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Published by Reena Roy

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Published by: Reena Roy on Mar 12, 2013
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By Reena RoyACCRA, Ghana-Vida Slater, 40, spends her days at Timber Market, in the medicine section,surrounded by buffalo hide, snakeskin, dog skulls, dehydrated monkey brains, and bushels of herbs. At her small wooden stand, she moves swiftly with authority, arranging
and rearranging her products in the same methodology she‟s employed for 25 years.
As a
customer describes his wife‟s high fever, incessant vomiting, and joint pain, she simply
nods while quickly grabbing, as if by muscle memory, various leaves and sticks meant tocure malaria. Her mother, sitting nearby, oversees the transactions and gossips with passersby.
For generations, Slater's family has produced many herbalists with aresolute belief in their medicinal practice.
“Some people don‟t believe in herbal healing and it‟s very bad. Before Westernmedicine came about, we had this. It‟s their opinion and in life everyone is entitled towhat he or she believes, but it‟s very wrong. Tradition must always go on,” Slater said asshe fingered a thunderstone, a spiritual rock that „falls from the sky from God‟.
In 2009, 71% of Ghanaians utilized herbal medicine, according to a studyconducted by the Ministry of Health. This can be attributed to roughly half the populationliving without access to modern medicine. Because there are only about 2,000 doctors toserve 24 million people, Ghanaian government and healthcare officials are piloting theimplementation of trained herbalists in hospitals. Their main goal is to preserve andregulate this use of indigenous knowledge by using World Health Organization as thesource for global policies, and China and India as inspiration, both of which have
successfully supervised the administration of herbs.
he use of herbal medicines at our research centers for clinical evaluation has proved to be successful by and large. We expect
it to work,” said Peter Arhin, director of 
traditional and alternative medicine at the Ministry of Health.Slater, despite her adherence to tradition, is not against the integration; she believes
it protects people from the harms of orthodox medicine. “It‟s good if we work 
hand in hand. Western medicine becomes drug abuse. People become addicted, and it
won‟t work anymore, so when that happens, you refer them to an herbalist,” she said.
 Yet many believe the opposite: herbal medicine can be dangerous due to
untrained, unregulated herbalists such as Slater. “We don‟t know the active ingredient,we don‟t know any side effects, or dosages. It makes it difficult for us to prescribe,” said
Obeng Apori, a medical doctor in the public sector.Ivy Deku, 33, a member of a Christian women f 
ellowship group, agreed. “Iwouldn‟t go to a herbal healer, even if she was Christian, because I don‟t kn
ow what is init. If I want to use herbal medicine, I will find out what herbs they use, and cook itmyself. I will go to an herbal hospital, but I will not go to others. Christians who go toherbal healers who use spirituality
are not believers,” she said
while shaking her head atthe thought. Not all herbalists use spirituality, but because the majority do, Deku regardsthem with suspicion.Deku, in the popular manner of most Christians, is against spiritual herbalistswho often utilize sacrificing rituals, summoning of spirits, and various animal or human parts. Though Christians appreciate the medicinal benefits of herbs, they often consider the spiritual methods to be satanic.
“Why should somebody bring a chicken, slaughter it,
throw it into the air, and depending on how it lands tell u your sickness? No Christian
will buy that,” said
. “If we push those healers away and we don‟t control them, weare causing more harm.”
 Although traditional medicine has been around as long as Ghanaians have, saidKodjo Senah, professor of sociology at University of Ghana, colonialism drasticallychanged its reputation.
“Oftentimes many people who go to healers don‟t want to be seen
there. If Christians go there, they want to hide it from their pastor because from
colonialism we‟ve been instructed to believe that traditional healing is demonic,” said
Senah, whose father left Christianity to become an herbalist.
have called our healthcare system a fetish medicine, but that word comes from the Portuguese wordfalsificação meaning fake
The Mampong Centre for Scientific Research into Plant Medicine and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology exist to help dispel these negativeconnotations. The Mampong Centre researches and collects factual data about plantswhile KNUST offers a four-
year bachelor‟s degree in herbal medicine leaving no room
for sketchiness, confusion, or suspicion.
“I prefer herbal medicine. Time is changing; they‟ve improved. They‟ve goneto school,” said Eric Mweya, a businessm
an in mining, while buying diabetes medicine ata small herbal shop that receives more business than the chemists across the dirt road. Ashe examined the various labeled bottles arranged neatly on wooden shelves, Mweya, 43,explained that like the Chinese, Ghana has begun to modernize and govern theadministration of herbal medicine.Some, however, hope to see the aspects of traditional healing that Christians

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