Chile integrates medicinal herbs into its health system

103 vegetable species are included in a publication by the Health Ministry to promote the benefits of natural health.


Chile’s native peoples have historically used lemon verbena for digestive problems. This knowledge was passed on to campesinos, who inherited this tradition that has lasted through today. Today it is common for people to ask for an herbal tea after a meal. In order to take maximum advantage of this wisdom, the Health Ministry (Minsal) has added no fewer than 103 Chilean medicinal plants to the National Medication Policy.

The species are organized alphabetically, from birch (abedul), which has diuretic and disinfectant properties, to sarsaparilla (zarzaparrilla), which is good for hemorrhages, and presented in a guide that is available on the Minsal website. Thus, users will be able to obtain useful information on a wide variety of medicinal plants: a complete description with pictures of each species, listing their properties, treatments and counter-indications.

The guide to Traditional Herbal Medicines (MTH) was drafted by professionals who based themselves on scientific reports and worked side-by-side with the Association of Herb Vendors at the Santiago Market, who chose the plants according to the 103 natural products in highest demand by Chileans.

In this way, the Chilean health system incorporates natural medicine to complement traditional western treatments. This initiative accompanies the strategies proposed by the World Health Organization (WHO), which recommends integrating native and popular wisdom into public health, in addition to regulating it and facilitating access to the population. In fact, within six months the herbs included in the guide will have to be labeled to be sold.

Helia Molina, chief of the Minsal Healthy Public Policies and Promotion Division, explained that “the label must clearly detail the contents and advise if any of the herbs might have counter-indications when used by people suffering certain illnesses. “These actions make the herb vendors feel supported, because it guarantees that they sell quality products,” she said.

But not just Chileans take advantage of the benefits of medicinal plants, as the country exports close to US$ 26 million in such products, among which rosehip, oregano, quillay, St. John’s Worth and parsley stand out. “In our efforts to turn Chile into a food powerhouse we must strengthen all sectors that allow us to create new opportunities for farmers and medicinal herbs have a high added value, since consumers around the world are looking for healthy foods with properties that benefit their health,” Agriculture Minister Marigen Hornkohl highlighted.

Another industry that has carved a niche out for itself in the Chilean agriculture sector is flower growing. This new industry has achieved significant potential and innovations in the country thanks to public and private efforts.