Reports from extensive surveys have indicated that about 70-80% of the world population; particularly in the developing countries rely on non-conventional medicine mainly of herbal origins for their primary health care. Correct identification and quality assurance of the starting materials are essential prerequisites to ensuring reproducible quality of herbal medicine which will contribute to its safety and efficacy. This study therefore sought to determine the extent of medicinal herb misidentification (HMI) and/or misrepresentation (HMR) on the part of some stakeholders in herbal medical practice in the Ogbomoso, Nigeria, as well as their understanding of the consequences of medicinal herb adulteration (HAD) on the users of their products. Information on HMR experienced and committed by traditional healers (TRHs) and medicinal herb vendors (MHVs) numbering 46 in the study area, as well as their perceived possible adverse effects of HMR or HAD on herbal drug users were obtained by means of a questionnaire. Medicinal HMR by herb collectors/suppliers of the vendors was rampant (62%) in Ogbomoso. A sizeable number (35%) of the TRHs and MHVs have also committed HMI or HMR in the recent past. Though 34.8% of these two categories of stakeholders believed that medicinal herbs could be misidentified if not properly labeled, only 53% of the MHVs actually practiced the act of labeling. In conclusion, authentication of medicinal herbs as practiced by the stakeholders of herbal medicine in the study area was fraught with HMI or HMR. Also, their understanding of the consequences of HAD on users of herbal drugs was adjudged to be only fair on account of the low frequency of their responses to some ill-effects of this avoidable error: stomach upset (2.2%), general body weakness(2.2%), harm to certain internal body organs (15.2%), excessive stooling and/or vomiting (17.4%), ineffectiveness of the drug (23.9%), other health complications in the body (30.4%), and possible death (23.9%).
Keywords: Herbal medicine; Medicinal herb authentication; Herb misidentification; Herb misrepresentation; Herb adulteration; Ethno-medicine.