Dr. Chiedu J. Nchekwube is a man of many worlds. He trained as a medical doctor but incorporated prayer, meditation and herbal healing to his practice to avoid prescribing toxins for his patients. In an interview with Joseph Omoremi, editor of The Chicago Inquirer in his clinic in Merrillville, Indiana, the physician pointed out the good, the bad and the alternative to western medicine.
It is an interesting read.
Inquirer: You are a board certified family doctor but you are known more in alternative medicine. Where is your interest?
Nchekwube: I’m a board certified family physician. I went to Howard Medical School and trained at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan in internal medicine and pediatric. I went to Indiana State University to do family practice. After 10 years in practice, I integrated the kind of medicine I practice. It blends alternative medicine that is natural with mainstream medicine, which is western medicine. My dictum is above all do no harm. If I can’t help you, I don’t want to hurt you. I used herbs, vitamins, homeopathic, I teach yoga, I teach medication and we talk about prayer and healing. All of that combined because I believe illness start from the mind and if you want to be healed, you start from the mind also. That doesn’t preclude the use of medicine like antibiotics, pain medication and things like that but I tried to use nontoxic method first.
Inquirer: In your statement, you just said if I can’t help you, I don’t want to hurt you. What does that mean?
Nchekwube: That was the original oath we all take as physician. We should do no harm but in the process of practicing as we do, we sometimes slash and burn even the process that is supposed to help the healing. The human body is infinitely wiser than any doctor that you can imagine. And we have not even touch the tip of the iceberg in terms of the knowledge we need to have to be doctors. We therefore need to continue to find a way to understand the body healing mechanism and functions instead of going against it. That is my goal and that is the mode of my practice.
Inquirer: How are you faring since the integration or merger?
Nchekwube: Very well indeed. In fact, regular western medicine is quite boring compare to what I do now. If somebody comes to me with let’s say hypertension, I will evaluate the person completely from the head to the toe. I will do blood test and everything and I will be looking to see what kind of motional spiritual issue is involved. I will teach the person that you can control your blood pressure with your own mind by doing medication and praying or changing your nutrition. Then, we will find some herbs too. There are some old herbs from which drugs are made. There is a herb call iauwolfia. It is an ancient herb that the Indian used to treat people with hypertension and anxiety about
5000 years ago. They knew then that hypertension and anxiety have some things in common. It (iauwolfia) controlled hypertension and also helps a patient deal with anxiety. Above all, it is anti-depression. In the western medicine, the herbs was discovered by the English people who went to India. They extracted what they considered to be active ingredient of the herb and used it to treat blood pressure. Just one component of the herb was extracted. It controls blood pressure but happens to cause depression. So they controlled peoples blood pressure but caused them to be depressive and people become suicidal.
Whereas the ancient users used the whole leaf, as such while one side is causing anxiety to go down, the other one is lowering blood pressure. Another active ingredient of the herb is anti-depression. With the western style of extracting active ingredient from herbs, it caused harms even though they manage to treat the problem.
Inquirer: Is that why you said you want to help people instead of hurting them?
Nchekwube: Exactly. The key is to look for nontoxic ways and used the knowledge we have in medicine. If somebody has cancer, what we know in medicine is to destroy the cancer but in the process, most of the time we destroy the patient. If the patient is able to recover, we say we had a cure but most of the time the people die probably from the effect of the drug itself. However, in the integrative or natural approach, what you are doing is coercing the body to fight the cancer itself without destroying the person. Once you get that, you allow the patients to heal themselves instead of you doing it because the healing principles in human beings is there. Otherwise you and I wouldn’t be sitting here holding this interview.
Inquirer: You just gave and example of an Indian herb. In the tropical region of Africa, there are lot of herbs, are you using some herbs from Africa or you just rely solely on Indian herbs?
Nchekwube: Anywhere I see any good herb, I’m a child of God, I take it to help any other child of God. We have herb galore in Nigeria. There is one my brother has spent almost $1 million researching. It is a white herb from Nigeria called hypoestes rosea. It is being used by native people in the Midwest, East and Yorubaland of Nigeria to treat ringworm. They took it and it has very, very powerful effect. We use it to treat cholesterol. We use it to treat cancer. They have patent on it. They use it for cancer of the liver and cancer of kidney. Fascinating enough, if you take one gram of it, it will wipe out malaria power effect from your body. They are getting ready to market it in Nigeria, African and other countries. The tropical rain forest is a God given gift to heal people in Nigeria and West Africa and most of the areas around the equator where we have the tropical rain forest.
Inquirer: How do you get certified in all these herbs?
Nchekwube: I have studied under a lot of different people. I’ve taken courses around the country. I have traveled to Mexico. I go to Nigeria and anywhere I can get information. I have access online to research information that I spend a lot of time digging
and applying to my patients.
