• older women;
  • herbal therapy;
  • alternative therapy;
  • complementary therapy;
  • chronic health problems;
  • nurses

Background.  Herbal medicines, products and therapies are a subject of great public interest both nationally and worldwide. Use of herbal therapy is most common among women and patients with chronic health problems.

Aim.  This paper reports a study to determine the prevalence of herbal therapy use among women over 65 years who live independently in the community, and to compare the socio-demographic characteristics and health status of older women who use herbal therapies and those who do not.

Methods.  This was a cross-sectional study. Random samples of 385 older participants took part in structured interviews at five primary health care centres in Turkey between September and December 2002.

Results.  Herbal therapies were used by 48·3% of the sample in the previous 12 months. No differences in demographic characteristics were found for users and non-users. We found that herbal therapy use was substantially higher among older women who: (1) reported any disability in activities of daily living, (2) had poor self-reported health, (3) had very frequent physician visits, and (4) had chronic conditions such as cardiac problems, diabetes, stroke, cancer, asthma, pneumonia or urinary problems.

Conclusions.  It is important for community health nurses to be knowledgeable about the use of herbal therapies when providing care to older women because of possible interactions with other treatments, delays in seeking care, and poor quality products.