Dr Michael Nnaji, a medical doctor working at the university teaching hospital Charité in Berlin, writes on the potential of a Nigerian-made drug to change how diseases are treated.
Fola Adebisi (not real name) is 46 and was recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes by her family physician. Adebisi, a widow and school teacher, lives in Western Nigeria and earns just enough to keep herself and her family of six children financially afloat.
The symptoms have been ongoing probably for years, beginning with poor vision, tingling sensations in her limbs and excessive urinating. But she’d ignored the symptoms due to her inability to afford the medical bills. Her medical records also disclose that she suffers from rheumatism, for which she self-medicates with over-the-counter aspirin or ibuprofen as needed. Beyond that, her complete blood count shows that she has anaemia, probably as a result of her chronic ailments as well as several bouts of malaria she suffered recently.
Now Adebisi is in a quandary – should she spend all her available income and savings in pursuing expensive, orthodox medical care? What about the upkeep of her family? The diabetic condition, her doctor warned her, “will not go by itself” without proper treatment. Enter Jobelyn, aka Sorghum bicolor, the herbal formulation that is being touted as a remedy for countless medical conditions including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease and stroke as well as cancer.
Well, the herb is not quite new, but only enjoying a renaissance, owing largely to the fact that modern alternatives are prohibitively expensive. Sorghum bicolor has been used for centuries in Africa and North America for treating and preventing sundry medical ailments.The key expressions in understanding the underlying mechanism of action of Jobelyn are “antioxidant effect”, “free radicals” and “oxidative damage”, believed to be at the root of numerous disease entities. Free radicals are thought to be by-products of oxidative metabolism (ie, processes involving oxygen). They are perceived to be the excess oxygen species that are surplus to requirement following some metabolic processes.
However, these free radicals turn out to be “too much of a good thing” as they appear, paradoxically, to be the drivers of inflammation which, in turn, has been implicated in the genesis of several disease states including asthma, chronic lung disease, autoimmune diseases including type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, etc; as well as oncogenesis (the onset of cancer). Although inflammation is the body’s intelligent in-built mechanism of fighting disease, this can all get out of hand and go awry. Which is where Jobelyn comes in.
Jobelyn has been shown to have a very high Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) as compared with other agents that are known to possess free-radical “scavenging properties”. Due to its medicinal potential, Sorghum bicolor has been studied intensively by scientists both in test tubes and human beings. Results show that the active ingredients show potent COX-2 inhibitory powers. The COX-2 or cyclooxygenase enzyme is one that is involved in chronic inflammation and pain as witnessed in rheumatism.
The drawback with orthodox treatment options with so-called non-steroidal inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) is that they sometimes have “off-target” effects such as causing stomach ulcer and bleeding as well as acute kidney failure, and may exacerbate latent heart disease. Taken according to recommendation, Sorghum bicolor, owing to its rather “modulatory” effects, doesn’t seem to show these deleterious effects.
Furthermore, this herbal formulation contains three amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) which have been proven to protect red blood cells (the carriers of oxygen in mammals) that do not possess a nucleus of their own and therefore cannot produce proteins. This may help explain why these red cells have a lifespan of only 120 days. In sickle-cell anaemia, this lifespan is even shortened, leading to the “crises” (cardiorespiratory and circulatory problems above all) that plague such patients time and again. Sorghum bicolor seems to offer protection against these crises.
In immunosuppressed states, where white blood cells that help in fighting infection are known to be depleted, Jobelyn, at least in a small number of patients, has been shown to boost the levels of these cells (so called T-Lymphocytes). Sequel to this, a role has been proposed for it in the treatment as varied as Aids and other disease conditions where the immune system could do with some help.
In cardiovascular health, or lack thereof, free radicals have been implicated in arteriosclerosis (severe thickening and hardening of the artery walls). Antioxidants such as Jobelyn do not only slow down this process, but also help in preventing the breakdown of nitric oxide which helps in smooth muscle relaxation of blood vessels. It is also interesting to note that the same mechanism is involved in the action of the blockbuster drug, Viagra, used in the treatment of impotence in men.
Meanwhile, free radicals have been implicated in at least 60 diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular diseases, the leading causes of death worldwide. Jobelyn and other antioxidant products with proven efficacy, one might surmise, lead to the enhancement of cell function which is essential to not only the aforementioned cellular processes, but also to the elimination of toxic wastes via the kidneys and liver and thereby maintaining good health.
So who would want to bet against Jobelyn being effective against the myriad ailments that the manufacturer claims?
The uniqueness of Jobelyn is its “naturalness”. The formulation has, according to the manufacturer’s pamphlet, been based on the herb in its whole form. In so doing, it goes on to say, “the body can then utilise the full, undiminished balance of ingredients provided by nature. Herbal remedies are more effective and tolerable than their orthodox alternatives”. Not to mention more affordable.
Made and marketed by Health Forever, based in Lagos, Nigeria; the firm also has a range of medicinal products in its stable. But Jobelyn seems to be the brightest star in its firmament. The marketing catalogue refers to very positive results from laboratories in Germany and the US. Some of its promised effects are no doubt overstated and one cannot discount the effect of countless other conditions that are effectively the origin of diseases, especially in low-resource settings.
For starters, Jobelyn or any antioxidant drug, for that matter, will not run on an empty stomach. Malnutrition, poor sanitary conditions and low socio-economic status remain the bane of good health in Africa and much of the Third World. However, this should not detract or distract from the promises that Jobelyn has shown, especially in preliminary clinical studies. The drug catalogue is awash with references to publications that have testified to the health-promoting effects of the drug.
According to the Health Forever’s managing director, Otunba Olajuwon Okubena, plans are under way to partner with the Nigerian federal health agencies to conduct multicentre clinical trials, the “gold standard of clinical research”. Meanwhile, the drug has since been approved for marketing by Nigeria’s Food and Drugs Agency (NAFDAC).
According to scientific data made available to The African Courier the side-effect profile appears good: no teratogenic (harmful effects to the embryo) have been noticed so far; although there are mild sedative effects at higher dosages (important for people who drive or operate heavy machinery).
For Adebisi and millions of others suffering from some of the chronic medical conditions outlined above, hope might be on the way.
More about Jobelyn at: www.health-forever.com
Nnaji, our contributing editor, is a biochemist and a medical doctor working at the university teaching hospital Charité in Berlin, Germany.