Dr Friday Udo Essien, aged 83, first came into national limelight when the tableting machine he invented was placed on display at the first Ministry of Science and Technology Exhibition at the National Theatre, Lagos in 1987. Then, he was a staff of the Yaba College of Technology where he served for 35 years and eventually retired. After years of service at Yabatech, Essien went for rigorous training in naturopathic medicine. He followed that up with professional training in acupuncture. Indeed, he earned a Ph.D Acupuncture from the Open University of Sri Lanka in 2013 on a note of distinction.

Today, his practice of both acupuncture and naturopathy has gathered a lot of momentum with recognition coming from several quarters. Dr Essien has recorded a lot of feats like using acupuncture to aid IVF delivery. He lays claim to great successes in the deployment of acupuncture and naturopathy to cure liver and kidney diseases, fibroids, diabetes as well as male and female reproductive disorders. Essien says he has successfully managed many cases of HIV/AIDS.

At 83, Dr Friday Udo Essien’s strength and alertness are those of a 30–year–old man. He virtually bubbles with vitality. Kenneth Duru recently sat him down for an interview in one of his Lagos clinics.

You are into the practice of acupuncture and naturopathy. Tell us about these areas of alternative medicine?

It is a system of treating diseases and ailments without drugs or orthodox medication. It works with the stimulation of the entire body system including the blood, the nerves, the organs, the cells and the skin. Acupuncture works by identifying where the sickness is affecting the body and then inserting the needle properly to get rid of the bad cells to make the body well again. In acupuncture, it is the body that treats itself. The whole process is like throwing a seed of corn to catch a chicken. When the needle is inserted into the body, the nerve cells send a message ( a kind of alarm) to the brain, which in response unleashes its soldiers in the form of white blood cells to attack the very spot where the needle is placed and in the end the enemy (affected part of the body) is attacked and defeated. The needle that is placed in the body confuses the brain into stimulating millions of white blood cells which in turn fight off the bad cells and the body gets total healing. Quite unlike orthodox medicine, homeopathy and acupuncture cure and heal the body. We use poison to cure poison.

Homoepathy and natural medicine in general have gained world-wide acceptance. There is a popular saying in Great Britain that goes thus: “if it is good for the queen; it will certainly be good for you”. This underscores the fact that the English royal family do not use orthodox medication. They apply naturopathic methods to attend to their health needs. Wherever the queen travels to, she goes along with a certain black box which is filled with natural supplements and others.

How do you know the particular part of the body to put the needle in acupuncture?

There are four places in the human body that you can put the needle namely LI – 11, SP – 6, ST – 36, + DV – 14. Once these places are stimulated by the acupuncture needle, the body’s immunity is boosted and healing takes place.

How did your journey into acupuncture and naturopathy begin? What lured your interest and what was the motivation?

It all began in 1981 when I was a lecturer at Yaba College of Technology, Yaba, Lagos. I came down with a strange illness that defied all forms of orthodox treatment. I spent a fortune moving from one hospital to another, all to no avail. I was even admitted at the famous Ajayi Memorial Hospital at Ijora, yet I was not cured. However, I was eventually cured by Dr Godwin Obaze, the doyen of naturopathy in Nigeria. Due to the excitement and joy that filled my heart. I declared that I learn and become like Dr Obaze. There and then I subjected myself to full training under him. When I retired from active service at Yabatech, I set up my first practice in 1991. Since then it has been a success story.

So, what professional training and qualification do you have in these areas?

My first training was at the Academy of Natural Medicine of Werner Hofertin Institute, Rhein, Germany. I got my Diploma in Acupuncture and Reflexology in 1985. The same institution awarded me another Diploma in Anatomy and Pathology. The four courses I took ran concurrently and I came out in flying colours in the end. However, the greater percentage of my practical knowledge in these fields were gotten under Dr Obaze in Lagos. I hold a doctorate degree in Acupuncture from the University of Sri Lanka. My Ph.D dissertation titled “Modern Clinical Acupuncture” which is now published as a book earned me professorship rank by the Senate and Board of Directors of the University in June 2011. Today, I am a full-fledged Professor of Acupuncture with the license to practice acupuncture and naturopathy anywhere in the world. That work also earned me an award of N300, 000 (Three hundred thousand naira) from Tianshi Group, also in 2011.

How do you colleagues in the orthodox medical field look at your practice?

The way they feel does not bother me! I do not need their recognition. The Nigerian Medical Association is presently feeling threatened by the prominence of natural medicine in Nigeria nowadays. There has been series of cases between both bodies. Due to the scheming of the leadership of the NMA over the years, many natural medicine practitioners have been maltreated by law enforcement agents. Dr. Obaze for instance, was incarcerated for a long period at Lion Building at Obalende before he was eventually released on the orders of the late Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon. The truth remains that since most ailment defy orthodox treatment and patients are not getting total cure, the orthodox doctors stand the risk of being priced out of jobs.

What ailments and diseases can you handle with success?

