The importance of herbal medicine use in the German health-care system: Prevalence, usage pattern, and influencing factors

Alexandra N. Welz, Agnes Emberger-Klein, Klaus Menrad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Prevalence rates for herbal medicine (HM) have been increasing worldwide. However, little is known about prevalence, user characteristics, usage pattern and factors influencing HM usage for the general German population. Methods: A nationwide online survey on HM usage was conducted in Germany. The 2906 participants were categorised into three groups: the ones who used HM in the last 12 months, the ones who did not use HM in the last 12 months but in their lifetime, and the ones who did not use HM until now. Data were analysed by descriptive statistics, Chi Square tests and binary hierarchical logistic regression analyses. Results: Prevalence rates of HM were found to be very high for the general German population. Self-medication appeared as a common praxis, when at the same time HM users responded that they do not inform their physician about it, rate their knowledge about HM as somewhat poor, and use the internet as the most frequent source of information. The HM user in the last 12 months was found to include people that were more likely female, highly educated, privately insured, employed, and engaged in a more health-oriented lifestyle. While certain sociodemographic- and health-related variables influence HM usage vs. non-usage, they explain variance only to a limited extent. For distinguishing the user in the last 12 months vs. the less recent user who did not use HM in the last 12 months, ratings on different reasons for HM usage were found to perform better as predictors than sociodemographic- and health-related variables. Conclusions: This study demonstrated that HM usage plays an essential role in the German health-care system. Furthermore, the HM usage pattern may be potentially harmful for patients, as it included self-medication, little knowledge on interaction- and side-effects of HM, and a lack of communication with physicians about the usage. Moreover, prediction of HM usage in the previous year is impacted by variables beyond conventional sociodemographic- and health-related ones. In view of the high prevalence rates of HM in Germany, medical as well as health service providers should be aware of these issues.

Original languageEnglish
Article number952
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Volume19
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 10 Dec 2019

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