Patterns of natural herb use by Asian and Pacific Islanders

Ethn Health. 2008 Apr;13(2):93-108. doi: 10.1080/13557850701830349.


Objective: Previous studies have noted the role of race/ethnicity in use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Asian and Pacific Islanders (APIs) in particular have been found to use herbs more frequently, although the patterns of use among this population have not been described. The goal of this study was to characterize the rates and patterns of herb use among the API population of the United States.

Design: Data from the 2002 US National Health Interview Survey, including the supplement on CAM, were analyzed using SAS. Cross-tabulation and logistical regression were used to determine the association between herb use and race/ethnicity, while adjusting for demographic factors.

Results: After adjusting for age, gender and educational attainment, we found that APIs were more likely to use herbs than non-Hispanic Whites (OR=1.3; 95% CI: 1.1, 1.5; p=0.013), with the difference being most prominent in those 60 years old or older (OR=2.9; 95% CI: 1.8, 4.5; p<0.0001). Herb use among APIs was more common among women, those with higher education and income, and those in older age groups. Patterns of use also varied among API subgroups, with Chinese Americans reporting the highest rates of herb use in their lifetimes (44%) and in the previous 12 months (33%).

Conclusion: Considerable diversity exists within API subgroups with regard to the prevalence and demographic and health correlates of natural herb use. Herb use is more common among APIs than non-Hispanic Whites, particularly among the elderly. The disaggregation of APIs by racial/ethnic subgroups may be important for patient-health care professional interactions, and when designing studies of racial/ethnic minority populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Asian Americans*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / therapeutic use*
  • Emigration and Immigration
  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Female
  • Health Behavior / ethnology*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oceanic Ancestry Group*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Phytotherapy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Class
  • United States


  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal