ACCRA－Twice every month, Miranda Sam, a 66-year-old Ghanaian, visited the China Traditional Herbal Hospital, a private herbal facility at Pokuase, a suburb of the Ghanaian capital, for treatment.
"I was squeezing lemons, and when I finished, I could not get up. I could not even move my legs, so I went to the hospital and did an X-ray examination, but they saw nothing. Meanwhile, I could not walk. I was in a wheelchair," the retired freight-forwarder said.
Sam decided to visit the herbal facility, where a second X-ray revealed that she was suffering from lumbar vertebrae spondylosis, a type of arthritis that affects the spine.
"I came to the clinic a month ago with a stagger like a toddler. They started treating me, and on two occasions, I had to do acupuncture, and I have found great relief. Now I walk unaided, so I keep coming for physiotherapy," she said.
Down the lobby was Adwoa Foriwaa, 60, who brought her ailing sister to the facility for treatment.
"This is our second visit in two weeks. My sister has a stroke with her limbs too heavy to move, and she could not speak audibly. But now, she has started walking without support," she said in Twi, the most common local language in Ghana.
In another therapy room were patients, male and female, lying on their beds, receiving acupuncture treatment with several needles piercing parts of their bodies. Others had cups pressed onto their bodies.
As Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is gaining popularity in Ghana, many acupuncture clinics run by Chinese doctors pop up in the country. However, the China Traditional Herbal Hospital was established by 52-year-old Ghanaian business owner Alex Bediako Mensah, after his fruitful encounter with the therapeutic effects of TCM, in 2012.
Mensah came to develop an interest in TCM. With the help of a Chinese lady, Bediako set up a small clinic specializing in TCM. Years on, the facility has subsequently grown into a bigger herbal hospital.
The hospital treats patients with a combination of local and Chinese herbal formulas. It supports this with the application of cupping, acupuncture, acupressure, massage, and physiotherapy.
Among others, it successfully treats cardiovascular diseases, strokes, malaria, numbness, arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, female reproductive health issues, ulcers, and osteopathic diseases.
Due to the prevalence of high blood pressure and diabetes, strokes account for 1.3 percent of all hospital admissions in Ghana, and 6.3 percent of all hospital deaths, according to available official national data. But the entrepreneur is confident that as more people with these conditions turn to the natural methods of healing, the pain and death rates would subside.
"A gentleman was brought here three weeks ago, who could not sit, stand, or walk. He was first taken through acupuncture. I observed him on camera 30 minutes later, squatting, standing, and walking. You come here with your pain but will leave with a smile. That is our hallmark," Bediako Mensah said.
"The hospital gets its supply of Chinese medicines from Beijing Clinic in Accra, and the China Great Wall Clinic in the second-largest city of Kumasi. But, sometimes, I travel to China to buy what I need to serve our patients."
The hospital has employed six medical doctors, six nurses, two acupressure persons, and one acupuncturist. There are also three lab technicians, five massage therapists, and two pharmacists, in addition to the auxiliary staff.
They spend between 45 minutes and one hour on each patient, treating an average of 20 patients in a day. The hospital has started a second facility in the city of Ashaiman near the capital, with plans to open other branches across the country to meet the growing demand.
"I can assure you, the interest in Chinese medicine is growing. I brought 4,500 needles from China, but it was exhausted in three weeks," says Seth Dennis Nkrumah, the hospital's acupuncturist, who had been trained in a Chinese university on TCM for almost 10 years.
"Ghanaians should embrace TCM, because, first, it is natural and safe, with no adverse side-effects; second, it is affordable, and patients, both affluent and less-privileged can access it," Nkrumah added.