Ghana’s Center for Plant Medicine plays major role in health care
by Kwabena Opong
Plant medicine otherwise known as herbal medicine in Ghana has long been and would continue to be the most accessible and reliable component of health care delivery in Ghana. This assessment was made by Mr. Barffuor Osei Akoto, head of Public Relations at the Center for Plant Medicine Research at Mampong Akwapim in the Eastern Region of Ghana. Mr. Osei Akoto was responding to questions from a group of students from the Rutgers University of New Jersey in the United States. Mr. Osei, posits that plant medicine has been relied upon for generations and continues to play a role in the health care delivery system of Ghana. “There is a complete re-engineering of the health delivery system: to combine western medical practices and plant medicine, giving patients’ choice of medication,” He said the Center has been assigned four disease areas to concentrate its research on, namely: Malaria, infectious diseases such as typhoid, lifestyle diseases – diabetes, and hypertension as well as microbial infections. “Plant medicine has now become accessible to all. Besides, its affordability, Mr. Osei inferred that plant medicine has far fewer side effects than Western and synthetic medicine. He added that traditional medicine developed at the Center comes with scientific dosage, something that was a drawback in typical traditional medication. The botanical name of a typical medicine is imprinted on the bottle as well. The versatility of the Center’s experience over the years has earned it the recognition of Ghana’s Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), as well as the World Health Organization (WHO). As a research Center, CPMR documents ethno-pharmacological data on Ghanaian medicinal plants considered endangered. The Center also provides training for students from Ghana and abroad and organizes workshops for local herbalists for good practices, sustainable harvesting, storage and preservation. CPMR has six departments: phytochemistry, pharmacology and toxicology, microbiology, production, plant development, pharmaceutics, scientific information and clinic, of which phytochemistry commands the most attention. He said the CPMR maintains a total arboreta of 750 acres located in three different vegetation zones in the Eastern Region of Ghana. There are also ex-situ and in-situ conservation programs in progress to protect selected and useful medicinal plant species.
The Center also has a well-maintained animal house for breeding and keeping laboratory animals for safety and efficacy assessment of herbal medicine and a modest herbarium with more than 80 percent of voucher specimens of Ghanaian plants. The Center in its current operation, does not admit patients and cannot provide facilities needed for a fully equipped medical operation. Mr. Osei uggested that the Center would be receptive and happy to welcome and embrace any collaboration with similar institutions abroad. The absence of such collaborative efforts for mutual benefits has hampered the progression and growth of the Center. He said financial infusion into research work at the Center has woefully slowed down its planned activities. The Center for Plant Medicine Research is a national asset whose benefits transcend the borders of Ghana. It was established in 1975 as a vision of Dr. Oku Ampofo, a renowned orthodox medical practitioner who had had experience in herbal medicine. He and a few others were sent to China by then President Kwame Nkrumah to learn from the Chinese experience. In 1971, Dr. Oku Ampofo and a team from the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences together with the Ghana psychic and Traditional Healers Association proposed to the Government of Ghana suggesting the establishment of a national Center to facilitate and coordinate all research work on Ghanaian medicinal plants. This resulted in the building of the present facility at Mampong Akwapim under NRC Decree 344. It is the first and the only one of its kind in Africa. The mission of the Center is to promote and explore plant medicine through science. The Center’s research efforts couldn’t have succeeded without the profound knowledge of herbal or plant medicine by traditional practitioners. Most of the research at the Center is informed by the expertise of traditional practitioners.
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