The Vision And Experience of anamed
I. The background
It is estimated that, in tropical countries malaria kills about one million people every year, particularly children. A 2005 report suggests that over 500 million people are suffering from malaria, and we fear the picture is not significantly different today.
The economies of all malarial countries are adversely affected and people suffer more poverty because skilled people die, and malaria patients cannot cultivate their gardens.
Effective imported drugs are expensive, and are out of reach of the majority of the population of most countries. The situation has been exacerbated by the developing resistance of Plasmodia to chloroquine, and the lack of funding for and availability of the artemisinin combination therapy (ACT) drugs.
II. Conventional responses are no solution
- There is an international campaign to make drugs produced by the pharmaceutical companies in the North "affordable", so that more people who are ill can afford to pay for the treatment. But even a reduction of 90% would not help the population in many rural areas.
- Many countries spray homes with DDT. This is a particularly toxic chemical, one of the “persistent organic pollutants”. It does not break down for many years, kills not only mosquitoes but also useful insects and birds, and is thought to increases the incidence of cancer.
- Many countries make impregnated bed-nets available at affordable prices. It is not the custom of many people, however, to use bed nets or even grids at the windows.
- The World Health Organisation is aware of the potential of Artemisia annua, and the pharmaceutical industry has developed many artemisinin based drugs such as Artesunate, Artenam, Artemax and Riamet. In several countries such drugs have become the first-line treatment. Even today in 2008, however, there is an international shortage of dried artemisia leaves.
- Research is being conducted to find a vaccine for malaria. Although progress has been made, a widely available vaccine is still not on the horizon.
- Some healers have developed prescriptions for the treatment of malaria. However, they often keep them secret, do not prescribe exact dosages, prepare them with no regard to hygiene, and often sell them at a very high price.
III. The approach of anamed
"anamed" is the abbreviation of "Action for Natural Medicine", an international, humanitarian network of development workers, doctors, nurses and healers for the exchange of medical knowledge and experience in the Tropics.
anamed defines ”Natural Medicine” as combining the benefits of modern medicine (e.g. hygiene, accurate dosages) with the benefits of traditional herbal medicine (e.g. use of medicinal plants). In its seminars anamed recommends several plants which have been proven to be effective in the treatment of malaria. These include papaya (Carica papaya), coffee senna (Cassia occidentalis) and neem (Azadirachta indica).
Another plant that has been used in China for 2000 years for malaria, is "Artemisia annua". The mechanism of its anti-malarial action has only been known for the past 25 years. The wild forms of this annual plant, however, do not grow in the Tropics!
Anamed has now conducted agricultural research with a special hybrid of Artemisia annua. It is growing in over 2000 fields in more than 80 countries. Further, anamed was the first organisation in the world that published clinical results of treating patients with Artemisia annua tea. We call this hybrid "Artemisia annua anamed".
Artemisia annua anamed contains not only artemisinin, but several constituents which are effective in the treatment of malaria. This plant can be cultivated in most tropical climates, and tea made from the leaves has been shown to be just as effective in treating malaria as artemisinin extracted from the plant.
IV. anamed proposes therefore...
- that every hospital and health centre in any given country creates a garden in which Artemisia annua and other anti-malarial herbs are grown. Also that the hospital pharmacy harvests the leaves, dries them and makes packages available for the nurses to be able to administer this drug as a tea. In this way each hospital would become almost self-sufficient in financial terms in the treatment of malaria. Of course, there will always be some patients for whom chemical drugs are required.
- that clinics, health centres and traditional healers in the rural areas also grow Artemisia annua, and, similarly, use the leaves for treatment.
- that more support be given by the WHO to research into indigenous anti-malarial plants.
V. How the anamed proposals may be implemented
- Through the openly declared commitment of the government to this process.
- Through running training seminars in the cultivation of Artemisia annua anamed, the preparation of the tea and the treatment of patients for hospital administrators, doctors, nurses, pharmacists and traditional herbalists.
- By insisting that traditional healers agree to a formal ethical "Code of Conduct", and that formal health workers accept the scientific use of a tea made directly from plant material.
- Through winning the support of medical research institutions within the country.
VI. anamed's experiences where these proposals are put into practise
- "Small is beautiful". Each health unit has a degree of independence in its treatment of malaria. Thus interesting and important jobs are created in each unit Each unit is able to develop treatments suited to the particular strain of malaria encountered in the region. The costs of malaria treatment are greatly reduced.
- A well run unit is guaranteed a constant supply of anti-malarial herbal drugs. There are no problems with foreign exchange or the customs, nor with any lack of supplies in the country.
- Individuals and families themselves, in time, learn about the treatment and are able to treat themselves. At the same time, this enables the population to develop more skills and to take more responsibility for their own health care, and reduces the pressure on the health units, which can then concentrate better on even more serious cases.
- Some of the mistrust that exists between the formal health sector and traditional healers gives way to cooperation as knowledge and experience is shared and discussed.
VII. For more information
… see our literature on www.anamed-edition.com.