CSIR has selected six traditional health practitioners (THPs) to assist them to develop safe products and standardise their traditional medicines for commercialisation. The project is funded by the department of science and innovation (DSI).
According to Dr. Hlupheka Chabalala, DSI director of indigenous knowledge system technology innovation (IKSTI), it is important to mainstream the indigenous knowledge within the national systems of innovation (NSI) as it directly improves the quality of life for thriving societies through wealth creation initiatives.
“It is against this backdrop that the DSI established the IK-Based Bio-Innovation Programme, formerly “IKS-Based Bio-prospecting and Product Development Platform,” said Chabalala.
One of the common problems facing the THPs in South Africa has been inability to “expand their market reach due to lack of resources and skills to develop traditional medicine products that conform to acceptable standards of safety and quality”, Chabalala added.
The idea behind the selection of the six products is to “improve the safety and quality of IK-based products”. The selection followed a DSI-led consortium’s call for expression of interest to the THPs across the country. The products, said Dr. Chabalala, have been used historically by the traditional health practitioners as therapeutic remedies but required improvements. The products selected for improvements were:
- UmphethaTM an iced tea used to treat internal ulcers, blood cleansing and immune boosting;
- Moshumasekgwa, a tea that treats high blood pressure, diabetes and urinary problems;
- Lenong, a tissue oil to treat wounds and arthritis;
- KgopaTM, a petroleum jelly to treat sores, skin problems and stomach ache;
- PrijapTM a herbal liquid with anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties that strengthens the immune system and increases energy levels and appetite; as well as
- Areka Ya MakgomaTM, a herbal sachet that facilitates the healing process of opportunistic infections and improves appetite.
CSIR senior researcher, Dr Greg Gordon said: “To ensure the safety and quality of these products, we came together with the University of Pretoria and used our scientific expertise to identify the active mixtures. We also carried out in-vitro tests to confirm the activity of the ingredients or products and then re-formulated the mixtures in consultation with the traditional health practitioners. Dermal safety studies, microbial, shelf life and stability studies of the new products also formed part of the safety and quality procedures we followed.”
In addition, the selected traditional health practitioners will be provided with training to gain requisite skills and knowledge on how to start a business and commercialise indigenous products. Innovation Hub, BioPark and the CoachLab Entrepreneurship Programme collaborated to provide knowledge content.
This covered subjects ranging from business, finance, marketing, and leadership to operations skills. Also explored through the programme is the trademark of product logos in South Africa. The South African Bureau of Standard Design Institute Product introduced the subject on branding and commercialization of natural products in South Africa.
Prince Msomi, one of the THPs and Prijap product owner, expressed excitement about being one of the participants in the programme. “I am so grateful for this programme which has played a significant role in shaping my journey which started in 2005. Much of my knowledge today and the product I have managed to develop to this point comes from my grandfather. This traditional medicine has been in the family since the early 1900,” said Msomi.
He said through the CSIR’s in-vitro studies, it has been proved that Prijap “has the ability to perform three of the following activities: act as an immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory and has anti-oxidant properties. I also want to give thanks to the DSI for their continued support.” Msomi said since becoming part of the programme, the PrijapTM brand has grown and currently hosts four interns who are completing their national diploma in biotechnology.
“This is the first time that the CSIR has undertaken such a bold venture and we have gained a lot of experience in this exciting field. It will certainly not be the last because the project embedded capacity building and successfully trained two Masters students and three interns who will continue working in this sector,” said CSIR Research Group Leader, Dr Blessed Okole.