The divide between traditional herbal medicine and western pharmaceutical products is narrowing and interest in organic solutions to common ailments is growing. Several local herbalists are taking advantage of the fast rising interest in medicinal remedies from indigenous plants to make a killing in the sector.
Ali Mikenga is one of those using traditional knowledge handed down to him from his parents to make a living out of traditional medicine. He is the brains behind a popular cough syrup called iKyisa Kyamuzaddei that is sold in pharmacies throughout Kampala.
Mikenga says he was taught about traditional medicine by his grandparents. He is tightlipped about the formula for his product, calling it a trade secret that he can only reveal to his family and very close friends.
Mikenga boils the herbs for one day to produce the syrup and gives it some days to cool before it is packed. He uses sodium benzoate to preserve the syrup before packaging it for sale.
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Ali Mikenga operates out of a small house in Nalukolongo, just outside Kampala city center. He says he supplies more than 10,000 bottles of the iKyisa Kyamuzaddei cough syrup to pharmacies in Kampala every two weeks. Each bottle costs 600 shillings.
Mikenga employs 15 casual laborers to help him label and clean bottles that he buys from the Uganda Breweries factory. He says he wants to improve his packaging, but does not have money to buy plastic bottles to make the transition.
Mikenga explains that the plastic bottles will help stop the production and sale of counterfeited iKyisa Kyamuzaddei syrup.
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Ali Mikenga says his is a story of success. With his herbal cough syrup he has been able to educate his four children through to university, has purchased several plots of land and is a major player in the real estate sector with several rental houses across Kampala.