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Ann Pharmacother. 2005 Apr;39(4):643-8. Epub 2005 Mar 1.

Herbal use among US elderly: 2002 National Health Interview Survey.

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  • 1Pharmacy Practice Resident, The Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH, USA.



Use of herbal products among the elderly is an important concern for healthcare professionals. The presence of polypharmacy and multiple comorbidities places the elderly at high risk for herb-drug and herb-disease interactions. Limited data exist regarding herbal use among the US elderly population.


To evaluate the incidence of and attitudes toward herbal use in a nationally representative sample of US elderly patients >/=65 years of age.


We performed a descriptive analysis of public domain data collected in the 2002 National Health Interview Survey. Statistical analyses were conducted through use of SUDAAN software with Taylor series linearization for variance estimation.


Analysis of weighted data revealed that 12.9% +/- 0.5% (mean +/- SE) of US elderly people had used an herbal supplement within the past 12 months. Use was greatest among individuals 65-69 years of age, females, Hispanic and non-Hispanic ethnic minorities, and respondents with a greater income, higher education level, or more positive self-reported health status. Among elderly people purchasing over-the-counter and prescription drugs, herbal use was 13.9% +/- 0.6% and 12.8% +/- 0.6%, respectively. Glucosamine, echinacea, and garlic supplements represented the most common herbals used. Benefit from combined herbal and conventional therapy was the most common reason cited for use; however, 50.9% +/- 2.2% of users did not discuss herbal therapy with a medical professional. Several theoretical herb-disease interactions were identified.


The use of herbal products among the US elderly has risen over the past 5 years, whereas discussion of such use with medical professionals remains suboptimal.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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