Inquirer: How effective are the herbs?
Nchekwube: Effective in many ways you can’t just imagine. I used it in many ways to treat women, men for impotence, men for prostate problem, I treat women with menopause and all kind of things. When the need arises to use medication, I’m not shy at all to use it but I try to use it in the way that it will not hurt the patient.
Inquirer: Can you give specific examples?
Nchekwube: Take a woman who is going through menopause. Instead of given the woman synthetic oxygen, I will give her natural estrogen made from wild yam that is identical to the female system. I use other things design that way too. We combine all of this for a woman in her late 50s to feel as if she is 35 years old both sexually, physically, and emotionally.
Inquirer: Can she get pregnant?
Nchekwube: Not to that end. You don’t want to give a woman who had gone through menopause enough hormones to act as if she wants to be pregnant. That is when you run into problems. That is when you start using it as medicine. But if you are using it for her to balance, she will gain more for a woman not to have the side effect of menopause but not enough to have a period or to be able to get pregnant. That will be toxic at that level
Inquirer: That is the problem you are trying to avoid using the herbs?
Nchekwube: Yes. Now, the same woman, let’s say she said she wants to try only herbs, we have several herbs we can give her here. There is another one created from the Deer antler. When you grind it and organize it and extract it well, it can give the woman-increased libino or sex drive. It makes the woman’s bone strong and helps her lose weight. The roof of Deer antler has ingredient that works like the male hormone.
Inquirer: Why are you limiting the practice to people in Gary/Merrillville metropolis and not the entire Chicagoland or the country as a whole?
Nchekwube: I have patients from Wilmette, Winnetka area. I have patients from Michigan, Indianapolis, Wisconsin and all over. My patients’ draw is all over the Midwest.
Inquirer: You’ve been practicing medicine for 15 years and integrative medicine since 1985, how do other physicians view your practice?
Nchekwube: My original design of integrative medicine is to export it to other physicians so that they can learn how to do it. It creates renewed interest in the practice of real medicine in the sense that you have to think how the human body works and how to enhance it. It takes you back to medical schools and each patient becomes a subject of research. I have some patients who have skin problem like Michael Jackson. There are so many things you can do to help them. At least in about 30-60 percent with skin problem, you can restore their skin with nutrition, herbs, and some vitamins. Some of them who have
the problem, I’ve been unable to help because I understand how some of these nutritional herbs work. Things like depression, instead of using western medicine, we use supplements, vitamins and even for different kinds of things like poor memory, poor concentration.
Inquirer: How do you know that a herb will work or heal a disease?
Nchekwube: That is not my area of specialty. There are some people whose specialty is just looking at the chemistry of herbs. They can take a herb by the way it looks, behaves and they take it through different kinds of tests and look at various ingredients that are unique to the problem and test it in the lab to find out whether it is toxic or whether it is an anti oxidant. With those kind of analytical method, they will find out various ingredients in it and they will use it to treat various diseases. The other way they do this is to go to native people to find out what they use it for. The hypoestes rosea I spoke to you about earlier, they found out that it slows down the aging of the skin. Major companies that deal in cosmetics products are looking to use it for different kinds of skin effect because it slows down skin process.
They also use analytical method and the scientific method. Sometimes, they use anthropological or historical method to get it started and they use the scientific method to conclude it.
Inquirer: When I went through the stores in the clinic, I saw your name on some products. Does that mean you are into manufacturing of these herbs?
Nchekwube: Some of those are just private label formulations that manufacturers have. Some of them are my formulations. I look at some various ingredients and recommended it that we can use it for different thing and it will do some good in certain proportion. We formulated it and tried it out and if it works, then we expand it and it becomes a formula. What we do at first is to take different part of it and try it to know how the patient is doing with all the individual elements. Then we put it into capsule to make it cheaper for them.
Inquirer: How many of those formulation do you have on your name?
Nchekwube: There is about 12-20 private labels or formulation. The rest of them, we have about 100 supplements or herbs from different manufacturers.
Inquirer: The idea when you started, as enumerated earlier, was to export it to other doctors. How are they responding to it?
Nchekwube: Good. It however requires some risk they have to take. I have to go out there, encourage them and teach the doctors that this can give them money, help their patients and breathe a new life to their profession. It is the business end that has not been happening. And that is because I have been so busy here that I don’t have time to do other things I need to do.
Inquirer: Any major challenge to what you are doing?
Nchekwube: It is just keeping up with my patients and keeping up with the volume of information from my sources because research is going on in Russia, here in USA, Europe. Keeping up with the information and applying it is a challenge. The other thing is that insurance don’t pay for supplement, the patient has to pay from their pocket. It hasn’t been a bad experience because when people get benefit, they would pay for it. Besides, most of people that are taking supplement, they find it useful to go to a physician trained in the western medicine and also trained in alternative medicine to prescribe or recommend supplement for them.
