Can African Traditional Medicine complement conventional drugs?

Can African Traditional Medicine complement conventional drugs

Africa has a rich biodiversity with a wide range of medicinal plants and herbs. For thousands of years, traditional healers have used these natural resources to treat symptoms of illnesses and heal wounds. Medicinal plants can be used to treat physical and mental conditions, but can they be used along with conventional medicines?

African Traditional Medicines are very affordable. In some remote parts of Africa, they are the only form of treatment available to communities. These remedies are natural and effective, which is why many South Africans still choose to consult a traditional health practitioner rather than a medical doctor. This is mainly the case for treating mild symptoms, seasonal illnesses and for general well-being. For more serious diseases and injuries, prescription medicines will be required. 

Chrisna Gouws, a senior lecturer at North-West University, has been studying the interactions between traditional medicines and conventional “Western” drugs. The main focus of their investigation is to see what effect herbal medicines may have on the activity of prescribed medicines.

Interaction between African Traditional Medicine and conventional drugs

Isiphethu Sempilo products come with clear dosage instructions to help consumers avoid taking too much. Although these products are natural and safe, an overdose can lead to stomach upsets and possible liver damage, as with all health plant products. This is also similar to any medicine purchased at a pharmacy – they are safe to take but only at the right dosage.

Consumers may ask; can taking traditional remedies and conventional medicines lead to an overdose? In some cases, the answer is yes. Some herbal medicines are powerful. They can interact with conventional medicines and increase the dosage of a certain compound. In other cases, herbal remedies can dampen the effect of conventional medicines. 

In Gouws’ research, she references one important example of the interaction between Cancer bush (Sutherlandia frutescens) and the antiretroviral drug, Atazanavir. She states that Cancer bush is widely used to treat HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis with great success. “But it has been shown to lower the plasma levels of the antiretroviral drug, Atazanavir, to sub-therapeutic levels when they’re taken together, reducing its anti-HIV efficacy,” she says.

This is why it is vital that you follow the dosage instructions on the bottle and tell your doctor about the traditional remedies that you are taking. They will be able to tell you whether or not African Traditional Medicines may have a negative interaction with prescribed pharmaceuticals.

Positive interactions are common

In most cases, herbal medicines can help to alleviate many of the symptoms of an illness while conventional drugs are being taken. The use of both medicines can often lead to a quicker recovery and more effective relief of symptoms. “In some studies, traditional medicines have been shown to have the ability to increase uptake of prescription drugs,” explains Gouws.

Using a combination of herbal remedies and prescribed medications can often lead to quicker results with reduced side effects. If prescription drugs are to be taken, consult with your doctor and make sure that the interaction with herbal medicine will be positive.

Isiphethu Sempilo products are effective for symptom relief and have a number of other benefits. They can be taken alone, but consult your doctor or healthcare practitioner if you want to take conventional medicines at the same time. South African doctors do have knowledge of herbal remedies and their interactions with prescribed drugs, so getting their opinion will ensure your safety and recovery.


To learn more about African medicines and traditional plant-based remedies, please do not hesitate to contact us. Source of Health is a manufacturer of Traditional African Medicines under the brand Isiphethu Sempilo. We use biomedicine processes to create herbal remedies, combined with scientific methods to ensure the finest quality and trustworthy herbal extracts.


Source of Health offers a range of herbal products that are effective as natural remedies for pain, depression, illnesses and more. The use of medicinal plants as part of traditional African healthcare is one of the oldest and most assorted of all therapeutic systems. It has been used through the ages to maintain health, as well as to prevent, diagnose, improve or treat physical and mental illnesses.


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