With acupuncture and naturopathy we guarantee total cure for several diseases and ailments including diabetes, kidney diseases, liver disease, fibroid tumor and reproductive (male/female) disorders. I have cases of HIV patients whom I have managed successfully and after taking the acupuncture treatment their viral load dropped to zero. I have proofs to back up these claims. The caveat to this is that the patient must run a comprehensive scan to ascertain the level of damage done. Acupuncture can render effective cure in so far as the case has not gone beyond 75% deterioration. However, due to the politics surrounding the global stand on HIV/AIDS, no one can openly claim to have a total cure for the pandemic (HIV). Again, the World Health Organisation maintains that for now, no medication is certified yet for the cure of HIV/AIDS. What acupuncture does in this case is to kill off the virus and stimulate the body system to regenerate itself. If the entire body hormones are working very fine, it can withstand any virus attack. Acupuncture helps to boost the immune system and release white blood cells to prevent and guard against infiltration of foreign bodies into the system.

Liver and kidney diseases are these days ravaging Nigeria. What do you think is causing this?

These bad conditions are caused by poor lifestyle of most Nigerians today. They do not pay attention to the suitability of the food and drugs that they take. In the past, kidney and liver diseases affect people who were aged 50 years and above. But today, you find young people (aged 20 and below) suffering these diseases. If Nigerians do not discourage over dependence on synthetic food, the situation will soon get out of hand. I bet you, if you feed one child continually with noodles for six months there is 100% chance that the child will come down with kidney malfunction. I treat kidney infections without drugs; it is purely acupuncture and naturopathic regimen. Many patients with kidney disease who have had dialysis failures get permanent cure after strict treatment at my clinic. The same goes for people with liver problems.

You talked earlier about Fibroid Tumor. How effective is acupuncture in the treatment of this disorder?

Fibroid is a collection of bad cells (tumor) that have gathered in a particular place over a long time. What we do is to study the result of the scan in order to ascertain the size and nature of the tumor. With strict adherence to instructions, acupuncture can eliminate any size of tumor no matter how long it has stayed in the body. Most importantly, the patient has to make a change in lifestyle and take to the consumption of fruits and natural food. Aside from fibroid, acupuncture aids the process of IVF delivery. We have cases of IVF section that were resuscitated through the use of acupuncture. It helps the pregnant woman to go through the process with ease; we utilize the best of acupressure and anaesthesia to mitigate the side effects of the drugs on the women such that delivery comes very easily. Mother and child come out in very healthy conditions.

What are the symptoms one should watch out for in the ailment of the kidney?

The patient has pain in the ear and in most cases swelling of the feet otherwise known as “Edema”. There are also cases of severe waist pain. The patient always notices a reaction in the ear because the human ear has a direct connection with the kidney. Through self-examination, (he explains it) one can also know if he has kidney problems or not.

What about liver disease? How does one know he has liver disease?

That patient experiences loss of appetite, excessive belching as well as pain in between the rib cage and the stomach.

How do you asses the health delivery system in Nigeria generally?

The Nigerian healthcare set–up is currently in a bad shape. It is not only the government that can put everything in place. Both the orthodox medical personal and alternative medicine practitioners should come together to move the sector forward. The government should allow alternative medicine to be administered in our hospitals, so that patients would have a choice, so that when one line of treatment is not working he will easily switch over to the other. This is what obtains in most advanced countries; Nigeria should not be an exception. In China, they had depended wholly on natural medicine until 1950 when orthodox medicine was allowed into the country. Today, both forms are being encouraged to be used by Chinese citizens. In America today, more than 60% of its citizens have come to embrace natural medicine. India let the world know about Aloe Vera. Despite their famed status in orthodox medicine, they are still a force to reckon with in naturopathy. The same goes for China and other western countries. Nigeria should allow natural medicine to take root in the country. It will make us a healthier and wealthier nation.

How much of formal recognition have you gained from the government?

I am yet to receive any financial gratification. The government has done well to register and recognize the umbrella body of alternative medicine practitioners in Nigeria. I have an approval to visit hospitals and health institutions to give talk and lectures. As of today, I have demonstrated the use of acupuncture in hospitals across Lagos, Uyo, Owerri and Ikot Ekpene. I have also exhibited my practice in several prisons across the country, the Federal Ministry of Health, Abuja, the Nigeria Air Force and the Nigeria Police. In 2007, I stunned the Nigerian medical authorities at Abuja when I treated a matron at the Federal Staff Clinic Abuja, who had had a case of migraine for over 20 years.

What do you have to say about medical tourism which is a major source of revenue drain in Nigeria?

Nigerians can help to stem the tide of this ugly situation. What they spend a fortune seeking in foreign countries is in abundance at their doorsteps. Alternative medicine is the answer. There are several cases of Nigerians who have visited hospitals abroad for orthodox cure all to no avail. But once they come to us they get solutions to their health challenges. They should stop wasting money for ailments that can be easily handled at home.