“Live naturally on natural herbal remedy (with no side effects). We have a permanent solution for you all bp, sugar diabetes, arthritis, acids, ulcers, cancer, stomach pain, stroke, STIs, skin diseases, varicose veins, weak erection, weight gain, weight loss. Just order your products and get a free delivery.”
Such is an example of the different advertisements that have invaded various social media platforms while flyer distributors have become common features at street corners around towns and cities.
Traditional herbal medicine has arguably remained the most affordable and easily accessible source of treatment in the primary healthcare system of resource poor communities in Zimbabwe.
More so, it is believed to play an important role in meeting basic health care needs especially of the elderly and mostly women who are more vulnerable to chronic illnesses.
The World Health Organisation estimates that more than 80 percent of the world’s population use traditional medicine and in Africa, with 50 percent of the population regularly using alternative therapies with natural herbs being the most used.
In Zimbabwe, there is growing popularity of naturopathy and natural herbal medicines due to their healing properties, affordability and availability.
With many people now becoming more conscious of their body weight, the craze about weight loss herbs and concoctions have hit the streets and one called “Drink to shrink” dominated the streets in 2021.
Hot among the herbs are the ones believed to enhance male potency, as well as those that are said to cure chronic illnesses including diabetes, hypertension, cancer and HIV.
Consultation fees for medical examination at a surgery or any doctor range between USD$20-$50 whereas some of these backyard herbal clinics cost US$1 per scan for those who offer it.
The whole package or kit of herbal tea which caters for slimming, boosting the immune system, blood pressure and other ailments costs between USD$5-$10.
Some of these herbs are said to be imported from China, Malaysia and India, majority of which people take for consumption without having to do further research on the product’s medical processing and side effects aligned, except for what they are told by the vendors.
In most cases, vendors promise a shorter uptake period that comes with a permanent solution, whereas hospitals often prescribe drugs that are taken for life which sells the idea that the herbal benefit now purportedly far outweighs the cost.
Amid economic and financial hardships in the country, with a food basket for an average family now costing ZW$7500 which is approximately USD$40 or more on the parallel market, it is difficult to afford medical aid and hence people are forced to opt for traditional herbal medicines which are cheaper and affordable.

In Zimbabwe, a unique medical aid company Wellness Medical Aid Society(WMAS) uses  alternative, natural herbal treatment in addition to modern western medicine for their clients who prefer naturopathy. They reportedly work with qualified medical practitioners who double in herbal medicines.
Most of these herbal medicine offer opportunities of financial relief through pyramid schemes for vendors who then make a killing out it.
Continued usage of these herbal medicines however may have long lasting side effects in the absence of proper clinical trials which is the main challenge since there has been emergence of many different herbal products which claim to cure all disease, allergies and infections even without undergoing medical examination.
Without the knowledge obtained from clinical examination, people using herbal medicine may be at risk of serious effects from taking the wrong dose, using the treatment the wrong way or using it with other treatments with which it may interrupt.
A 26-year-old Linient Shoko from Masvingo, who confirmed using herbal tea for slimming told TellZim News that the slimming tea did not work in the given period time.
“I bought some slimming herbs in town and was told in seven days I will start to see a change, but it has been over a month now and nothing has worked. I wanted to return the herbs but when I tried to locate the person who sold the herbs to me I could not find him,” said Shoko.
Another adult male who identified himself as William Munetsi who had just bought a box written ‘Herbal Life Investments’ said it was his first time to attempt using the medicine, saying he hoped it would work as prescribed.
“I have never used these products but I hope it will work for me as well. I have no idea what it is made of, but the agent told me that it works wonders and can cure various diseases,” said Munetsi.
An elderly woman, Irene Murombedzi who is using Table Charm bath salts and drinking herbs however said she had her break through because the herbs work miracles whenever she is in pain.
“The doctors said my backbone is broken that is why I have this cosset and my legs are swollen but each time I take these herbs I feel better. There is no prescribed dose, I just soak my legs in bath salts whenever they are painful and drink the tea when I have the backache and it works wonders,” said Murombedzi.
Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association (ZINATHA) spokesperson George Kandiero raised his concerns over the flooding of markets by herbs saying some of these herbs are a human threat therefore police should arrest fraudsters who sell them on the pretext of being herbalists.
“I would like to warn the public against buying herbal medicine from the streets and emerging herbal distributors because some of them may have serious implications to one’s health. As it is, we have had several cases of people who would approach us for help after reacting from such herbs.
“If people want to use herbal treatment, they should therefore approach us for we can refer them to the rightful herbalists who can assist them. Next month we will approach the police to help us get rid of such people,” said Kandiero.
The Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) at one point warned people against the use of traditional medicine whose agents claim that they cure all diseases and said traditional herbal medicines were posing a serious health risk to members of the public who have used the remedies without proper clinical prescription.
Health consultant and GreenWorld agent in Masvingo only identified as Mrs Shereni said that people should use herbs with traceable brand name and those which are approved by Food and Drug Administration.
“Health is personal but we encourage that people should use herbs from distributors or herbalists which can be traced in case of complications arising. Drugs and medicines should be approved by Food and Drug administration and it is something people should take note of when buying these herbs and organic products,” said Mrs Shereni.
A practicing doctor named Tafadzwa Chinhondo emphasized that consumers of these herbs should be more careful because one type of drug or medicine cannot be said to cure all diseases.
“People should be more careful of what they take in. Who knows what is in those herbs. There is no one type of drug which can be used to cure all diseases. Medical examination requires scanning through suitable machines and laboratory tests which medical doctors can operate not just anyone from the streets who instructs you to stand in front of a beeping machine for 5 minutes and diagnose cancer or heart problems.
“Even traditional healers consult the spiritual realm in order to find the source of the problem and have particular medicines for particular disease. There is no one size fits all when it comes to drugs and medicine,” said Chinhondo.
President of Zimbabwe National Practitioners Association (responsible for registering and licensing of all Traditional Medical Practitioners) Cuthbert Nyaruvenda said most of these agents and herbal distributors are hiding behind the ZINATHA and GreenWorld names.
“Human life is at risk because who knows where some of these herbs are grown? Some of them might even be fertilized or contain toxic mechanism during their purification which may be harmful to the human body because the products will no longer be natural. People should approach reputable herbal clinics, which have cheaper and affordable traditional medicines,” said Nyaruvenda.
The Ministry of Health and Child Care has developed guidelines based on the WHO model to guide on the use of traditional herbs, which stipulates that there should be adequate clinical studies on herbal products which make them credible and acceptable.
There is also need for an all stakeholder engagement to come up with a regulated approach to proliferation of such herbs as their continued unregulated use may spell a ticking health bomb.