Accra, Nov. 4, GNA - Professor Agyemang Badu-Akosa, Director-General of the Ghana Health Service, on Thursday said the onus of herbal medicine being integrated into the country's health care delivery system lied on herbal medicine practitioners. He said the integration of herbal medicine into orthodox medicine could only be achieved when the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research certified herbal drugs.
Professor Akosa, who was speaking at a symposium on herbal medicine organized by the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana under the theme: "Herbal Medicines in our National Healthcare Delivery System," said he believed in herbal medicine and knows that the integration of herbal into orthodox medicine could be achieved.
He appreciated the country's gift of herbs and said there were advantages associated with herbal medicine saying: "Herbs are God's gift to man."
Giving examples, he said the Nim Tree is very potent; every part of the tree has been tested as good in a kind of way Prof. Akosa, speaking on: "Challenges in the Use of Herbal Medicines in Healthcare Delivery in Ghana" however, said the GHS was not ready to integrate herbal practice into the country's formal health care delivery system now because "we can not sit down and say that it is native wisdom, it has to go through the right process".
He expressed amazement at the rate at which some amount of anti-biotic drugs are put into some herbal drugs and asked how such acts could be accepted and be integrated when herbalist could not even diagnose diseases.
Professor Kwame Sarpong of the Faculty of Pharmacy at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi said herbal preparations were considered medicines in the full sense and, therefore, subject to control under drug policies.
He accepted that herbal medicines were efficacious and said there were credible testimonies of therapeutic successes in the use of herbs in the country.
Professor Sarpong said the fruits of Xylopia aethiopica popularly known as "Hwentia" had extracts that showed a wide range on anti-bacterial and anti-fungal activities and had been found to be efficacious in the preparation of douches for the treatment of infections in women and generally as a preservative.
"Further the acid extracted from the fruits has been found to posses antimicrobial activity against "Candida albicans" he said. He said the notion that herbal drugs were natural products and, therefore, free of side effects or toxic effects was wrong and must be discarded.
"There is a lot of documentation on the toxic effects of some well known efficacious herbal preparation, "he said.
He said interest in herbal medicine had seen much growth in the recent past because most people could hardly afford the cost of orthodox medical care and many herbs had been found to be potent and effective in the treatment and prevention of disease.
He said it was, therefore, important to ensure the effective development and promotion of herbal medicine and their utilization as alternatives medicine.
"It would be very difficult if not impossible, to achieve any set objectives in health delivery in Ghana without the active participation of traditional medicine".
Mr Yaw Boadu-Ayeboafoh, Editor of the Daily Graphic, who spoke from a consumer's perspective, said he was supportive of herbal medicines and said: "We must all support the herbalists to develop their products thereby making them efficient and effective."
Describing himself as a beneficiary of herbs, the Daily Graphic Editor said more educated Ghanaians had entered into herbal medicine trade and were bringing their knowledge to bear on the drugs. He, however, complained about the fetishism associated with herbal preparations and urged herbalists to demystify some of the things associated with herbal treatment.
Mr Boadu-Ayeboafoh expressed concern about the invasion of the herbal medicine trade by charlatans, who peddled herbal preparation in commercial vehicles.
Togbega Aloka Dabra IV, Herbalist, said there was the need for orthodox medicine practitioners to stop looking down on the herbalist and pointed out that traditional healers also had a way of diagnosing diseases.
Togbega Dabra, who is also a Pharmacist, called on other pharmacists to join the Association of Traditional Healers.
Mr Frank Boateng, President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana dedicated the day's symposium to Professor Sarpong, who he said, challenged the Society to organise the symposium.