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J Altern Complement Med. 2006 Jul-Aug;12(6):555-61.

Use of herbal/natural supplements according to racial/ethnic group.

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  • 1Slone Epidemiology Center, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA.



The aim of this paper was to determine similarities and differences in the use of herbal/natural supplements among various racial/ethnic groups.


A random-digit dial (RDD) telephone survey of medication use during the week before the interview was used.


Households in the 48 contiguous United States comprised our study.


One (1) subject was selected by a random procedure from each contacted household, including interviews conducted from 1998 through September 2004. There were 13,436 subjects at least 18 years of age, including 10,372 non-Hispanic whites, 1174 African Americans, 1109 Hispanics, 335 Asian/Pacific Islanders, and 446 others.


Use of any herbal/natural product during the prior week served as outcome measures. Prevalence of use was weighted according to household size; for comparisons among the three largest groups, estimates were also adjusted for age, gender, and education.


The overall prevalence was lowest in African Americans (9.5%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 7.8%-11%), intermediate in Hispanics (12%; 10%-14%), and highest in non-Hispanic whites (19%; 18%-20%). Use was higher among women and generally higher for subjects 45-64 years of age, regardless of race/ethnicity; use increased with increasing years of education. The most commonly taken individual herbal/natural substances were similar among the groups. Hispanics used the largest number of products. Distribution of product type differed somewhat, with Hispanics taking more monopreparations and herbal mixtures than the other groups, and herbal mixture use particularly uncommon among African Americans. Use between 1998 and 2004 increased slightly for non-Hispanic whites, increased then declined for African Americans, and did not change for Hispanics.


Based on nationally representative U.S. data, these results provide a comparative picture of contemporary use of herbal/natural supplements in the largest racial/ethnic groups in the United States. The prevalence of use was lowest among African Americans, with a possible decline in recent years, whereas Hispanics take the greatest number of products.

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