Mark Tekyi Manu is a 43-year-old plumber in Accra who has been using herbal medicines to protect himself and his family from contracting the Covid-19 virus. World Health Organisation estimates that about 70 percent of Ghanaians depend on herbal medicine for the treatment of various ailments. The WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy (2014-2023) sets out guidelines on how these medicines can be used to complement conventional medicine in the health care systems. The efficacy of some of these herbal remedies is the subject of research at many research institutes on the continent. The Ghana Health Act recognizes the role of traditional and alternative medicine in universal health care.
Ministry of Health developed guidelines for the use of herbal medicines in the treatment of Covid-19. Ghana is yet to send a formal request for the Madagascar remedy for testing by the Ghana FDA. The WHO, the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the African Union Commission for Social Affairs endorsed the guidelines last September. None of the proposed remedies has progressed beyond phase 11 clinical trials.
Ghana reported its first Covid-19 case on March 12, 2020. The Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research based at the University of Ghana has been the foremost institution in the research of various herbal medicines. The Director of the Institute, Professor Abraham Anang said Ghana is currently working on developing herbal remedies for the virus. The Centre for Plant Medicine Research (CPMR) has also been involved in researching herbal medicines for the treatment of the virus and boosting the immune system. The center has been inundated by people from all walks of life who present herbal products which they want to be tested as they believe they are a ‘cure’
As of November 2020, the Centre was analyzing 100 herbal products from various applicants. Out of the number, 33 were from the Ghana Federation of Traditional Medicine Practitioners Associations. GHAFTRAM is the umbrella body of all traditional medicine practitioners, associations, and practice groups.
Nine products out of 33 submitted by the GHAFTRAM have passed evaluation tests. The products were recommended for use as supportive treatment of symptoms of Covid-19. None of the remedies has been proven to be efficacious against the virus, says the General Secretary, Nana Kwadwo Obiri. The FDA has registered COA FS as a dietary supplement to support the immune system to fight a variety of diseases. The Amen Fevermix Capsules and the Amen Chestico capsules have been registered as having properties for the treatment of Malarial fever and general bodily pains.
GHAFTRAM represents about 25, 000 herbal medicine practitioners in Ghana. They have specialties in managing and treating various acute and chronic disease conditions. The Federation is working on getting approval for the nine products that have been recommended by CSRPM to be put on the market. They are also advocating the setting up of a traditional medicine development fund to support and encourage research to discover treatments for grey areas in medicine. Mr. Obiri says a lot of impediments have been put in the way of Traditional Medicine Practitioners making it difficult for them to find a solution to Covid-19.
Researchers at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology have received approval to commence clinical trials of a potential herbal treatment for Covid-19. The approval is for the herb Cryptolepis Sanguinolenta, a scrambling thing-stemmed shrub that has been used in the treatment of malaria, diarrhea, and respiratory conditions. However, Ghanaians will have to wait as the government has yet to allocate the necessary resources to conduct clinical trials.