On 9th July, 2015, several Namibian newspapers carried articles about an indigenous plant known as odhingila in the local Oshiwambo language and scientifically known as Petalidium rautaneni. The articles report that this plant can heal certain types of cancer, including of the lungs, intestines, the liver, the brain and many others.

According to Informante, the discoverer of the plant, Michael Nenkavu said this plant has been used by his ancestors since the 1980’s to cure people having cancer. Informante further reports that samples of the plant were collected and analyzed at the biomedical research laboratory at the University of Namibia (UNAM) in Windhoek.

Informante states that the permanent secretary in Namibia’s Ministry of Health and Social Services (MOHSS), Andrew Ndishishi, stated that his ministry supports the project and welcomes the research to explore the medicinal properties of indigenous plant.

New Era, in their version of the same report, point out that most importantly the plant seems to destroy cancerous tumors without damaging healthy body cells. Tests conducted by the Biomedical Research Laboratory at the University of Namibia (UNAM) have confirmed this plant indeed has cancer-fighting properties.

On their part, the Namibian Sun report that the research on the plant and its anti-cancerous compounds, at the University of Namibia, was carried out under the auspices of the Science, Technology and Innovation Division, Drug Discovery and Development programme. The Namibian Sun further reports that according to the report by the University of Namibia, petalidium rautanenii extracts showed anti-cancer properties without being toxic.

The Namibian Sun carries a brief extract from the report, which reads:

This plant can be further developed as a herbal extract for cancer indications. It also has potential for development as a natural product source for a pharmaceutical product following further study to determine in vivo properties for safety and efficacy. Analytical chemistry can also be conducted as quality control of the herbal product and for identification of the active ingredient for a pharmaceutical product.

The report clearly recommends further study to determine in vivo properties for safety and efficacy. As a result, human clinical trials are being planned with the support of the University of Namibia and the government.

It is interesting to observe that a company, which will be responsible for distributing the medicine after human trials have been completed, has already been registered. Its headquarters will be in Ongwediva, Northern Namibia.

This anti-Cancer development is certainly a very welcome development especially at this point in time when the disease is becoming more and more prevalent. The newspapers could, however, have done the nation and the world at large a great deal of justice if they had interviewed the researchers at the University of Namibia to hear their views from a technical point of view. It is also surprising to see that this exciting research development has not been published in refereed journals.

From what I have gathered from the newspaper articles, Mr Michael Nenkavu is not a biomedical researcher. He is just using common knowledge from his ancestors. Expert opinion is, therefore, very important on this issue. Nevertheless, I completely support his initiative. I will be following it closely and my readers should expect more blog posts on this exciting development.