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A qualitative study looks at various reasons people use herbal medicine


Herbal medicine (HM) is growing in popularity around the world. A German qualitative study published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine investigated people’s attitudes toward HM.

  • The researchers decided to conduct a qualitative study by way of six focused groups composed of 46 participants in total. The participants were divided into three groups: 18 to 35 years old (young), 36 to 59 years old (middle-aged), and 60 years and above (elderly). Most of the participants were female.
  • The focus group discussions talked about three key topics: the participants’ experience with HM, their reason for using HM, and where they get their information about HM. All discussions were recorded and put through qualitative content analysis.
  • The researchers noted that most participants use HM to treat disease and not to prevent any future disease. None of those in the two younger groups see HM as a way to promote good health – a small number of those in the elderly group does.
  • The participants reported using HM to treat mild and moderate conditions like the cold and the flu. HM is considered as a starting treatment taken before conventional medicine (CM). It is also something the participants give to their kids. They do recognize its limits though – HM is considered not “so efficient” for serious diseases, during and after surgery, severe pain, and for ensuring fast recovery.
  • When asked why they continue using HM, the most cited answer was dissatisfaction with CM. The participants also mentioned failures with CM, the presence of side effects, and dissatisfaction with doctors. They also mentioned positive past experiences with HM, greater familiarity with herbal treatments, and HM being a tradition passed down their family.
  • Most participants perform their own research regarding HM by reading books and magazines. They also refer back to their family’s traditions regarding herbal treatments. Medicinal experts ranked just third among the top sources of information.

The researchers wrote that while HM was used only for mild to moderate illnesses and with full knowledge of its limits, the participants’ answers indicated the tendency to self-medicate. They emphasized that healthcare professionals should work to address the reasons behind people’s dissatisfaction. Finally, they wrote that a better-designed study should be performed to determine HM users’ goals, reasons for choosing herbs, and where they get their information.

Find the full text of this study at this link.

Discover more herbal remedies that help treat various health conditions at Cures.news.

Journal Reference:

Welz AN, Emberger-Klein A, Menrad K. WHY PEOPLE USE HERBAL MEDICINE: INSIGHTS FROM A FOCUS-GROUP STUDY IN GERMANY. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2018;18(92). DOI: 10.1186/s12906-018-2160-6



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