Alban Africa


Background Information

Traditional medicine in Ethiopia includes medicinal preparations from plant, animal, and mineral substances, as well as spiritual healing, traditional midwifery, hydrotherapy, massage, cupping, counter-irritation, surgery, and bone setting. Traditional medical practices and remedies are recorded in oral tradition and in early medico-religious manuscripts and traditional pharmacopoeias, which, according to the estimates of some historians, date back to the 15th century AD.

Traditional medicine is largely practiced by traditional medicine practitioners, although, particularly for certain common health problems, it is also practiced at home by the elderly and by mothers.

The Ethiopian Traditional Healers Association was organized to review the qualifications of practitioners where no regulations exist.


Over 80% of the Ethiopian population rely on traditional medicine. This represents the majority of the rural population and sectors of the urban population where there is little or no access to allopathic health care.

In 1986, over 6000 practitioners of traditional medicine were registered with the Ethiopian Ministry of Health.

Regulatory Situation

Proclamation 100 of 1948, Penal Code 512/1957, and Civil Code 8/1987 all state conditions for the practice of traditional medicine and the importance of the development and use of traditional remedies. The 1974 change of government in Ethiopia was followed by official attention to the promotion and development of traditional medicine, particularly after the adoption of the Primary Health Care Strategy in 1978. In November 1979, the Office for the Coordination of Traditional Medicine, which is now a full-fledged department directly under the Vice-Minister of Health, was established to organize, train, and register traditional medicine practitioners, and to identify, describe, and register those traditional medicines with actual or potential efficacy. The Ministry of Health also incorporated traditional medicine into the National Ten-Year Perspective Plan 1984-1994, which called for the organization, training, and supervised use of traditional medicine practitioners in strengthening and expanding primary health care services.

The Health Policy and the Drug Policy of 1993 both emphasize the need to develop the beneficial aspects of traditional medicine through research and through its use in the official health delivery services. Proclamation 1999 was issued based on the National Drug Policy. In Article 6, Sub-Article 8 of the Proclamation, it is stated that the Drug Administration and Control Authority shall prepare standards of safety, efficacy, and quality of traditional medicines and shall evaluate laboratory and clinical studies in order to ensure that these standards are met. The Authority shall also issue licences for the use of traditional medicines in the official health services.

Education and Training

No officially recognized education is provided in traditional or complementary/alternative medicine.

Insurance Coverage

There is no national health care insurance or private insurance covering traditional medicine.