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Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 2014 Sep-Oct;59(2):227-33. doi: 10.1016/j.archger.2014.06.002. Epub 2014 Jul 9.

Use of herbal medicines by elderly patients: A systematic review.

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Department of Physiology, Federal University of Sergipe, Aracaju 49100-000, Brazil.
Department of Physiology, Federal University of Sergipe, Aracaju 49100-000, Brazil. Electronic address:



We aimed to survey the published literature for articles that describe the use of herbal supplements by elderly patients and to summarize important aspects of selected studies, including most commonly used supplements, study type, study location, and potential hazards of herbal supplement use.


Literature searches were conducted on three scientific/medical databases: Medline, Web of Science, and Scopus. Search results were examined for articles involving the use of herbal products in the elderly population that met selection criteria.


Initial searches yielded 1297 articles. Of these original results, only 16 met specific selection criteria. Twelve (75%) of studies identified were performed in North America. Nine studies (56.25%) were conducted in the United States. Seven of the studies were cross-sectional (43.8%). The most commonly reported were gingko biloba, garlic, ginseng, aloe vera, chamomile, spearmint, and ginger. Of these, gingko and garlic are the most commonly used among community-dwelling elderly. Both of these supplements have the potential to interact with anticoagulants and produce bruising or bleeding problems.


The use of herbal supplements is common among the elderly, a population that takes a disproportionate share of prescription medications compared to that taken by younger populations. Among the problems uncovered by these studies was a lack of dialog between medical professionals and patients about the use of herbal supplements. Prescribers need to consider the use of herbal supplements and discuss the matter with their elderly patients when making decisions about pharmacological treatments.


Complementary alternative medicine; Elderly; Herbal drug; Medicinal plants; Older people

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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