Data from 171 women participating in the New Jersey site of the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN) revealed that the leading complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) forms used were prayer, herbal teas, women’s vitamins, flaxseed, glucosamine, and soy supplements.
“We observed high rates of CAM use and particularly the use of herbal remedies in our midlife cohort of women,” wrote researchers from Albert Einstein College of Medicine (Bronx, NY), University of Colorado School of Medicine and School of Public Health (Aurora), and University of Washington (Seattle) in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (JACM).
“Women in the cohort reported a form of polypharmacy with herbal therapies regardless of the number of prescription medications used, and Hispanic women were less likely to report their use to physicians.”
Commenting on the study’s findings, John Weeks, JACM Editor-in-Chief, said: “The survey is yet another sign of how deeply once 'alternative' choices are permeating daily behavior, and especially in a Hispanic population after early use data led many to portray complementary and alternative medical use as predominantly a phenomenon among a white and privileged class.”
The average age of the women in the study was 62 years old. The data showed that prayer and herbal teas were the most common forms of CAM used (see figure below).
“The high prevalence of overall CAM use by SWAN participants at the New Jersey site may be the result of aggressive marketing of herbals and botanicals as all-natural products and the ease of purchase without a prescription,” wrote the researchers. “Alternatively, the expense of prescription medications may be prohibitive for individuals with limited or no health insurance and thereby drives the use of botanicals and herbal remedies as an affordable alternative.”
“Importantly, we also found that the majority of women indicated that they do not discuss the use of herbal remedies with their doctor and Hispanic women were only half as likely to do so compared with non-Hispanic white women (14% Hispanics vs. 34% non-Hispanic whites),” they added.
“Hispanic women may also not disclose the use of herbal remedies to Western physicians because they perceive that there is a stigma attached to the use of these treatments. Herbal remedies can interfere with the effectiveness and toxicity of prescription drugs; therefore, it is critical that clinical providers appreciate these attitudes within Hispanic populations.”
Source: Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
Volume 23, Issue 10, Pages 805-811. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2017.0080
“Prevalence of Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Herbal Remedy Use in Hispanic and Non-Hispanic White Women: Results from the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation”
Authors: R.R. Green et al.