Many people experience dietary and health difficulties. Probably because of their ages and past lifestyle, they become afflicted with ailments that require them to avoid certain meals and to take certain medications. One of such persons is Mrs Iyekelpolo Amadasun (not real name), former banker who trades at the Vegetable Market in Benin City. In 2001, she was examined and found to have high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, ailments that prevented her from working regular routines. Her doctors advised her to avoid meat, sugary substances and for her to reduce intake of salt. Mrs Amadasun told me that she reacted to the medications that her doctors gave to her for high blood pressure and diabetes, and therefore began a search for a plant-based or organic remedy to her ailment.
But Mrs Amadasun is not the only one with this kind of problem. Many Nigerians in their mid to late 50s share similar health conditions. A former governor of Edo state was diagnosed with similar ailment as Mrs Amadasun. Seeking treatment, this individual travelled to the United States. I learnt that while he was there, friends and relatives offered him a plant-based medication from a monastery located in Ewu in the state where he had been governor. After the former governor applied this medication, he reported significant improvement in his condition. He discarded the treatment he looked for in the US, returned home and has recovered considerably. I learnt that since coming back home to Nigeria, this former governor visited the Ewu Monastery and has made significant contributions to the development of that Herbal Clinic.
Based on this story of the remarkable recovery of this former governor, I visited the Ewu Monastery in Edo State in 2022. It is located on a mountain in a monastery in Ewu. While there for three days, we found Benedictine Monks offering prayers round the clock. The prayers are accompanied by very poignant music from locally made harps. But apart from offering prayers, and playing good soulful music, the monks have set up a herbal clinic, Pax Herbal Clinic, from where they carry out research and produce organic medicines which take care of the kinds of ailments – prostrate cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, malaria, hypertension – peculiar to an African environment. I learnt that after significant improvement in his health condition, the former governor visited the monastery, and assisted with building a world class laboratory, and research centre at the Benedictine Monastery.
Rev Father Anselm Adodo is director of the Pax Herbal Clinic. In an interview he granted me, he said that just as there is English, Chinese, Russian and American medicine and drugs, there is African medicine and drugs. ‘For decades, our people have harnessed the power of leaves and herbs for the successful treatment of some of the conditions that orthodox medicine has not been able to handle’, he said. The bane of African medicine has been the inability of the local practitioners to document their work, successes and prescriptions and dosages. He said that the existence of the Pax Herbal Clinic is to correct that problem and establish Africa medicine as an important sector in the health care delivery sector in Nigeria and Africa.
To say that the Pax Herbal Clinic is a wonder to behold is an understatement. Rev Father Adodo granted me unfettered access to the facility, where we found the research, production, packaging, distribution and marketing of herbal medicines in one of the cleanest, safe and hygienic conditions as could compare with any facility anywhere in the world. Together with four other herbal medicine practitioners the Rev Father also runs consultant clinics as well. ‘We don’t just make prescriptions. Most of the patients we see carry out tests in regular hospitals to determine what exactly is their ailment. From the tests that they have carried out in a regular laboratory, we prescribe our herbal products. Most of the patients that have taken our products often get well, and there is a lot of evidence from the tests that they have carried out after they have used our herbal products’, Father Adodo told me.
But apart from the production of herbal medicines, Rev Father Adodo has carried out extensive work in research and publication. Till date he has published no less than five volumes of work, given numerous lectures locally and internationally and granted interviews to international media organisations. For me, what probably is the greatest selling point of the research institution of the Pax Herbal Clinic is its mushroom culture section.
For people like Mrs Amadasun who can no longer eat meat, the Pax Herbal Clinic has a laboratory that provides an alternative: mushrooms. While most of the materials for organic medications are sourced from nearby plants such as pawpaw and cashew and bitter leaves, others are very difficult to get. Like mushrooms – mushrooms are delicate, sensitive and take a very long time to mature. But not all not all mushrooms are edible or can be used for the preparation of medicines. Of the two types that are not even readily available, only the portobellos are edible.
