Context: Little is known about the use of complementary and alternative medicine among the approximately 1.6 million migrant farmworkers in the United States.
Purpose: To evaluate the use of medicinal plants and natural remedies among a convenience sample of 100 migrant farmworkers living temporarily in a migrant worker center in El Paso, Texas.
Methods: A structured interview instrument was designed to elicit information about reasons for medicinal herb use, form in which herbs were ingested, serious side effects experienced, location of purchase, effectiveness of treatment, and use of allopathic medications.
Findings: The majority of workers used herbal remedies or other natural products because they believed them to be more effective than pharmaceuticals and because of tradition. Most learned about herbal remedies from a relative, primarily from their mother, and the majority who used herbal remedies believed them to be very helpful in treating specific illnesses. No adverse reactions to any herbal remedy were reported. The majority of participants did not inform their physician about their use of herbal remedies. According to the literature, potential adverse interactions between herbal remedies used and allopathic medications included gastrointestinal irritation, renal toxicity, and hypoglycemia.
Conclusions: Health care providers must be knowledgeable about the use of herbal remedies among migrant farmworkers. By showing an understanding of and sensitivity to the use of these remedies, health care providers will be able to conduct more comprehensive health assessments of migrant workers and their families and provide them with more culturally competent care.