The aim of the Medicines Unit’s research is to scientifically validate locally available practices and products in order to improve access to good quality health care for all. To reach this goal, it uses an original approach, which it has helped to develop, known as “Reverse Pharmacology“.
It consists of conducting:
- a health care survey within the population and its associated outcomes in order to select a treatment to study scientifically;
- a clinical study to validate the effectiveness of the treatment in comparison with a reference treatment.
Thus our mission is to make available to as many people as possible, especially the most disadvantaged, a list of plants, practices or local products that are as effective as reference treatments for common health problems.
Green Pharmacy: treasure beneath our feet
The projects of the Medicines Unit correspond to an extension of the concept of “Green Pharmacy“. This term generally refers to plants used for medicinal purposes validated by scientific and clinical research. This green pharmacy is constituted in 3 phases (selection, R&D, dissemination), which you can see in more detail on our website.
Our approach echoes the World Health Organisation’s Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014-2023, including the recommendation that improving equitable access to safe, quality and effective traditional medicines can contribute to the achievement of universal health coverage, the management of health emergencies, and the development of sustainable and culturally sensitive primary health care.
You can learn more about the methodology used to carry out this research on our website.
Since its inception, the Medicines Unit, in collaboration with local scientists, health professionals, students and patients, has conducted research to validate treatments for a range of common health care issues. In the most disadvantaged populations, many people suffering from non-communicable diseases such as diabetes or hypertension are treated with locally available products.
The Medicines Unit is currently working on a series of randomised controlled studies on diabetes. With these studies we want to check whether the use of herbs and spices known to be hypoglycaemic helps to cure diabetes.
Read more about our diabetes research here.
👉 Delal-a-Kar, a plant preparation specific to Palau in Micronesia 🇫🇲, improves diabetes control. It is now distributed to patients in the Palauan archipelago and reimbursed by the health insurance system.
🔗 Website “Control diabetes with Antenna“
Combretum micranthum (known as Kinkeliba) and Hibiscus sabdariffa (known as Bissap or Karkadé) are two plants used in the preparation of popular drinks in West Africa. Two randomised controlled trials were conducted in health centres in Senegal and compared to a reference treatment for hypertension. It was found that the use of either plant, in tablet or tea form, was associated with a reduction in blood pressure similar to that achieved with the modern imported treatment.
👉 The studies were published in the highly respected Journal of Human Hypertension.
To learn more about our research on hypertension on our website.
👉 The treatment of hypertension with Karkadé (based on Hibiscus sabdariffa) was distributed by the NGO Iraqi Health Access Organisation (IHAO) in refugee camps in Iraq🇮🇶and by the Red Crescent in Jordan 🇯🇴.
🔗 Brochure “Hibissap & Mikeliba – Scientifically validated medicinal plants against hypertension” (available in French, German and Italian)
A population survey conducted jointly with the Department of Traditional Medicine of the University of Bamako in Mali and the Medicines Unit, revealed that during a malaria attack the use of a decoction of Argemone mexicana was associated with a high cure rate in people used to the disease (semi-immune). A clinical study later proved that its effectiveness was similar to a standard treatment.
Read more about this plant on our website.
👉 Argemone mexicana for the treatment of malaria has been added to the official list of “Improved Traditional Medicines” distributed and recommended by the Ministry of Health in Mali 🇲🇱. The plant is packaged in bags with an official label of the Department of Traditional Medicine in Bamako.
We also conducted a clinical study that validated the efficiency of sublingual sugar in treating hypoglycaemia in children with severe malaria. It showed that this technique was able to achieve normal blood sugar levels within 20 minutes in 50% of cases.
Learn more about this method on our website.
👉 Sublingual sugar therapy is recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a first-line treatment to replace glucose infusion and nasogastric tube if necessary. The WHO has included this treatment in its guide “Pocket Book of Hospital Care for Children”.
Head lice infestation is a common condition worldwide, especially in children. It causes itching, poor sleep and lack of concentration, especially at school. This is why Antenna was interested in finding a simple, natural, inexpensive and effective solution for the eradication of head lice.
👉 Antenna’s lice solution treatment was distributed by the NGO Glocal Roots in refugee camps in Samos, Greece 🇬🇷.
A verbal tool, the Crisis Dialogue, facilitates the care and support of people with psychotic disorders. Find out more about the project and learn how to use the Crisis Dialogue in case of difficult contact with a person in mental crisis. The manual is available in English, French and Arabic, among others.
👉 The method of “Crisis Dialogue” in psychotic crises is taught to health professionals and relatives in psycho-social rehabilitation institutions in Morocco 🇲🇦.
Green Pharmacy for a reasoned self-medication
The digital tool “Natural Self Care” was developed by Antenna’s Medicines Unit with the aim of helping people to treat themselves with natural – or at least locally available – remedies, validated by comparative clinical studies.
🔗 Website “Natural Self Care“
The survey on which the web application is based also led to the writing of a book published by Favre (in French): “Les 33 plantes validées scientifiquement”.
👉 Natural-self-care was made available to delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) during the annual pre-hospice course. Moreover, it was given to patients in a hospital in Cameroon 🇨🇲 as part of a medical thesis, which is also evaluating the areas for improvement.
The Medicines Unit participated in the organisation of an “RTO survey” (Retrospective Treatment Outcome) with the University of Geneva and about ten other universities worldwide, on the treatment of acute respiratory diseases and Covid-19. The aim of this population-based survey is to investigate whether certain treatments used – conventional, complementary, home-made or special diets – are associated with particularly good outcomes, in order to select candidates for future clinical studies
Are homemade masks effective in protecting us from the coronavirus? The Medicines Unit investigated and found that homemade masks can be very similar in effectiveness to commercially approved ones, if a few conditions are respected: they must fit the face well and have a filter of filtering material.
Learn more about scientifically validated homemade masks on our website.
Who we are?
- Bertrand Graz, Unit manager
- Anne-Laure Cavin, Project manager
- Luisa Narvaez, Assistant physician
- Marwah Al Anbaki, Project manager
(To see all the members of the Antenna team, please visit this page.)
The Medicine Unit intends to work towards the following Sustainable Development Goals: