Ghana celebrates 19th Traditional Medicine Week

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Congratulations to all who have contributed in diverse ways to the development of Traditional Medicine in Ghana, special salutations to our forebearers whose tireless efforts had left this great legacy for posterity. Here we gather again to celebrate the 19th Traditional Medicine Week and the Commemoration of the 16th African Traditional Medicine Day.

This event as we know, brings together healthcare professionals from different backgrounds for the exchange of ideas and to find new solutions to help improve healthcare services, particularly in the area of Traditional and Alternative Medicine (T&AM) which is an important and often underestimated part of health care. T&AM is found in almost every country in the world and the demand for its services is increasing. Traditional Medicine of proven quality, safety, and efficacy, contributes to the goal of ensuring that all people have access to health care. Many countries now recognize the need to develop a cohesive and integrative approach to health care that allows governments, health care practitioners and, most importantly, those who use health care services, to access T&AM in a safe, respectful, cost-efficient and effective manner.

This year’s Traditional Medicine week celebration dubbed “LOCAL MANUFACTURING OF TRADITIONAL MEDICINE PRODUCTS IN THE AFRICAN REGION” is rightfully and carefully chosen in such a dispensation of achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC)

Years before the introduction of the Allopathic Medicine Practice in Ghana, the populace depended solely on Traditional healers, Faith Healers, Traditional Birth Attendants, Wanzams etc. for their healthcare needs. Even in this era of allopathic ascendency, still Traditional and Alternative Medicine practice still plays a very huge role in providing for the health needs of patients in the country. Native doctors use leaves, stem bark, roots, seeds, flowers and fruits of plants and trees for medicinal and therapeutic purposes for the treatment and management of communicable and non-communicable diseases. The use of herbal medicine in the development and production of orthodox medicine is enormous.


The use of natural products with therapeutic properties is as ancient as human civilization.There are 252 essential medicines that had been considered by World Health Organization (WHO) for the treatment and management of communicable and non-communicable diseases. Out of these drugs, 25% are exclusively from plant origin and a significant number are synthetically manufactured thus, modern Pharmacy originates from herbal medicine.

Long before pure chemicals were manufactured in labs, people used plants for medicines. There are over hundred active ingredients derived from plants for use as drugs and medicines. Some of these include:

Sources of some Plants and their corresponding medicines

No. Drug Action Plant Source
1 Digoxin Cardiotonic Digitalis purpurea
2 Atropine Anticholinergic Atropabelladona
3 Caffeine CNS Stimulant Camellia sinensis(tea, coffee, cocoa, etc.)
4 Camphor Rubefacient Cinnamomumcamphora
5 Cocaine Local anaesthetic Erythroxylum coca
6 Codeine Analgesic, Antitussive Papaver somniferum
7 Papain Proteolytic, Mucolytic Carica papaya
8 Quinine Antimalarial, Antipyretic Cinchona ledgeriana(Quinine tree)
9 Yohimbine Aphrodisiac Pausinystaliayohimbe
10 Aspirin Anti-inflammatory, Antipyretic Salix alba (Willow bark)

The standardization, efficacy, quality, availability and preservation of medical products and services both allopathic and traditional has become major concern to policy-makers, health professionals as well as the general public. Improvement in the quality of products and services could be achieved by deliberate implementation of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) at the point of cultivation of medicinal plants and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) during the process of manufacture and packaging of finished products, as well as Post-Marketing Quality Assurance Surveillance.

The world herbal medicine market in addition to the control and regulation measures on the manufacture, distribution and sale of herbal medicine as well as safety concerns has been a matter of concern as a result of increasing demand for herbal medicine products and application of Traditional Medicine in both developing and developed countries.

The problems associated with regulation, standardization and quality assurance in the manufacture of herbal medicine are prevalent in the African region. Unlike the conventional medicines which have their source as pure chemical compounds, herbal medicines derive their sources from plants materials from different geographical regions which may in most cases not guarantee their quality.

Standardization of herbal medicines is often a very difficult task because of the complexity of their diverse phytochemical constituents with their corresponding therapeutic activities that may depend on numerous factors such as, the age of the plant, time and mode of collection, seasons, different locations with different soil components, just to mention a few. These indicators invariably affect the pharmacological activity of the finish products for the production of quality and efficacious herbal medicines.

As stated in the Strategy on Promoting the Role of Traditional Medicine in Health Systems defined by the WHO Regional Committee for Africa in Ouagadougou in 2000, there was the need for development of local production and conservation of medicinal plants and the need for regulation of the practice of Traditional Medicine which will then facilitate its integration into conventional health services.

Ghana, as we know, has many herbal institutions that have embarked on local production of traditional medicines. While some of the traditional medicine products meet the required standard of quality, efficacy and safety by FDA guidelines, the quality and safety of many others have been a matter of public health concern. In attempts to address these concerns not only in Ghana but Africa as a whole, the WHO Regional Office for Africa has developed guidelines that will enable institutions and companies to manufacture products that are acceptable in the Region. It is upon these guidelines that the Ministry seeks to ensure proper production practices.


The world at large is turning to nature, therefore there is the increasing demand for herbal medicines for prophylaxis and the treatment of various disease conditions such as malaria, typhoid fever, musculoskeletal diseases, diabetes, hypertension, skin diseases, HIV/AIDS, cancers, etc. This calls for collaborative efforts of all stakeholders especially the manufacturers of herbal medicine products to adhere to global standards to ensure that quality is not compromised. Other stakeholders such as policy makers would ensure that challenges and bottlenecks facing the herbal medicine industry have been brought to minimal.

Anastasia Michaelina Yirenkyi
Anastasia Michaelina Yirenkyi

Source: Dr. (Mrs.) Anastasia Michaelina Yirenkyi & Justice Kobina Mensah Ennin,

Traditional and Alternative Medicine Directorate – Ministry of Health



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