Ghana, a country located in West Africa, is home to a variety of indigenous plants that are used for medicinal purposes (1). The use of traditional medicines has been a long-standing practice in the country and continues to be an essential part of the healthcare system (2). However, due to the lack of scientific validation and standardization, traditional medicine is often regarded as inferior to modern medicine (3). This essay explores how biotechnology can help unlock the full potential of Ghana’s indigenous plants for medicinal purposes, providing a sustainable solution to the country’s healthcare challenges.

Commonly Used Plants for Medicinal Purposes in Ghana

Ghana is home to over 2000 plant species that are used for medicinal purposes (4). These plants have been used for centuries in traditional medicine to treat various ailments such as malaria, typhoid fever, fever, wounds, other infectious diseases, and hypertension. The most commonly used plants include Artemisia annua, Moringa oleifera, Azadirachta indica, and Vernonia amygdalina. Despite the significant contribution of these plants to the healthcare system, they are often subjected to abuse, overexploitation, and habitat destruction, leading to their extinction (3). Biotechnology can help preserve these plants by providing an alternative source of medicine through bioprospecting, cultivation, and propagation.

Use of Biotechnology to Preserve and Enhance the Medicinal Plants in Ghana

Biotechnology offers a way to preserve and enhance the medicinal properties of plants in Ghana. One approach is through tissue culture, which involves the growth of plant cells or tissues in a laboratory setting (5). This technique can be used to produce large quantities of plants in a short amount of time, making it possible to produce medicinal plants on a commercial scale with limited contamination.

The cultivation and propagation of medicinal plants are essential for their preservation and sustainable use. Biotechnology can provide solutions to the challenges of plant propagation and cultivation (6), such as disease resistance, drought tolerance, and enhanced yield. For example, the use of tissue culture can provide an efficient way to propagate plants without the need for seeds, leading to a more rapid and uniform production of medicinal plants (5).

Biotechnology also offers a way to ensure the quality and safety of traditional plant-based remedies. Many of these remedies are made from plant parts that are difficult to identify or may be adulterated with other substances (3). DNA sequencing and other biotechnological techniques can be used to verify the identity of these plants, ensuring that they are safe and effective for use in medicine.

Bioprospecting is the search for novel compounds in natural sources, such as plants, animals, and microorganisms, that can be used for various applications. Bioprospecting of Ghana’s indigenous plants can provide new leads for drug discovery, leading to the development of novel drugs that can be used to treat various ailments (7). For instance, the plant Artemisia annua is the source of artemisinin, a potent antimalarial drug used worldwide (8). By applying biotechnology, scientists can identify new compounds and optimize their production, leading to more efficient and cost-effective drugs.

Furthermore, biotechnology can also aid in the conservation of endangered medicinal plants in Ghana. Many of these plants are at risk due to habitat loss, overharvesting, and climate change. Biotechnology tools such as cryopreservation and in vitro conservation can help to preserve the genetic diversity of these plants and provide a means for their future reintroduction into the wild (7). Additionally, genetic engineering can be used to introduce desirable traits into plants, such as increased resistance to pests and diseases.

One of the challenges facing traditional medicine is the lack of standardization and quality control, which leads to the use of ineffective and potentially harmful remedies (2). Despite the potential of biotechnology in Ghana’s medicinal plant industry, several challenges must be addressed. One of the main challenges is the lack of funding and infrastructure for biotechnology research and development in Ghana. Another challenge is the need to educate traditional healers and the general public about the benefits of biotechnology in preserving and enhancing the medicinal properties of plants.

However, there are also many opportunities for biotechnology in Ghana. The country has a wealth of biodiversity, with many plant species that have not been fully explored for their medicinal properties. Biotechnology offers a way to unlock the potential of these plants, providing new treatments for diseases and opportunities for economic growth in the country.

Despite the potential benefits of biotechnology in the field of medicinal plants in Ghana, some concerns need to be addressed. One such concern is the potential for biopiracy, where foreign entities could exploit Ghana’s biodiversity and traditional knowledge for their benefit. There must be strong regulatory frameworks and ethical guidelines in place to protect Ghana’s biodiversity and ensure that the benefits of biotechnology are shared fairly.


In conclusion, biotechnology has the potential to revolutionize the field of medicinal plants in Ghana by improving the quality and availability of traditional medicines, increasing the yield of active compounds, and aiding in conservation efforts. However, this technology must be used ethically and in a manner, that benefits the people and biodiversity of Ghana. The development of strong regulatory frameworks, capacity building, and public awareness is crucial in realizing the full potential of biotechnology in Ghana’s medicinal plant sector.

Contributing Authors

Authors: Yahaya Sumara Sulley1, Lydia Quansah1,2 Shamsiyatu Murtala2 & Sena Abla Zonu2

Department of Forensic Sciences, Faculty of Biosciences, University for Development Studies, Tamale – Ghana

Department of Biotechnology, Faculty of Biosciences, University for Development Studies, Tamale – Ghana


Special thanks are due to “The Biotechnology Research Interest Group 2022” of the University for Development Studies (UDS) Department of Biotechnology class of 2021 for their contribution towards the preparation of this article.


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