered that the intake of this beverage is not only for men; for example, a middle-aged woman, Miriam, also affirmed the medicinal features of the drink and buys it for her husband. It was also confirmed that this beverage maintains vigour and alertness in humans during workday. From respondents, who are men in their 40s and 50s, it was confirmed that the consumption of bitters is for the aphrodisiac effects they possess.

Apparently, the effects are displayed in their product names which include Afafata For Sexual Drive, Wuff Male Sexual Performance, Dakan Jia Man Power Enhancement, Shagalin Ka Man Power, Nisan Zango Karfin Maza, Almenjou For Lazy Men in Bed, Minister For Man Power, Gagnaire Man Power and others. A branch manager at a prominent bank, Joseph, said that he stopped taking beer and transited to bitters because of his pot belly; now he feels more energetic and healthier. Despite the enticing and distinct spot these bitters hold in the market, health practitioners highlighted the dangers associated with their consumption as they are not scientifically vetted.

With lab testing, deadly toxins are identified and extracted from herbs.

Health practitioners pointed out that some unmonitored ingredients in the production of the bitters might secretly spread in the body system and increase the rates of liver conditions. A seasoned physician, Dr. James Omotehinse, cautioned against the damages of various local herbs used in these beverages, highlighting their exclusion from essential lab testing. He added that many of the herbs in their original state have toxins that have dangerous effects on the liver. He mentioned that deadly toxins are identified and extracted from the herbs during lab testing and analyses.

Additionally, this procedure serves as a gauge and correct measure for dosages. However, this essential diligence is apparently absent in the unrefined method of blending alcohol with herbs, causing various conditions such as liver failure or sclerosis. Dr. Paul Okorie implored the government to establish strict regulations, subjecting the manufacturing of these beverages to thorough lab evaluation across the nation. Dr. Moses Olatubosun, a medical doctor at Ace Medical Center, mentioned his observation of the relationship between kidney and liver ailments and the inflow of unhealthily concocted alcoholic beverages.

NAFDAC and NDLEA also regard it as traditional.

Absence of rigorous quality checks and standardisation are the basic apprehensions associated with alcoholic bitters. A dilemma is caused by the deluge of products overflowing in the market, making consumers confused concerning the efficacy and safety of the products. The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), who are the key regulatory bodies, evaluated the difficulties of establishing protective measures for consumer safety, while respecting the historical and cultural importance of these bitters in traditional medicines.

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