Bailahuén is a traditional medicinal plant widely known and used throughout Chile to treat liver malfunctions. The genus Haplopappus comprises a number of different species, most of which are collected from the wild and either used domestically or sold on local and regional markets. In particular, the species H. baylahuen, H. ramyanus, H. taeda and H. multifolius are collected and used.
The exact number of bailahuén species is unclear, because new species are still being discovered and described. Different bailahuén species tend to be restricted to certain and often rather specific (mountain) habitats and to certain regions within Chile. Some species can also be found in Argentina. Trade usually does not differentiate between the species; all are sold under the trade name (Haplopappus) Baylahuen.
In recent years increasing demand on the Chilean market has built up pressure on many bailahuén populations throughout their native range. They became overexploited and bailahuén disappeared from many areas previously inhabited by the plant. Collecting the plants became more difficult; nevertheless, collectors climb higher and higher and head for remote areas to find bailahuén.
For many years, the demand of the international pharmaceutical market for bailahuén was very low. Trade figures from 1998 and 2000 show that less than 100 kilograms dried raw material were exported from Chile. In 2004, however, a Chilean trader was approached by a European company asking for 5.000 kilograms of bailahuén. This is an alarming development, as bailahuén is an endangered species without being protected by the law, neither in Chile nor internationally, because, as yet, international trade has been insignificant. The University of Talca estimates that the total available volume of bailahuén is less than the demand and that some bailahuén species are threatened with extinction.
In cooperation with the University of Talca, Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, Manfred-Hermsen-Stiftung helped to protect this valuable, endangered medicinal plant. In a first step, the most important populations of the commonly traded species H. baylahuen, H. taeda and H. multifolius were assessed and the trade chain and market of bailahuén analysed. Based on these results, recommendations will be developed how the natural populations of bailahuén can be protected and their collection and trade regulated.