Traditional Medicine & the Traditional Medicine Practice Council of Ghana

Traditional medicine, also known as ethnic, indigenous, alternative or complementary medicine, is the first and oldest healthcare system. It is the ancient and cultural means used by humans to deal with diseases. The practice is available and is found in almost every country around the world (Kenu et al., 2021). It is vast and diverse.

According to the World Health Organization (W.H.O), Traditional medicine includes “diverse health practices, approaches, knowledge, and beliefs incorporating plant, animal, and or mineral-based medicines, spiritual therapies, manual techniques, and exercises applied singularly or in combination to maintain well-being, as well as to treat, diagnose or prevent illness.”(W.H.O, 2002)

Traditional medicine practices denote health medicines and practices that are outside of mainstream conventional medicine. It encompasses a vast range of ancient and modern approaches, including the use of traditional herbs, traditional and spiritual healing to support the prevention, treatment and management of diseases. Studies have shown that Traditional medicine plays a critical role and makes significant contributions to the health care needs of not only those in developing countries but also in some developed countries (Hilbers & Lewis, 2013; Hussain & Malik, 2013).

Reports of W.H.O. indicate that the interest in Traditional medicine and its usages, treatments or supplementary treatments of many illnesses are wide and rapidly growing around the world (Qi, Zhang 2013). Over the past few years, in developed countries, there has been an increase in the interest in the use of Traditional medicine, where it is referred to as complementary and alternative medicine. The report also indicates that about eighty percent (80%) of the population in developing countries, especially in Africa, rely on Traditional medicine as a source of primary health care. According to Kasilo & Trapsida (2010), in developing countries, it is the primary source of health care for the majority of the populace; because of its affordability, accessibility, and cultural acceptability.

In Ghana, Traditional medicine has been practised for many centuries, even before the colonial era. As indicated by (Elujoba et al., 2005; Gyasi et al., 2017), the activities of missionaries, likewise colonization, resulted in the introduction of mainstream conventional medicine. The orthodox subsequently became recognized and institutionalized as the mainstream health care system in Ghana, resulting in repression of the traditional practices in Ghana to some extent.

Moreover, the W.H.O. recognized and acknowledged Traditional medicine’s essence as it encourages its members to formulate policies, regulations, and programs and integrate them into the national health systems. As a member, Ghana recognizes Traditional medicine as an existing healthcare system; likewise, it has in place national policy but yet to fully integrate it into all the aspects of its national health care system (Gyasi et al., 2017).

Ghana recognized that the majority of its populace, about 70% depend on Traditional medicine for their primary health care needs. This led to its introduction into the mainstream health care system in several hospitals in the country in 2011, following a policy of herbal medicine practice in 2005. This also subsequently led to the implementation of the W.H.O. strategy of integrating Traditional medicine into the formal healthcare delivery system in 2012 (Gyasi et al., 2017). According to (WHO, 2019) the integration has come to stay and gradually making progress, with about forty centres in the district and regional hospitals where Traditional medicine is being used side by side with conventional therapy.

Furthermore, to integrate traditional medicine into the national health care system in Ghana, the Traditional Medicine Practice Council, as the lead institution on the subject matter, was established through the Traditional Medicine Practice Act, 2000 (No. 575), and mandated to promote, control, and regulate Traditional medicine practice in Ghana.

Despite the process made so far, Traditional medicine still receives limited consideration from many professionals, especially medical experts demanding more scientific evidence of its safety, quality, and efficacy. There are concerns about the quality, safety, and negative perception of Traditional medicine in Ghana. Despite the importance and the essential role it plays in the health care needs of Ghanaians, there is a paucity of information about the current state of Traditional medicine practices in Ghana.

As a result, I found it prudent to consult the body responsible for promoting, controlling and regulating Traditional medicine practices in Ghana, to attain and relay to you, the reader, insight into the current situation. I posed a series of questions to the Traditional Medicine Practice Council concerning the state of Traditional medicine practices in Ghana. Here’s what they had to say.

