Sunday, July 02, 2006

A Tincture a Day

Medicinal herbs are quickly becoming a more common tool for promoting health, says a study in the October 2005 issue of Annals of Epidemiology. In response to a large-scale telephone survey, a surprising percentage of people said they use herbs such as ginseng (Panax ginseng), St. John’s wort (genus Hypericum), and echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia, E. pallida, and E. purpurea) to maintain health and prevent illness.

Researchers analyzed data from almost 3,000 responses, and found the following:
  • 20 percent of people said they had used medicinal herbs in the past year. People who were older or more educated were more likely to use medicinal herbs, as were people who had joint pain, consumed alcohol, or were overweight.
  • Of the people who had used medicinal herbs, 34 percent had talked about it with their doctors. Women and people with diabetes or cancer were more likely to have discussed their use of herbal remedies.
  • Of people who had used medicinal herbs, 69 percent said they used them to maintain health, while 25 percent used them to prevent illness and 15 percent to treat illness.
  • Five percent of people with at least one child younger than 18 said they had given herbal medicines to their children in the past year. Parents who were older, who used herbs themselves, or who lacked health coverage at any time during that past year were all more likely to give herbs to their children.

Despite the popularity of medicinal herbs, the researchers caution that people should discuss their use of herbs with their doctors to avoid possible herb–drug interactions and complications with surgery and to understand the sometimes different effect herbs have on children.
—Kristin Bjornsen

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