Inquirer: How do you ensure continuity of the practice when you retire?
Nchekwube: I have two teaching positions at medical centers. I’m a clinical assistant professor on family practice at the University of Illinois in Chicago and I hold the same position at Indiana State University. At those two institutions, I’ve exposed medical student to know how I do it and I go out to give lectures to residents. That is specialist training on various alternative medicine.
Inquirer: How did the University of Illinois in Chicago hear about you?
Nchekwube: Actually, the way they knew about me was through a patient, a medical student who was very sick and was a medical student. I took care of her and when she got well, she told her school and that she would like to train under me and they offered me a position in Chicago. On the other hand, at Indiana State University, they are affiliated with residency programs at Methodist Hospital. Some of their residents see my patients when they go for emergency. Some of them, the patients, talk about what I do and want the university to come and tech them. That was how I joined the university. Besides, some doctors are my patients. Chiropractors, dentists and specialists are my patients and they talk about what I do.
Inquirer: Have you ever been investigated by any board because of all these things?
Nchekwube: No, never because I don’t make too much noise and I’m not challenging anybody. I’m just teaching my patients and they are getting results. I have fun doing it and they have fun getting well. So there is nothing to investigate. And if they do, most of what I do have more scientific rating than what we do in medicine. If you ask, a lot of the mechanism from which drug works, we don’t know. They will tell you I don’t know how it does what it does but evidence shows what it does. Think about it, 75 percent of money spent in childcare is spent not in mainstream medicine but in alternative medicine. The people have cast their vote. You either join the people or find yourself on the sideline. People have chosen how they want to be healed and the doctors who want to heal them will heed their vote. Don’t think the pharmaceutical industry is not aware of what we use in integrative medicine. The big major pharmaceutical houses produce a lot of it. Big companies are getting involved.
Inquirer: You mentioned that your brother had spent over $1 million in research of a herb. When and where can we get the product?
Nchekwube: They are still in the clinical stage of their research. They are in for cholesterol, obesity etc. There are so many things they are doing research on. An example is the one on malaria, just one or two treatments you are free of all kinds malaria.
Inquirer: Malaria is synonymous with the tropics and not here?
Nchekwube: That is true and there is no money in malaria treatment but there is money in cancer. This same herb works in cancer. It works in skin problem. It can be used in cosmetics. It can be used to reduce cholesterol. It works in so many situations.
Inquirer: What effort is being made to get the attention of the big manufacturers?
Nchekwube: They have tried to talk to major manufacturers. I’m not allowed to mention their names but these manufacturers come quietly to tell them we see what you are doing. They’ve been published in major peer review journals. What is this from Africa? When they look at its effect on cancer, they write to the authors and try to find out where the ingredients are coming from. They secretly tell them we are interested and that we know that our competitors will contact you, when you get to a stage of the research, we will write you. They however, still need money to get to the big animals study like Chimpanzee. This herb is non-toxic. They stored the chemical formula. The good thing about the herb, whatever money realized, some will be funneled back to Nigeria to treat the ecosystem. They have a biodiversity agreement with the Nigeria government.
Inquirer: What is biodiversity agreement?
Nchekwube: They are the only company that will be allowed to harvest or grow the herb in Nigeria and export it. Anybody else trying to do that will be violating the diversity agreement. On the other hand, as they are using it, they are paying Nigeria to maintain the natural environment for the herb so that it is not destroyed and its place in the ecosystem will be maintained.
Inquirer: About two years ago, I read in the papers that some Nigerian peace keeping soldiers that went to Liberia were invested with AIDS and one physician in Abuja, Nigeria healed them but the government who commended the physician later retracted the commendation. How are we sure things like that will not happen in this breakthrough?
Nchekwube: I think the name of the physician you are talking about is Dr. Abalaka. Part of his problems, in my opinion because I’m not privy to the whole situation, is that he did not do it through a peer review approach where he says this is what I’m doing and I want to patent the system. Once you have a worldwide patent for it, you can sue anyone using it. I think he secretly guided his own system. And I can understand where he is coming from. It is a simple system that everyone is aware of but they are not aware they can use it the way he did it. He tried to guard it but in the process, he made it look suspicious. I’m talking generally. My brother’s approach, his name is Emeka Nchekwube, a neurosurgeon in California, is open. The lead researcher on the herb is in Nigeria . He is trained in Sweden, US and has worked for major companies. They are not hiding anything. Whatever they discover, they have patent.
Inquirer: Could exposure be the difference between the two physicians?
Nchekwube: I’m not quite sure what the other problem is.
