Factors associated with herbal therapy use by adults in the United States

UMMS Affiliation

Center for Integrated Primary Care; Department of Family Medicine and Community Health

Publication Date


Document Type



Alternative and Complementary Medicine | Behavioral Medicine | Health Psychology | Integrative Medicine


OBJECTIVE: To examine the patterns of herbal therapy use among adults in the United States and to describe factors associated with herb use.

DESIGN: We examined the use of natural herbs from the 2002 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). We analyzed factors associated with herb use and reasons for herb use with logistic regression.

RESULTS: Factors associated with herb use include the following: age (45-64 years old), being uninsured, being female, having a higher education, living in the West, using prescription medications or over-the-counter (OTC) medications, and self-identified as "non-Hispanic other." Factors associated with no herb use include being non-Hispanic black and living in the South or Midwest. Seventy-two percent of those who used herbs used prescription medications, and 84% of those who used herbs also used an OTC medication in the prior 12 months. Among adults who used herbs, the most commonly mentioned were echinacea (41%), ginseng (25%), gingko (22%), and garlic (20%). The most frequent conditions for herb use were head or chest cold (30%), musculoskeletal conditions (16%), and stomach or intestinal illness (11%). Among those who used herbs in the prior year, factors associated with using herbs because conventional medical treatments were too expensive included being uninsured, having poor health, and being 25-44 years old.

CONCLUSIONS: Nearly 1 in 5 people in the US population report using an herb for treatment of health conditions and/or health promotion. More than half did not disclose this information to a conventional medical professional.


Altern Ther Health Med. 2007 Mar-Apr;13(2):22-9.

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Alternative therapies in health and medicine


At the time of publication, Paula Gardiner was not yet affiliated with the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID