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PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e58642. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0058642. Epub 2013 Mar 6.

Complementary treatment of the common cold and flu with medicinal plants--results from two samples of pharmacy customers in Estonia.

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Department of Pharmacy, University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia.


The aim of the current survey was to investigate the complementary self-treatment of the common cold and flu with medicinal plants among pharmacy customers in Estonia. A multiple-choice questionnaire listing 10 plants and posing questions on the perceived characteristics of cold and flu, the effectiveness of plants, help-seeking behaviour, self-treatment and sources of information, was distributed to a sample of participants in two medium size pharmacies. The participants were pharmacy customers: 150 in Tallinn (mostly Russian speaking) and 150 in Kuressaare (mostly Estonian speaking). The mean number of plants used by participants was 4.1. Of the respondents, 69% self-treated the common cold and flu and 28% consulted with a general practitioner. In general, medicinal plants were considered effective in the treatment of the above-mentioned illnesses and 56% of the respondents had used exclusively medicinal plants or their combination with OTC medicines and other means of folk medicine for treatment. The use of medicinal plants increased with age and was more frequent among female than male respondents. Among Estonian-speaking customers lime flowers, blackcurrant and camomile were more frequently used, and among Russian speaking customers raspberry and lemon fruits. Regardless of some statistically significant differences in preferred species among different age, education, sex and nationality groups, the general attitude towards medicinal plants for self-treatment of the common cold and flu in Estonia was very favourable.

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