Alban South America


Background Information

The Mapuche Community Hospital offers traditional and allopathic treatment options. Practicing at the hospital are traditional medical providers, bonesetters, and two allopathic doctors. The hospital is affiliated with Mapuche University. Both the hospital and the university receive financial support from the Ministry of Health.


In Chile, 10% to 12% of the population is indigenous. Seventy-one per cent of the population uses complementary/alternative medicine. There are between 2000 and 10,000 traditional health practitioners in Chile. Principal traditional medical specialties are herbalism, spiritualism, traditional birth attendance, aromatherapy, bach flowers, acupuncture, bonesetting, and chiropractic.

Regulatory Situation

National policies emphasize equal treatment for traditional and allopathic medicine. Homeopathy and the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia are legally recognized. The Public Health Institute recognizes homeopathic remedies. Traditional and complementary/alternative medicine are regulated by Ley 19.253 of October 1993, which takes into consideration their role in public health.

The Ministry of Health oversees the Unit of Traditional Medicine, which also governs complementary/alternative medicine, and the Unit of Indigenous Community Health. The Unit of Traditional Medicine was established in August 1992. Its objectives are to set standards for the safety and efficacy of traditional medicines and to encourage the use of proven traditional medicines, including incorporating them into allopathic health programs. The Unit of Indigenous Community Health develops the primary health care system at the community level.

The Health Ministry issues licences for the practice of traditional medicine, but very few traditional medicine practitioners are licensed. Unlicensed traditional health practitioners risk fines or the closure of their offices. There is no official registry of traditional medicine practitioners.

Education and Training

Mapuche University (118) offers programs in traditional knowledge leading to Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate degrees. Students of these programs may choose to specialize in traditional medicine. The university also cultivates medicinal plants and conducts research on traditional medicine. Most students of traditional medicine learn through apprenticeships with experienced providers. In some cases, these are family members. Some practitioners receive medical insight through personal revelations.

Traditional medical training for official allopathic health personnel is not very extensive and consists of occasional informative events that may or may not be included in official training programs (83).

The Government has recognized homeopathy as a medical system, but there are no officially recognized training programs or examinations. A chiropractic college has been established.