Utilization of Traditional Herbal Medicine and its Role in Health Care Delivery in Ghana: The Case of Wassa Amenfi West District

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Herbal medicine has been used alongside modern medicine and many continue to rely on it for their health care despite the increasing use of modern medicine in Ghana. Herbal medicine has played a significant role in health care delivery, since time memorial. It is estimated that approximately 80% of the world’s population, 80% of the people in developing countries, 80% of Africans and about 70% to 75% of the population of Ghana rely on herbal medicine for their primary healthcare. This study examined the use of herbal medicine and the role it plays in healthcare delivery in the Wassa Amenfi West District. The specific objectives of the study were to analyse the extent to which people patronise herbal medicine, evaluate the perception on the efficacy of herbal medicine in relation to orthodox medicine, examine the socio-demographic determinants and reasons for the use of herbal medicine, and examine the possibility of integrating traditional and orthodox healthcare systems and the prospects of achieving it. This was a descriptive cross sectional study and used structured interviews, questionnaires, and Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) Guide as instruments for collecting both quantitative and qualitative data. A random sample of 205 residents aged 18years and above from 5 communities across the district was used for the study. In addition, 10 orthodox healthcare practitioners, and 15 herbal practitioners were sampled through purposive and snowball sampling, respectively. Data was analysed using Predictive Analytic Software for Windows (PASW) version 16.0 and Microsoft Excel 2007 software. Percentages, frequencies, cross tabulations, and pie charts were used to present the data. Chi-square test of independence was applied to identify the relationship between the basic socio-demographic characteristics and use of herbal medicine, with the level of significance at 0.05. The survey revealed that herbal medicine is highly patronized in the district. Age, marital status, level of education, and place of residence have significant relationship with the use of herbal medicine. It was also revealed in the study that herbal medicine is effective in the treatment of conditions such as malaria, infertility, sexual weakness, sexually transmitted infections, diabetes, epilepsy, piles, waist pains, menstrual pains, hernia, stroke, mental illness, arthritis, bone fracture, boils and other chronic skin infections. The study also found that there is a strong belief in the potency of herbal medicine making its role in health care delivery very significant. Again, the study found a low level interaction, hence integration between herbal and orthodox medical systems, even though they coexist. The study concludes that herbal medicine would complement the government’s efforts at providing affordable, accessible and effective healthcare for all. It is therefore recommended that government should make efforts at fully integrating traditional herbal medicine into modern healthcare delivery system, a standard healthcare regulatory framework must be set for both orthodox and herbal practitioners, and traditional medicine must be fully integrated into modern healthcare system. Ways in which traditional herbal medicine could be integrated into modern healthcare system include inter-disciplinary investigation into the therapeutic claims of herbal practitioners, and the documentation of plants and their therapeutic properties are areas that must be of interest to future researchers.
A Thesis submitted to the Department of Geography and Rural Development, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology In partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy Geography and Rural Development Faculty of Social Sciences, College of Art and Social Sciences