  1. What is the current state of the Traditional Medicine Practice Council (TMPC) and what would you say is your 2022 or future Agenda?

Answer: The TMPC is on course to ensure appropriate standards of practice among Traditional Medicine Practitioners (TMPs).

  1. How successful has the Traditional Medicine Practice Council been so far in carrying out its core mandate and 2021 Agenda?

Answer: The TMPC has registered over 1,000 Practitioners in 2021, it has trained different practice groups and it has controlled the influx of quacks and charlatans while promoting good traditional medicine practice.

  1. What are some of the initiatives the Council is currently undertaking to promote Traditional medicine in Ghana?

Answer: Ensuring Standards.

  1. What are the challenges faced by the Council in carrying out its core mandate?

Answer: Human Resources, logistical, and financial support.

  1. What are some of the major challenges faced by Traditional medicine practitioners, specifically in Ghana?

Answer: Extinction of raw plant materials due to low cultivation. Needed support from the State, research to find timely relevant remedies.

  1. What is the Council doing to help mitigate the challenges of the practitioners?

Answer: Research, development and publicity, cultivation of medicinal plants.  

  1. Is Ghana following the W.H.O guideline for registration and regulation of Traditional medicine, and what is the latest update with regards to the registration of Traditional medicines and practitioners in Ghana?

Answer: Over 20,000 registration of Practitioners and premises in total.

  1. What is the Traditional Medicine Practice Council’s assessment of Ghana’s intent to integrate Traditional medicine into the national health system so far?

Answer: The TMPC provides support for graduates from KNUST to undergo a mandatory internship programme after which Professional Qualifying Examination and Interview is conducted to assess candidate’s eligibility for practice as Medical Herbalists.

  1. Has the Traditional Medicine Practice Council, individually or in collaboration with other stakeholders, conducted any comprehensive study or survey into the Traditional medicine practices in Ghana so far? If yes, what is the outcome of the study?

Answer: No.

  1. What is the future of Traditional medicine in Ghana?

Answer: Very assuring, it is hoped that there shall be full integration, inclusion of medicines into NHIS and patronage will continue.

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These are all facts. And this has been an opinion piece.

Have a blessed week!

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Elujoba, A. A., Odeleye, O. M., & Ogunyemi, C. M. (2005). Traditional medicine development for medical and dental primary health care delivery system in Africa. African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines2(1), 46–61.

Gyasi, R. M., Agyemang-Duah, W., Mensah, C. M., Arthur, F., Torkornoo, R., & Amoah, P. A. (2017). Unconventional medical practices among Ghanaian students: A university-based survey. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine7(1), 126–132.

Hilbers, J., & Lewis, C. (2013). Complementary health therapies: Moving towards an integrated health model. Collegian20(1), 51–60.

Hussain, S., & Malik, F. (2013). Integration of complementary and traditional medicines in public health care systems: Challenges and methodology. Journal of Medicinal Plants Research7(40), 2952–2959.

Kasilo, O. M. J., & Trapsida, J.-M. (2010). Regulation of traditional medicine in the WHO African region. Afr. Health Monit.(Online), 25–31.

Kenu, A., Kenu, E., Bandoh, D. A., & Aikins, M. (2021). Factors that promote and sustain the use of traditional, complementary and integrative medicine services at LEKMA hospital, Ghana, 2017: an observational study. B.M.C. Complementary Medicine and Therapies21(1), 1–10.

Organization, W. H. (2017). WHO traditional medicine strategy 2002–2005. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2002.

Qi, Z. (2013). Who traditional medicine strategy. 2014-2023. Geneva: World Health Organization, 188.

Tapscatt, D., & Agnew, D. (2000). Governance in the digital economy. Finance & Development36(004).

W. H. O. (2002). WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2002–2005. Geneva: World Health Organization