The Use of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine Among Vietnamese Immigrants Attending an Urban Community Health Center 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 | Health Services Administration | Integrative Medicine | Therapeutics


OBJECTIVES: Little is known about Traditional Vietnamese Medicine (TVM) and its use among Vietnamese immigrants in the United States. This study aimed to characterize TVM and improve understanding of its use among Vietnamese outpatients attending an urban clinic.

METHODS: This cross-sectional observation study was performed by mailing bilingual surveys to a stratified random sample of 400 Vietnamese adult patients ( > /=18 years of age) who had visited a community health center in Boston, Massachusetts, at least once in the prior 12 months. The data were analyzed by using descriptive and multivariable regression statistics. The use of TVM and the factors influencing their use were reported.

RESULTS: Among the 216 respondents, 68% reported using TVM. Of those users, the median age was 56 years and 68% were female, 51% had lived in the United States for less than 13 years, and 91% spoke English "not well or not at all." Among the 89% who reported using TVM of indigenous origin, 62% used "wind scraping," 35% used herbal pills/products, and 30% used "wind snatching." Sixty-one percent used therapies of foreign origin; of those, 51% used Asian-originated TVM (herbs, 25%; Eastern massage, 23%) and 38% used Western-influenced TVM (diet supplements, 28%; Western massage, 8%). TVM was mostly used for pain conditions (57%), "staying well" (38%), and cough/colds (27%). Forty-five percent ignored the question on revealing TVM use to providers; of those who answered, 57% said "no." Fifty-one percent of TVM users reported using Western medicine for the same problem, while 46% used TVM and Western medicine within 2 days of each other. Self-rated health (odds ratio [OR], 2.61; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.34-5.06), household size (OR, 2.09; 95% CI, 1.04-4.22), and education (OR, 2.65; 95% CI, 1.03-6.80) were associated with TVM use.

CONCLUSION: TVM is an important component of the healthcare of urban Vietnamese and needs to be further investigated. Healthcare providers need to encourage open discussion to better care for this population.

DOI of Published Version



J Altern Complement Med. 2016 Feb;22(2):145-53. doi: 10.1089/acm.2014.0209. Epub 2015 Dec 2. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.)


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