Inquirer: We really don’t hear much about him again. We don’t know if people are still going to his clinic?
Nchekwube: People will still go to anywhere they can get hope. I have a feeling that he uses the homeopathic method where you take a blood from the person and mixes it and re-injects the blood and the body wakes up and begins to fight the infection just like we do in immunization. However, since he hasn’t made it public, we can only speculate. In fact, we use that system now to treat asthma, allergies and many others.
Inquirer: What is your advice for a person aspiring to be a doctor?
Nchekwube: First of all, don’t go into it to make money. Go into it with the passion to heal. It will show and flow from you to the patient. Then you will really make money. But when you go into it with the idea to make money or just because you are smart, that is not enough to be a healer. You can be a medical doctor but you may not be a healer. That is a major difference.
Inquirer: Don’t you think that huge student loans is responsible for the high cost of medical treatment?
Nchekwube: I’m not saying they should not make money. I’m an entrepreneur myself. In addition to having a passion to healing people, I love to make money. I used to trade at Oyingbo market. But that is different from being a healer. I have a daughter at Northwestern University, she loves to watch TLC when they do surgery on television, I watched her and asked if she wants to be a doctor and she shook her head. I went away because I tried to be neutral but now she is thinking of becoming a medical doctor. It has to come from your heart. If you ask me if I have all the money in the world, would I still be doing what I’m doing, I probably wouldn’t do some things but I will be out there teaching people how to be well, how to eat and above all how to use their minds to heal themselves.
Inquirer: There are so many herbs in the tropical region of Africa. How do we let the world see the potentials in these herbs?
Nchekwube: There are people who have dedicated their lives to going into the rain forest in Africa, Brazil, Guatemala, Chile and all these places, to study the medicine being used by the people. And they have painstakingly documented them. Their efforts are not enough because we are losing the rainforest fast. It requires a lot of money. That is why my brother has been in it for the past seven years and they still haven’t gotten any major breakthrough in terms of anybody investing in it.
Inquirer: How much are you think is needed to bring the herbs to the market?
Nchekwube: It depends. For example, take that herb, if you give them between $750,000-$2 million, they can do some aspect of it, the animal study to the point where once you do it in Chimpanzee, as they see the potency, they (pharmaceutical manufacturers) will fall over themselves to buy the patent for license to make drug. Then you spend another $200m to $300 m to turn it into a cure. That is why a tablet of Viagra will cost $10. The ingredients used to make it is not more than fifty cent. The research money, the licenses and FDI approval and all of that is what cost money.
Inquirer: People say there are cures for AIDS already but these pharmaceutical
companies still want to make their money before releasing it to the market?
Nchekwube: Exactly. Think about it this way, capitalism is a way of life for most of us in the western world and even in the eastern block. However, every company has a moral responsibility to humanity. It is because we can buy that people can sell. I come from a small village in Nigeria. We are in the United states by the grace of some other human beings that built the place and have in place the system that protects us and so on and so forth. I’m sure if we put our brilliant minds together, we can take care of people who are sick, without having to charge the exorbitant amount that can only be paid by people in the developed world.
Inquirer: What can people here do to turn around the fortunes of the black continent from being a beggar continent?
Nchekwube: I think, whether we like it or not, Nigeria, Africa, we are at a level in our maturity of a teenager, may be 13 or 15 years old. You cannot jump from being a kid to being an adult. You’ve got to go through all the process. Even for Nigeria, as matured as we are individually, the nation’s building mentality is still not matured. If you bring a Nigeria to America, he will adapt quickly and vice versa when you take an America to Nigeria. Look at the 2000 election here, as soon as there was an opportunity for chaos, it happened. We all have to watch out for chaos but where everybody is not aware that they have to watch out for chaos, everybody then turns to themselves and their God.
Inquirer: Any other thing you like to talk about in alternative medicine?
Nchekwube: I just think it is a very fascinating thing and it is so broad, it will blow your mind. For example prayer. Prayer has power. You talk about medication, medication has power. Eighty to eighty-five percent of our illnesses is caused by stress. Just by learning to meditate, you can cut it down. Just focusing on the mind alone, you can heal so many diseases without having anything to do with herbs.
Inquirer: Can you talk more on prayer?
Nchekwube: Prayer has force. It has been scientifically proven that it works. They’ve done research where they have people praying for total strangers in intensive care unit and they got better. They switched to another person, whom they don’t know but they focused their minds praying in another room and were able to show without any doubt that it works. Medication, on the other hand has been scientifically proven that it lowers your blood pressure, lowers cholesterol, slows down the aging process and improves relation. It enhances immune system.
Inquirer: If you have to start again, what will you opt for-western medicine, or integrative medicine?
Nchekwube: I will always opt for integrative medicine because it gives you so much latitude.