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‘We are nothing without herbs’: a story of herbal remedies use during pregnancy in rural Ghana

Peprah, Prince, Agyemang-Duah, Williams, Arthur-Holmes, Francis, Budu, Hayford Isaac, Abalo, Emmanuel Mawuli, Okwei, Reforce, Nyonyo, Julius
BMC complementary and alternative medicine 2019 v.19 no.1 pp. 65
Echinacea, Mentha piperita nothosubsp. piperita, adverse effects, alternative medicine, attitudes and opinions, chamomile, education, focus groups, ginger, green tea, health beliefs, herbal medicines, leaves, physicians, pregnancy, pregnant women, prenatal care, raspberries, thyme, Ghana
BACKGROUND: Herbal medicine has become the panacea for many rural pregnant women in Ghana despite the modern western antenatal care which has developed in most parts of the country. To our knowledge, previous studies investigating herbal medicine use have primarily reported general attitudes and perceptions of use, overlooking the standpoint of pregnant women and their attitudes, and utilisation of herbal medicine in Ghana. Knowledge of herbal medicine use among rural pregnant women and the potential side effects of many herbs in pregnancy are therefore limited in the country; this qualitative study attempts to address this gap by exploring the perceptions of herbal medicine usage among pregnant women in rural Ghana. METHODS: A sample of 30, conveniently selected pregnant women, were involved in this study from April 11 to June 22, 2017. Data from three different focus group discussions were thematically analysed and presented based on an a posteriori inductive reduction approach. RESULTS: The main findings were that pregnant women used herbal medicine, most commonly ginger, peppermint, thyme, chamomile, aniseeds, green tea, tealeaf, raspberry, and echinacea leaf consistently throughout the three trimesters of pregnancy. Cultural norms and health beliefs in the form of personal philosophies, desire to manage one’s own health, illness perceptions, and a holistic healing approach were ascribed to the widespread use of herbs. CONCLUSION: We recommend public education and awareness on disclosure of herbal medicine use to medical practitioners among pregnant women.