Indigenous Medical Plants: Of what Value to Primary Health Care in Rural Ghana?


Ghana was colonised in 1482 when Europeans, accompanied by a number of missionaries, arrived at a small coastal town called Edina in the present day Central Region. Colonialism brought with it Western education, religious values, and medical care. The missionaries opened schools, clinics, and hospitals in several parts of the country but these facilities were not available in many remote areas. Before colonisation Ghanaians made medicines from plants to cure sicknesses and diseases. Although the missionaries and the colonisers regarded African medicine as fetish and attempted to annihilate it—Ghanaians—especially those living in areas without hospital facilities, continued to rely on local medicines for curing illnesses. Medicinal plants such as the neem tree, lemon, moringa, ginger etc., are used as concoctions to alleviate the symptoms of malaria, headaches, boils, diabetes, high blood pressure, and stomach pains. When the government recently introduced primary health care, indigenous medicines became a de facto partner in health care delivery, particularly in the rural areas where hospitals and medical facilities are inadequate. This study employed qualitative methods to explore the value of indigenous medicinal plants in the country’s primary health care programme. The study found that indigenous medicine plays an important role in health care delivery because it is accessible and affordable. Even people who visit hospitals still use indigenous medicines side by side with the pharmaceutical drugs offered by medical practitioners.