Ghana Month: Let’s value traditional medicine – Prof. Banga

Traditional medicine involves the combination of plants, leaves, herbs, animals and other natural resources for curing diseases.

It was the trusted source of treatment in the days of old -pre colonial times.

However, people became skeptical of the use of herbs and plants as medicine following the introduction of orthodox medicine by the colonial masters.

Professor Kwame Benoit Nguessan Banga, Director, Institute of Traditional and Alternative Medicine (ITAM), University of Health and Allied Science (UHAS), in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA), said it was time Ghaianians went back to their first love and valued traditional medicine.

“Ghanaians were doing their own medicine without sophisticated equipment before colonialism and it was working, unfortunately, it was rejected by the whites because it had no scientific proof.”

He said despite the rejection, traditional medicine had proven to be highly effective and safe for consumption, and that the challenge was the lack of scientific data and documentation to prove its safety and efficacy years ago.

The Director observd that earlier practitioners only transferred the knowledge of the practice orally without documentation.

“But today, there is evidence that these traditional medicines are effective, but we have to bring the evidence out for people to regain the confidence to patronise the practice and the products.”

Narrating his ordeal, Prof. Banga said: “I was suffering from a disease that was classified as an incurable disease after sevetreatment of treatment. One day I met a gentleman from Burkina Faso who claimed to know a plant that could cure the disease. He gave me the plant and after some few doses, I was cured.”

He said after some tests at a hospital, he was proven to be cured.

“So, this is where I believe that the conjunction of Science and tradition can bring something out that would be innovative, original and specific to Africa.”

He said a few hospitals now had units where herbal treatment was administered to patients, who requested that after laboratory tests were done.

Prof Banga, who is also a Pharmacologist and Toxicologist, said millions of people, not only Ghanaians, were now opting for herbal medicine and that it was gradually promoting medical tourism, raking in some good money from the ‘patients’ market’.

“For more than two decades now, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has been embracing traditional medicine because a lot of people are using it and that is why international organisations are trying to regulate the practice and the products for things to be done well…,” he added.

Prof Banga said it was for that reason that UHAS established the Institute to conduct research and train people in traditional medicine and be able to generate scientific data to confirm the efficacy and safety of the products to help decision making in the integration of traditional medicine into the healthcare system.

He said the Department of Pharmacognosy and Herbal Medicine, University of Ghana (UG) School of Pharmacy, was also training students in herbal products and alternative medicine.

The Director of ITAM, UHAS, said protocols applied to validate western medicines were being applied in the traditional medicine practice, including preclinical studies, clinical observation, and clinical trial.

He added that drugs could be effective and at the same time toxic due to poor preservation, wrong preparation and wrong dosage.

“So, we want to make sure that apart from the preparation, the herbalist also knows the right dose.”

Prof Banga said UHAS and UG were in collaboration with the Ghana Federation of Traditional Medicine Practitioners Associations. ( GHAFTRAM), the FDA and TMPC to advance traditional medicine practice.

He, therefore, called on government to provide funding to meet the objectives, saying “we need a lot of funding for research and development into traditional medicine practice. We have the competence, we just need financial resources to make it possible.”


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