by Nate Nido
Herbal medicine and traditional medicine are still very relevant in Ghana today. Although they are not effective, or lack the effectiveness of modern medicine, Ghanaians still seek out herbal and traditional medical practices. Why they actively seek out these alternative forms of medicine is a topic that Dr. Dr. Otchere Addai-Mensah and our class have been studying the past few weeks. For example, we learned that the answer varies on the person. One Ghanaian might go to a herbalist due to a lack of money. They are unable to afford modern medicine, but they still want some type of “professional” treatment. Another person might go to a herbalist or a practitioner of other traditional medicine because of their religious beliefs. Luckily, the class was able to visit a herbal clinic, and it helped us develop a better idea of traditional medicine as a whole. Here is my experience.
My first glance into the herbal clinic invoked feelings of disbelief. The facilities were cramped, cluttered, and messy. The laboratory looked like a small, dirty kitchen with modern tools, such as a microscope. The dispensary (where powders and concoctions are packaged and distributed) was dirty, and the containers in which the ingredients were held were also dirty. The medicine itself was packaged in plastic bags and what seemed like reused bottles. They explained that their packaging was to show the authenticity of the medicine. Their therapy room had worn down gym equipment. Overall, the facility did not seem like a safe place for the ill to be seen or treated. If anything, the herbal clinic seemed like a place where you would catch infections and sicknesses.
The doctors, nurses, and lab technician all seemed like kind people, but they lacked the necessary training actual, licensed doctors have. They had a general knowledge of medicine, but that is not enough to accurately diagnose and treat patients. In a field where your performance determines whether someone lives or dies, it is scary that herbalists and practitioners of traditional medicine are trusted.
Though change is needed, it will take time for Ghanaians to fully realize the importance of modern medicine. Hopefully, the rising literacy rates, improvement in the accessibility and quality of education, and better affordability of healthcare will help them better understand the necessity of modern medicine.
For more information on herbal medicine and its importance in Ghana, click here.