Herbal products and conventional medicines used by community-residing older women
There is a risk of interaction between herbal products and conventional medications, therefore, more needs to be known about the use of herbals by older persons. The purpose of this research was to explore the use of herbal products for medicinal purposes and to compare differences in the demographic characteristics and health status of herbal product users and nonusers among community-dwelling older women. In 1998, a random sample of 86 women aged 65 years and older who lived independently in a North Central Florida county was selected. Names were obtained from the Florida State Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Structured interviews using questionnaires were completed for 86 subjects. The interview questionnaire addressed health status and the use of conventional medicines, use of herbal products, and demographic data. Findings indicated that herbal products were used by 45% of the sample in the previous 12 months. The average number of herbal products used by the 45% was 2·5. Herbal products were used to prevent health problems (41%), to treat illness (23%), and for both prevention and treatment (36%). The women reported using an average of 3·2 prescribed medicines and 3·8 nonprescribed medicines. No differences in demographic characteristics and health status were found for users and nonusers of herbal products except that herbal product users were more concerned with memory problems than nonusers. No difference in perceived seriousness of memory problems existed between the two groups. It is important for health care providers to be knowledgeable about the use of herbal products to provide comprehensive health care to older women.