There are two reports in the Guardian of Nigeria newspaper about mushrooms. The one of August 2020 with the tile, Plant Scientist advises Nigerians to eat mushrooms to prevent cancer, and the other of July 2015 has a title ‘Eating wrong wild mushroom can destroy liver’. While the first report of August 2020 says that mushrooms lower blood pressure, prevent diabetes, and heart related ailments, the other warns of the dangers of indiscriminate collection and consumption of the plant.
The Pax Herbal Clinic in Ewu also has a mushroom culture lab. The monks at the Ewu Herbal Clinic told me that part of plan for setting up the clinic is to make mushrooms easily available for basic ingredients needed for the production of herbal medicines against cancer, heart disease and diabetes. They are hard to get, and in the large-scale quantities needed. The mushrooms are also needed to provide alternatives for people with dietary preferences.
Mr Festus runs the mushroom lab. I learnt that even though Mr Festus does not have a degree in microbiology, he has run the facility based on knowledge gleaned from that handed down to him from his ancestors and contemporary trends in mushroom cultivation. Students and lecturers from microbiology departments from over 20 universities in Nigeria are said to visit the lab in Ewu to take lectures and tutorials under the supervision of Mr Festus. Considering the crucial role of this mushroom cultivation lab to dietary and public health considerations, Rev Father Adodo told me that the Pax Herbal Clinic has undertaken to pay stipends to interns who are willing to come to Ewu to take up the science of herbal medicine and mushroom cultivation. Since 2010, the Pax Herbal Centre has trained nearly two thousand interns and students in herbal medicine and mushroom cultivation.
When I visited the mushroom cultivation lab, Mr Festus, and his assistants were dressed in the traditional uniform for scientists – white labcoat, cloves and a headgear. We found several shelves with white bottles containing several substances. Mr Festus told me that the Pax Herbal Clinic has a very large farm for the growing the mushrooms ‘When you consider mushroom in the wild, and the time it takes for them to grow to maturity for use, we cultivate mushrooms in a neat and hygienic way. We operate under the best of hygienic conditions known to man. We specialize with the cultivation of two types of mushrooms her in this organisation. The first is the Oyster, the edible one for cooking their meals because of its health benefits. The second type of mushroom we cultivate is not edible, and is purely for medical use. What you see in this lab, and in these containers represent the ‘intermediary’ stages in the cultivation of mushrooms. We parboil, sterilize and inoculate the raw materials in what we refer to here as ‘mother culture’ – duplicating it to get more of the product. Intermediary stage in the cultivation of mushrooms in a lab is very sensitive. Everything at that stage is done to avoid getting the materials exposed to contamination’, Mr Festus told me.
Even though I was unable to see the mushroom farm in full operation, we were to learn that several government officials have visited the Pax Herbal Centre, and are verily satisfied with the high standards that the facility operates.
On May 29 2023 just after being sworn in as president of Nigeria, Bola Ahmed Tinubu suspended the payment of fuel subsidy. He said that payment of fuel subsidy in trillions robs Nigeria of much needed money for development of basic infrastructure and manpower in health, transport and power. The Pax Herbal Clinic has records and records of efficacy of the drugs that have been manufactured locally in Nigeria. There is the above cited case of a former governor of Edo state who did not know of the existence of a world class herbal medicine facility in the state he governed for eight years. It was not until he fell seriously ill, and was flown abroad for treatment that he eventually found out about the Pax Herbal Centre, from the locally produced drugs from Nigeria that found their way to the United States of America. I call on the president therefore to first suspend all medical trips abroad by public officials. Medical tourism by public officials contributes to the underdevelopment of the health sector in Nigeria. It also takes away a lot of money from Nigeria to other lands. Like Rev Father Anselm Adodo has said, there is Chinese, medicine, Indian medicine, Arabian medicine and Western medicine. If the government were to somehow contribute to the development of the mushroom factory at Ewu, Edo state, Nigeria will have the capacity to export mushrooms and herbal medicines to the rest of the West African sub-region.