Herb use among health care professionals enrolled in an online curriculum on herbs and dietary supplements

Paula Gardiner, University of Massachusetts Medical School
Anna Legedza, Harvard Medical School
Charles Woods, Wake Forest University
Russell S. Phillips, Harvard Medical School
Kathi J. Kemper, Wake Forest University

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


BACKGROUND: Although many adults in the United States use herbs, little is known about the personal use of herbs by health care professionals (HCPs) and factors associated with use.

METHODS: We performed a cross-sectional study of HCPs prior to their enrollment in an online course about herbs and dietary supplements between September 2004 and May 2005. We used multivariable logistic regression to analyze demographic and practice factors associated with herb use.

RESULTS: Of the 1249 health care professionals surveyed, 51% reported using an herb in the last week. The rates of use were highest among physician assistants or nurse practitioners (PA or NP) (63%), clinical nurses (59%), and HCP students (52%), while physicians (48%), dietitians (40%), and pharmacists (37%) had lower rates. Among health care professionals who reported herb use, the most common herbs taken were green tea (24%), flax seed (18%), chamomile (11%), and aloe vera (8%). Factors associated with herb use included older age, being a nurse, a HCP student, an NP or PA compared with being a physician, being non-Caucasian, living outside of North Carolina and having increased knowledge of herbs and dietary supplements.