Alban Central America


Background Information

The principal traditional medicine specialists in Guatemala are traditional birth attendants, bonesetters, herbalists, spiritualists, chupadores, massage therapists, and practitioners who specialize in muscle tears. A 1977 order established the Guatemalan Association of Acupuncture. The Association promotes the knowledge and the study of acupuncture and facilitates professional contacts with acupuncturists in other countries. Membership in this association does not license individuals to practice acupuncture.

The University of San Carlos is undertaking research on medicinal plants.


There are approximately three traditional health practitioners per municipality. About 250 traditional health practitioners are registered with the TOTO-Integrado Association.

Regulatory Situation

The laws regulating traditional medicine in Guatemala include Acuerdos de Paz, the Political Constitution, the Health Code, and Regulations for the Quality Control of Herbal Products. The Health Code defines, classifies, and outlines registration and licensing requirements for all medicines. The Regulations for the Quality Control of Herbal Products classifies herbal products and registration procedures for them.

Although there is no official licence to practice traditional medicine, 10% of traditional medicine practitioners have a permit to practice. These permits are issued upon completion of a training course organized by the Public Health Ministry and local health centers. The permits are not available throughout the country. Traditional medicine practitioners without permits may practice within their own communities, but they are rejected by institutions and risk being sued for malpractice. A registry of traditional health practitioners is currently being developed.

The program of the Integral Healthcare System links traditional and allopathic medicine.

Education and Training

Courses in traditional medicine are available through the Public Health Ministry. Additionally, CDRO in Totonicapan, Barefoot Doctors in Chinique, and Quiche Guatemala offer technical studies, seminars, informal presentations, and workshops that include instruction in traditional medicine. Traditional medicine is also learned through apprenticeships, which may include practice, observation, readings, workshops, and videos. How to treat a particular illness is sometimes learned as a result of having suffered from it oneself.

Personnel in the official health services do not receive training in traditional medicine.