The use of medicinal herbs in Nepal's traditional medical system dates back to at least 500 AD. In Nepal, traditional medicine, although low profile, has been an integral part of the national health system. Parallel to the allopathic system, traditional medicine is encouraged in all spheres because of its efficacy, availability, safety, and affordability when compared to allopathic drugs (196).
Ayurvedic medicine is widely practised in Nepal. It is the national medical system. More than 75% of the population use traditional medicine, mainly that based on the ayurvedic system. There are 141 ayurvedic dispensaries, 14 zonal dispensaries, 15 district ayurvedic health centres, and two ayurvedic hospitals. One of these hospitals is centrally located in Naradevi, Kathmandu, and the other is regionally located in Dang. They have 50 and 15 beds, respectively.
There are 623 institutionally qualified practitioners of traditional medicine and about 4000 traditionally trained practitioners. Homeopathy has been recently introduced into Nepal (53).
The policy of the Government (197), based on five-year plans, involves a system of integrated health services in which both allopathic and ayurvedic medicine are practised. Ayurvedic clinics are considered to be part of the basic health services, and there is a section responsible for ayurvedic medicine in the Office of the Director General of Health Services. The programmes for health services included in the Fifth Five-Year Plan make provision for four ayurvedic hospitals, one in each of the four development regions. The Ayurvedic Governmental Pharmaceutical Unit works to provide inexpensive medicaments.
The Ayurvedic Medical Council was created through legislation passed in 1988 (198). Section 2.1 of this Act gives the Council's mandate as, among other things, steering the ayurvedic medical system efficiently and registering suitably qualified physicians to practise ayurvedic medicine. In Section 4, the legislation sets out highly detailed provisions for registration that classify applicant practitioners into four groups according to their qualifications and experience in ayurvedic science. By Section 5.2.2, membership in a particular group fixes the range of ayurvedic medicines that a practitioner is permitted to prescribe. Registered practitioners enjoy a monopoly over the practice of ayurvedic medicine: direct or indirect practice of ayurvedic medicine by other medical practitioners is forbidden by Section 5.1.1. Section 5 of the Act enables registered ayurvedic practitioners to issue birth and death certificates as well as certificates concerning the ayurvedic medical system and patients' physical and mental fitness.
Education and training
Formal education in the ayurvedic system is under the supervision of the Institute of Medicine of Tribhuvon University (197). The Auxiliary Ayurveda Worker training programme is run from the Department of Ayurveda under the Council for Technical Training and Vocational Education (199).