Local scientists have reported huge potential for the development of new human medicines from miraa (khat) and pyrethrum.
At the annual scientific conference in February, where Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) scientists absolved miraa from causing any health problems, they also reported the crop’s potential for producing human medicine.
Dr Festus Tolo, head of Kemri’s Natural Products Research and Drug Development Programme (NAPREDA), had introduced their research progress with the two crops so far.
The Government had funded NAPREDA, through the Parliamentary Committee on Health, to study miraa after it was banned in some countries. The team was also tasked with investigating possible alternative uses of khat and pyrethrum.
In her presentation, Prof Jennifer Orwa of Kemri said they tested miraa leaf extract on three types of disease-causing germs.
These included Salmonella typhi which causes typhoid and the fungi responsible for thrush and yeast infection in women.
Khat was also tested against the dreaded Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus which causes skin infections, pneumonia and blood poisoning and now resistant to almost all available antibiotics.
Miraa leaf extract was found active against all the three type of disease causing agents making the plant a possible source of medicine.
The World Health Organisation estimates that the typhoid bacteria causes more than 20 million illnesses and kills approximately 200,000 people each year.
In Igembe North, Meru South, Nyambene, Igembe South and Igembe Central sub counties the researchers learnt that local people use the herb as an antacid to relieve heart burns, chesty coughs as well as stop diarrhoea.
But the locals also said that miraa causes lack of sleep, tooth decay and addiction.
“We feel there is high potential for development of therapeutic agents from miraa,” the researchers concluded.
Similar reports were presented on pyrethrum, with the flowers sourced from Bomet County found to be more effective than those from Nakuru Country.