From being milled on smooth stones or pounded and boiled in earthenware pots over firewood, the African herb, which has been used for treating various illnesses, has found its way from the home settings to the market and other retail outlets in modern colourful finishing.
The use of herbs to treat various illnesses is very much part of the Ghanaian and African society because it is viewed as part of the cultural heritage handed down from generation to generation.
The last few years has witnessed an increase in the number of herbal remedies being sold in commercial quantities, as the use of herbal preparations is no longer confined to indigenous communities.
As the gap between traditional medicine practice and cultural beliefs continue to widen, the practice has been moved out of the realm of the supernatural, spookiness, idolatry and fetishism. Some fetish priests and priestesses, who in past generations served as sole custodians of the secrets of the curative powers of herbs and had operated from dimly lit and dingy rooms shrouded in mystery, have abandoned mysticism, with some embracing Christianity. These, together with other factors, have opened the doors wide for the increasing use of herbal products to cure various health conditions.
Traditional medicine practitioners are now key stakeholders in providing health care in the Ghana and their actions or inactions directly impact on the health outcomes of citizens and how diseases are controlled or managed.
One of the commonest diseases on the African continent that has been treated with herbs among various local communities for ages is malaria. It is common knowledge that in the past malaria was managed within the home settings by using herbs such as the leaves of the neem tree.
It is easy these days to find herbal products for treating malaria on the shelves of licensed over-the-counter drug shops and pharmacies.
Additionally, there are other retail outlets exclusively stocking and dispensing only herbal remedies such as the Nana Boakye Natural Herbal Centre located along the main street of the Tema Community One market in the Greater Accra region.
Upon entering this shop, the first thing that is obvious is the variety of herbal products in colorful boxes and packages looking very much like imported pharmaceutical products. Some of the products for treating malaria had prices ranging from GH¢10 to GH¢15.
The Kingdom licensed chemical shop is an over-the-counter drug facility located near the main Ashaiman Municipal market in the Greater Accra region. This facility stocks both pharmaceutical products and herbal remedies.
Juliet Nkansah, an attendant on duty at this facility in responding to questions on malaria treatment, pointed to some herbal products on the shelves and said some people walk in and specifically ask for herbal remedies to treat malaria instead of asking for artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), which are also available.
Among the herbal products available at this facility for treating malaria were Taabea herbal mixture, Rooter mixture and Time herbal mixture.
Cecilia Opoku-Gyimah, who lives not too far from the Spintex Junction in Accra, is a former over-the-counter medicine seller who believes herbal remedies are more efficacious in treating diseases such as malaria and typhoid.
According to her, herbs, unlike orthodox medicines, are effective in uprooting diseases such as malaria completely from the human system.
“Herbal products are very effective in curing malaria. Rooter mixture is very good. It comes in two different forms. The bottled liquid product and the raw Rooter herbs, which looks spongy”, she explains.
“You have to boil the raw Rooter herbs before using it. Buying the raw herb is much cheaper because you can boil some and keep the rest, so you can use it twice. The bottled Rooter mixture is more expensive because you only use it once. It costs about GH¢15,” she adds.
According to her, she finds the recovery rate after using herbal remedies more effective than ACTs and adds that the best way to prove this is to test and confirm at a health facility that one has malaria before taking these herbal products.
She believes that there are not too many side effects in using herbal remedies unlike the orthodox medicines, and adds that she has even tried using both herbal and orthodox medicines at the same time to treat illnesses such as malaria and typhoid.
In response to concerns that taking a combination of herbal and orthodox medicines at the same time could be dangerous, she says herbal remedies have no side effects, however for certain diseases such as diabetes she would stick to only orthodox medicines.
It appears there is a widespread belief that herbal remedies have no side effects although it is a known fact that every medication, both herbal and orthodox, has side effects.
People are becoming comfortable with herbal products for various reasons including the fact that more innovative marketing strategies are being used to make them look attractive. These products now have appealing packages, an inclusion of the recommended dosage, an indication of the active ingredients used and the production and expiry dates, thus making them acceptable, easy to use and administer.
Written by: Eunice Menka
Source: Ghana Business News