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Ann Epidemiol. 2005 Oct;15(9):678-85.

Medicinal herb use in a population-based survey of adults: prevalence and frequency of use, reasons for use, and use among their children.

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Nutrition and Health Sciences Program, Graduate Division of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA.



There is sparse population-based data on health factors related to medicinal herb use and use of medicinal herbs in children. For a sample of American adults, we estimated the prevalence and frequency of medicinal herb use, factors related to use, reasons for use, patient-physician discussion, and the proportion of respondents who gave herbs to their children.


The data used in this study was from the 2001 North Carolina Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a population-based telephone survey of English-speaking adults (n = 2982).


Approximately 20% of respondents reported using medicinal herbs in the past year. Of these, 34% reported discussion of herb use with a physician; 69% reported taking herbs to maintain health, 20% to prevent illness, and 11% to treat illness. Of the total sample, 7% reported using herbs everyday and 5% of the respondents reported giving their children herbal medicines in the past year.


Medicinal herb use is common in this population sample. The lack of discussion between users and their physicians highlights the importance of patient-physician communication to avoid possible herb-drug interactions and surgical complications. Herb use appears to be a popular strategy for maintaining health. Children may be vulnerable to herbal toxicity and therefore clinicians need to know about their medicinal herb use and counsel appropriately.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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