Papua New Guineans are using potions made in backyards from questionable ingredients, including human urine, as the country faces a chronic shortage of conventional medicine.
The herbal medicines are big business on the streets of PNG’s cities and towns.
Many people believe the homemade remedies will cure all kinds of ailments — from baldness to HIV — and can also bring them love and happiness.
Most herbal medicine sold on Port Moresby’s streets are made in people’s backyards.
Kila Navina makes herbal medicine at her family home in the suburb of Gerehu.
“I fix everything, I strain everything and pour the mixture into a container in my backyard,” she said.
Ms Navina uses moringa leaves to make soaps, oils and potions.
She pours the strong-smelling mixtures into recycled containers to sell.
There is a lot of superstition associated with such herbal medicine.
Ms Navina said God gave her the knowledge to make them in a dream.
“I went inside and prayed saying ‘Father I don’t have the knowledge and understanding, the knowledge will come through you’,” she said.
“I get the knowledge from you I will do all of these things.”
Most herbal medicine makers boast their products can cure diseases like tuberculosis (TB) and HIV.
Ms Navina said her husband was bald before, but his hair grew back after he used one of her potions.
But organic chemist Topul Rali from the University of Papua New Guinea said using herbal medicine presented a high health risk as the country did not have the facilities to test and regulate the products.
“Why they cannot be trusted is because there is too many claims from the single plant. It’s impossible for one plant to cure HIV, TB and bacterial infections,” he said.
Professor Rali said he once interviewed a herbal medicine seller on the street and found the man was using his own urine to make his products.
“He was selling herbal medicine, putting claims in the market that this herbal medicine cured asthma, but it turned out that he was selling his own urine and nobody was questioning that,” he said.
The PNG Government has admitted there are serious problems with the distribution of medical supplies to clinics and aid posts.
Professor Rali said the national shortage of conventional medicine was leading people to use the potentially dangerous “miracle potions”.
“When you see people who are desperate for medicine, who know very little about medicine, medicine is hard for them to get, they will look for money to buy ones on the street to cure diseases like HIV, gonorrhoea and other STDs,” he said.