Over many decades ago, it was almost impossible to even imagine the progress that we have seen today in medicine.
Also, simple rules of hygiene such as washing hands before going to the delivery room, the concept that contaminated water may be responsible for the spread of several infectious diseases as was prognosed, and the importance of antisepsis were not realized.
Evolution has occurred in medicine mostly over the last couple of centuries, and has had tremendous effect on life expectancy, and on the role of the Physician. Now medicine has so evolved in Africa such that amidst the use of modern medicine, there is a branch of medicine constantly on the risk and surging its way upwards into the high ranks of modern medicine. I'm speaking of herbal medicine.
What's modern medicine?
Conventional modern medicine is sometimes called allopathic medicine. It involves the usage of drugs or surgery, often supported by counseling and lifestyle measures. Most modern medicine are improvements made on traditional medicine and its practices. Technology has also played a significant role in establishment and centralization of modern medicine.
Modern medicine was formed around successes in fighting infectious disease,” says Elizabeth Blackburn, a biologist at the University of California at San Francisco and a Nobel laureate. “Infectious agents were the big sources of disease and mortality, up until the last century. We could find out what the agent was in a sick patient and attack the agent medically.”
The medical infrastructure present today was designed with these infectious agents in mind. Physician training and practices, hospitals, the pharmaceutical industry, and health insurance were all modelled around tests on incapacitated patients to determine which surgical procedure or drug would be more appropriate with some discrete agent. The system works very well for that original purpose, against even the most challenging of these agents—as even the AIDS virus was tamed. Modern medicine has so advanced since its inception that it can now be categorized under several other branches such as pharmacology, genetics, epidemiology, nutrition, neuroscience, etc.
Traditional medicines have been around for millennia. They are the most obsolete and miscellaneous forms of healing that form the foundation of medical systems in many regions of the world. Every continent has its version of traditional medicine, but two of the most widely used in the modern world are perhaps the Chinese and African remedies.
About 70 percent of Ghanaians rely on herbal medicine, and due to its accessibility, availability, affordability, cultural acceptance as well as spiritual, religious and sociological values, it is a preferred option for many people over conventional therapy(modern medicine).
The World Health Organization estimates that 80% of the world’s population use some type of herbal medicine, and studies show that herbal preparations are effective at treating allergies, chronic fatigue, and premenstrual syndrome, amongst other health maladies.
Advantages of Modern medicine
Modern medicine is advancing very quickly and due to its worldwide use, it has been adopted in developed and developing countries. Also, due to modern medicine, the death rate from heart disease has rapidly decreased, almost by 60% since 1970.
Secondly, modern medicine has cured many more diseases. It encompasses many other medical practices such as surgery, pharmacy, biomedical research, etc. Owing to that, many diseases fall under its umbrella and thus have been cured through the usage of modern or conventional medicine application. A few diseases which may pose a high risk are cancerous diseases and other diseases which have proven to have no cure yet their effects and rapid destruction rate has been somewhat alleviated to a particular degree.
With modern medicine, we can now treat diseases and illness with more ease. Traditional medicine involved herbs and plants which were not always effective since people still died of simple illnesses such as chickenpox or even the common cold.
Advantages of Herbal(traditional) Medicine
They are affordable and accessible for local communities – making them a vital part of well-being and the belief systems in these parts of the world. The healers usually use plants and natural elements to treat a wide variety of ailments and diseases.
A healthy person is said to be physically well, mentally stable and emotionally sound. Thus, these practices(traditional practices) have been accepted and interwoven into the cultural beliefs of the societies that use them. They are now considered as holistic methods of healing that include mental, physical and spiritual states. And this has been accepted by WHO, who have collected information and data on these methods, in order to create guidelines for their acceptance and promotion in other regions of the world.
Herbal remedies very seldomly have side effects as they are completely natural. Modern medicines and pharmaceutical drugs usually contain long lists of side effects that can sometimes be worse than the condition they are designed to treat. Traditional remedies most often are safe for all patients unless they are allergic to certain plant chemicals.
While they may not cure diseases and heal all chronic conditions, herbal remedies can ease the symptoms of these ailments. They can treat coughs, colds, flu, fevers and sore throats using plant sources.
Here are some of the other benefits of traditional medicines:
1. They are less costly than most conventional medicines.
2. They are rather easy to obtain and don’t require prescriptions and complex preparations.
3. They strengthen the overall immune system.
4. They can stabilize hormones and the metabolism.
5. They can be found in nature, so cost very little to harvest and produce.
A major disadvantage of herbal medicine is that, because of its seemingly ease of production, quacks also partake in making them, and without prescription, they pose a risk to the entire populace at large.
In conclusion, modern medicine and herbal/traditional medicine play a significant role in Ghana and most African countries. It is therefore imperative that researchers and scientists invest more resources and time into exploring more on their use in alleviating diseases, mostly in the rural areas of Africa. Owing to the plethora of plants reserve in Africa, it is believed that through much exploration, the cure and prevention of many diseases, both curable and incurable, is at hand.
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