The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s (CSIR)-Technical Development and Transfer Centre, has organised a training programme on the Ghana Herbal Pharmacopoeia (GHP), for Traditional Herbal Practitioners from across the country.
The document, is a compilation of scientific information on selected medicinal herbs in Ghana, and serves as a useful informational guide on the medical uses of herbs, the clinical constituents of their active ingredients, as well as the illustrations of plants, among other features.
The GHP, which was compiled by the Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (STEPRI) of the CSIR, was first published in 1992 with 50 Monographs (researched herbal plants), was updated in 2007.
The third edition was launched in 2015, with an additional six monographs, which has increased the number to 56.
Dr George Osei Essegbey, the Director of CSIR-STEPRI, at the opening ceremony in Accra, underscored the importance of herbal medicine as an ancient medical system that provided the world’s population with safe, effective and affordable medicine for centuries.
He said historical records showed that humans had used plants as medicine for at least some 60,000 years and at present the populations of developing countries continued to rely heavily on plant medicine for their healthcare needs.
“A herbal pharmacopoeia presents a nation’s documented, authentic herbal tradition and the GHP is no exception,” he said.
He explained that the GHP was developed in collaboration with all the relevant stakeholders, including scientists, researchers, institutions and practitioners, with the rationale of preserving traditional knowledge and use of medicinal plants, which otherwise were not previously documented but transferred orally.
The oral tuition, he said, had leading to the distortion in the skills and knowledge by some practitioners over the years.
He said such knowledge and skills could easily be forgotten due to the dynamic nature and complexity of “our culture”, and, therefore, needed to be documented to forestall its loss.
Dr Essegbey said over the years, the pharmacopoeia had served as a reference for medicinal plant, identification, preparation and use and the third edition of the GHP, contained available technical information on all the commonly used Ghanaian medicinal plants, for which definable quality standards existed.
Thus it had since its publication, contributed immensely to dispelling the erroneous impression that medicinal plants in Ghana had not been subjected to scientific investigations, he explained.
He encouraged all traditional herbal practitioners to patronise the document and use them in their practice.
He also urged them to collaborate with the CSIR-STEPRI in its pilot project, where High Rate Low Temperature (HRLT) Extraction Technology was used in research to ascertain efficacy, safety and quality of herbal products.
Dr Essegbey recommended that the book be made part of the reference books to be kept in hospitals and clinics where traditional medicines were used as well as traditional medicine sales outlets and manufacturing units.
Dr Francis Boateng Agyenim, the Director of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s Institute of Industrial Research, said preserving the intellectual property of individual traditional herbal practitioners was key to the Council.
He, therefore, gave the assurance that no knowledge would be stolen from anyone, but rather the Centre would scientifically improve upon what existed through research and accord the necessary credit to those who owned the rights.
Mr Kojo Odum Eduful, the President of the Ghana Federation of Traditional Medicine Practitioners (GHAFTRAM), thanked the CSIR and its related Institutes for the immense support in enhancing traditional herbal practice and the use of their medicines alongside that of the orthodox ones for the treatment of all manner of ailments.
He, however, complained that some of its members were facing challenges with the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) with regard to the approval of some herbal products for the treatment of lifestyle illnesses, such as diabetes, because they had no scientific backing.
He appealed to the CSIR to intervene in the situation by enhancing its collaboration with the FDA and also including practitioners in such discussions, while speeding efforts to research into some of these products to be included in the fourth edition of the GHP.