Public Health and Primary CareORIGINAL ARTICLE

Herbal Products and Dietary Supplements: A Survey of Use, Attitudes, and Knowledge Among Older Adults

Jacqueline S. Marinac, PharmD; Colleen L. Buchinger, MD; Lincoln A. Godfrey, DO; James M. Wooten, PharmD; Chao Sun, MD, MPH; and Sandra K. Willsie, DO
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Received: November 13, 2003

Accepted: October 14, 2005

Published: January 1, 2007

J Osteopath Med; 107(1): 13-23

Context: Tens of millions of Americans use herbal products and/or dietary supplements, yet scant data are available regarding the purity, safety, or efficacy of these substances. A better understanding of usage trends and patient attitudes toward self-initiated supplementation is vital to obtaining accurate and complete medical history data.

Objectives: To survey Americans aged approximately 60 years and older regarding their use of herbal products and dietary supplements and their attitudes and knowledge regarding the safety of these popular substances.

Methods: A face-to-face, 35-item survey was administered to 267 men and women residing in the Kansas City, Mo–metropolitan area. Researchers documented usage patterns for, attitudes about, and knowledge of herbal products and dietary supplements in this population.

Results: Fifty-six (21%) respondents were currently taking at least one herbal product or dietary supplement, and potential for adverse drug reactions was apparent in 12 (19%). Glucosamine, garlic, Echinacea, and Gingko biloba were the most frequently cited substances used by survey participants. White women with at least some college education were most likely to report taking these products. However, preservation of health was by far the most predictive indicator for use of herbal products and dietary supplements. Subjects were found to be receptive to patient education efforts for these products.

Conclusions: Although substantial misconceptions about herbal products and dietary supplements exist among older Americans, most individuals in this population are interested in receiving additional information about these products. Excellent opportunities exist for expanded patient education—and improved patient care.

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