In 1985, during the war, the Ministry of Health started a project to revitalize popular and traditional medicine, as a strategy in the search for self-sufficiency in response to the difficult situation in this country. As the majority of supplies of chemical and pharmaceutical materials had to be imported at high prices, a search for alternative therapies was started.
In April 1989, the Ministry of Health established a National Centre of Popular and Traditional Medicine with the following objectives:
- to organize investigations on popular and traditional medicine;
- to train health promoters and medical and paramedical persons in these fields;
- to promote the cultivation and commercialization of medicinal herbs.
Considerable work was done in agrotechnological research, cultivation, and use of appropriate technology. All products have been subjected to quality control, and the products have been distributed through a national network of popular pharmacies for medicinal plants, which offers them to the public at very low prices.
The Centre forms a part of the National Commission for Essential Investigation, along with the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua, and other institutions under the leadership of the Minister of Health.
In 1991, the integration of popular and traditional medicine into Nicaragua's local health systems began by training nurses, and developing courses in basic plant therapy and health anthropology in the nursing schools. After the change of government in the same year, the National Centre for Popular and Traditional Medicine became a non-profit foundation, independent from the Ministry of Health, with the following objectives:
- to recover, preserve, and develop the resources, techniques and procedures of popular and traditional medicine;
- to ensure the application of technical resources and knowledge acquired by investigation and interchange of information on popular and traditional medicine;
- to design and implement a national programme for the promotion of the use of medicinal plants and the prevention and cure of illnesses; and
- to create a network for distribution and commercialization of medicinal plants and their derivatives through popular, private, and state pharmacies.
The Ministry of Health has included herbal products in the basic list of medicines to be made available through community pharmacies in the local health systems. This is considered to be a significant step towards the integration of traditional medicines into the national health care system of Nicaragua .