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Herbal Medicines – Who cares?

18 November 2019

Funder

Self-funded MSc project (MSc in Medicinal Natural Products)

Team

Rebecca Lazarou (MSc) and Professor Michael Heinrich, with logistical support from the Eden Project (Cornwall)

Project (PO3): Objective Output Outcome

Currently little is known about the importance and role of herbal medicines in British healthcare practice and popular views about such products. The aims of Rebecca Lazarou and Michael Heinrich was to gain insight into the public’s perception of herbal medicine, general use of herbs for health, including the growing plants for medicine (Phytother. Res. 2019; 10.1002/ptr.6431).

A survey covering peoples’ views in the UK about herbal medicines was conducted. Survey responses were categorised and analysed. Herbal medicines are popular, particularly amongst the 36-55 year old age group. When answers of the group regarding “what if anything attracts you to herbal remedies” were analysed, 68% indicated that it is because plants are “effective” (N=74). Other popular reasons for use included that plant medicines are natural and have fewer side effects. Herbal medicines are particularly popular for minor self-limiting conditions like improving sleep or respiratory conditions. Around a third of people grew their own plants for health care which include mint, lemon balm and rosemary.

Based on other research of the group, clearly participants were hesitant to inform health care professionals like pharmacists or MDs about the use of such medical preparations (Bhamra, et al., 2017  Phytotherapy Research 31: 1786-1794 -DOI: 10.1002/ptr.5911).

This is the first larger UK-based survey indicating a wide use of such products, which calls for increased quality control and wider regulation. Access to high quality products needs to be prioritised.  The research highlights the importance of such products in daily healthcare and also calls for better training of healthcare professional. There is a need to expand this study into a larger sample and also to start comparative research in other countries, where herbal medicines are commonly used.

Contact:

Michael Heinrich (m.heinrich@ucl.ac.uk) or Rebecca Lazarou (rebecca.lazarou.17@alumni.ucl.ac.uk)