One in Five Patients Uses Herbal Medicine

May 21, 2021

An international group of physicians and researchers investigated the prevalence of the herbal medicine use and found that one in five patients with cancer use herbal medicine following a cancer diagnosis.

An international group of physicians and researchers has recently investigated the prevalence of the herbal medicine use among patients with cancer and found that one in five patients with cancer use herbal medicine following a cancer diagnosis. Researchers has made a systematic review and meta-analysis of electronic databases published from January 2000 to January 2020 (in total, 155 studies with data for 809,065 participants, of which 54% female).

The new review – entitled, “Prevalence of the Use of Herbal Medicines among Patients with Cancer: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis” and published in the journal “Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine” – investigated the prevalence of the herbal medicine use among patients with cancer “to inform and guide the development of healthcare policies concerning integrating herbal medicine in clinical cancer care.”

Authors write:Although herbal medicines are used by patients with cancer in multiple oncology care settings, the magnitude of herbal medicine use in this context remains unclear. The purpose of this review was to establish the prevalence of herbal medicine use among patients with cancer, across various geographical settings and patient characteristics (age and gender categories).”

“This review suggested that a large estimated percentage of cancer patients use herbal medicine, especially during conventional treatment. The overall pooled prevalence of herbal medicine usage by patients with cancer was 22%, which means approximately one in five patients with cancer used herbal medicine(s) following a cancer diagnosis.”

“This review”, they say, “also found that Africa and Asia had the highest pooled prevalence of the usage herbal medicine in cancer, with the lowest prevalence recorded in Oceania. Similarly, a larger percentage of patients with cancer from low- and middle-income countries used herbal medicine compared with those from high-income countries. The variation in prevalence across regions may be explained by variances in geographical characteristics (i.e., conditions that make some herbs easily available), cultural beliefs and attitudes, and liberalized or low regulation of herbal medicines.”

“Conversely, the high herbal medicine usage in low- and middle-income countries might possibly be because of the low income levels, which may mean that patients with cancer are unable to pay for conventional cancer care (financial constraints) and or due to deeply rooted cultural practices related or favorable to use of herbal medicines. For example, as shown in this study, Asian countries such as South Korea and Taiwan, despite having the conditions and economic power to receive high-quality conventional therapies, patients from these countries still continue to use herbal medicine while accepting conventional therapies.”

“This systematic review shows that a large percentage of patients with cancer use herbal medicine, especially those from low- and middle-income countries. In addition, larger percentages of adult patients with cancer (compared with children) and female patients with cancer (compared with males) used herbal medicine. We also found that more female patients with cancer compared to their male counterparts used herbal medicine. These gender-based findings concur with previous literature, where the use of herbal medicine in cancer was related to being female, with women more likely to use herbal medicine as a primary mode of healthcare than men.”

Authors conclude: “Herbal medicine is used by a large percentage of patients with cancer use. The findings of this review highlight the need for herbal medicine to be integrated in cancer care.”

Full Study “Prevalence of the Use of Herbal Medicines among Patients with Cancer: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis”