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Int J Adolesc Med Health. 2008 Jan-Mar;20(1):41-51.

Folk and traditional medicine use by a subset of Hispanic adolescents.

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Section of Adolescent Medicine, University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston, Texas 77030, United States of America.


Rates of Folk and Traditional Medicine (FTM) use are high among Hispanic adults. No data have been published on FTM use among the rapidly growing Hispanic adolescent population.


To determine the prevalence of and personal factors associated with FTM use among Mexican-American adolescents.


182 Mexican-American adolescents (14-19 years) from community-based organizations.


We conducted a cross-sectional survey using a self-report instrument available in English and Spanish.


In the past year, 49 (26.9%) subjects reported FTM use, all prompted by illness: 43 (23.6%) used herbal remedies, and 8 (4.4%) used traditional healers. Five subjects reported using dangerous herbs. Among herbal users, 56.3% did not disclose FTM use to medical providers, largely due to the providers' lack of inquiry. Logistic regression comparing herbal users with non-FTM users found subjects dissatisfied with their most recent medical visit (AOR = 10.6; 95% CI = 2.8-40.7) and subjects endorsing family FTM use (AOR = 8.4; 95% CI = 4.0-30.2) were more likely to use herbal remedies. Acculturation, insurance status, socioeconomic status, and having a personal healthcare provider were not related to herbal use.


The use of practitioner-based FTM modalities was rare among this convenience sample of Mexican-American adolescents. Self-treatment with herbal use was common; harmful herbs were used infrequently. Access to care does not appear to motivate herb use. The high rates of herb use by dissatisfied patients, paired with high rates of non-disclosure and lack of provider inquiry, suggests that efforts to provide more culturally sensitive care, including routine inquiry about FTM use in Mexican-American adolescents, are needed. Patterns of complimentary and alternative medicine (CAM)/FTM use vary between age and ethnic cohorts.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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