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Using herbal medicine as an alternative way of treating certain diseases in Ghana

Ghana, a country located in West Africa has always relied on herbal medicine for healings and curing certain diseases.

According to the Center for Scientific Research into Plant Medicine in Ghana, herbal medicine is popular, and the government has appointed a director of herbal medicine to ensure that traditional knowledge is properly evaluated and maintained. Ghana has the only research center in Africa, which carries out research work into plant medicine and treats diseases solely with herbal drugs. Most people in Ghana choose herbal medicines over prescription medicines and some evidence indicates that these natural remedies have fewer side effects compared to the prescription medicines. The practitioners of herbal medicine, other wise known as herbalists have training just like the pharmacists and doctors undergo training to be able to practice medicines in their various fields of work. Ghanaians chose herbal drugs over pharmaceutical drugs because they believe natural herbs are more effective in treating some illnesses and less damaging to the body.

The word herb, as used in herbal medicine, also known as botanical medicine means a plant or plant part that is used to make medicine to assist the healing process during illness and disease. An herb can be a leaf, a stem, a root, a seed, a fruit, a flower, or bark, used for its medicinal properties. These may be used in many forms for example, fresh, dried, cut, as a powder, ointment, oil extract, or made into liquid by infusion. Herbs have provided living organisms with medicine from the earliest beginnings of civilization. Throughout history, various cultures have handed down their accumulated knowledge of the medicinal use of herbs. This vast body of information serves as the basis for medicinal practice today.

All over the world plants used to be the main source of medicine Although many modern medicines made use of natural products as their main ingredients (morphine, codeine, aspirin, penicillin, and ephedrine just to name a few), most western people saw herbal medicines as “hocus pocus” or, at best, an “old wives tale.” Few believed they could really work. The big pharmaceutical companies, who made lots of money from synthetic medicines, did not rush out to disprove this misconception.

Recently many people in Ghana have realized that herbal medicine is more effective and has fewer side effects compared to pharmaceutical drugs. There has been a return to more natural, traditional ways of living. People are increasingly taking back responsibility for their own well being and actively seeking out healthier and less stressful life styles. While the therapeutic effects of many herbal remedies have now been scientifically validated, others are backed by strong traditional, historical and anecdotal evidence. Evidence indicates that the use of natural remedies for cure of diseases have fewer side effects compared to the use of herbal drugs.
Every medication, including those that are sold over the counter has at least one side effect. Commonly used drugs have been found to affect every system. Frequent reactions include skin rashes, nausea, headaches and dizziness. More severe reactions that can be fatal or severely debilitating include deafness, depression, angina, serious blood disorders such as anemia, liver or kidney toxicity, or anaphylactic shock. These occur in a statistically significant proportion of the population.

Not only are herbal medicines seen as more effective in Ghana but are also less expensive and readily available.  Ghana has a lot of bush, herbs are easily accessible and that makes them inexpensive. For that reason, some common disorders like eczema and pimples are cured using only herbal drugs because they are relatively cheaper and work better than the pharmaceutical drugs. Treating malaria involves so much cost when the treatment involves the use of pharmaceutical drugs, so most people in Ghana treat themselves from their homes.  Malaria is a common disease curable by the use of herbs and the neem tree, which also has a scientific name of azadirachta indica.  The neem tree is also used by herbalists in the treatment of yellow fever all at a very cheap cost, and because of that, almost every single home in Ghana has a neem tree planted there

In trying to understand why most Ghanaians, have decided to choose herbal treatment over pharmaceutical drugs, it is seen that some primary benefits of using plant derived medicines are that they are relatively safer than synthetic alternatives, offering profound curative benefits and more affordable treatment. It could as well make much sense to think why Ghanaians have decided to use the herbal drugs.  Ghanaians must have found an answer to the problems of today’s society regarding the use of herbal drugs over pharmaceutical drugs.

by Emmanuel Amenuvor

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