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Psychosomatics. 2006 Sep-Oct;47(5):408-13.

Ethnicity and use of alternative products in psychiatric patients.

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Sun Valley Behavioral Medical Center, 300 S. Imperial Ave., Suite 9, El Centro, CA 92243, USA.


The use of herbal and natural products for medical purposes is common in all human civilizations, and use in Western societies has grown considerably in recent years. However, differences in usage patterns between different ethnic groups are yet to be delineated. The current study examined the frequency and type of complementary/alternative medications used by a sample of 453 rural psychiatric outpatients of two different ethnic groups. The products were classified as "natural" (herbal products requiring some preparation before consumption) and "processed" (products in "ready-to-use" form). There were significant ethnic differences in usage patterns of the various preparations: Hispanics, relative to Caucasians, were twice as likely to use natural products, whereas Caucasians were more likely than Hispanics to use processed products. The symptoms addressed were predominantly psychiatric, with natural products, and nonpsychiatric, with processed products. These results may increase awareness among healthcare providers regarding the usage frequency of such complementary/alternative medications products and the different usage patterns across ethnic groups.

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