Folk and traditional medicine use by a subset of Hispanic adolescents

Int J Adolesc Med Health. 2008 Jan-Mar;20(1):41-51. doi: 10.1515/ijamh.2008.20.1.41.


Rates of Folk and Traditional Medicine (FTM) use are high among Hispanic adults. No data have been published on FTM use among the rapidly growing Hispanic adolescent population.

Objectives: To determine the prevalence of and personal factors associated with FTM use among Mexican-American adolescents.

Study group: 182 Mexican-American adolescents (14-19 years) from community-based organizations.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional survey using a self-report instrument available in English and Spanish.

Results: In the past year, 49 (26.9%) subjects reported FTM use, all prompted by illness: 43 (23.6%) used herbal remedies, and 8 (4.4%) used traditional healers. Five subjects reported using dangerous herbs. Among herbal users, 56.3% did not disclose FTM use to medical providers, largely due to the providers' lack of inquiry. Logistic regression comparing herbal users with non-FTM users found subjects dissatisfied with their most recent medical visit (AOR = 10.6; 95% CI = 2.8-40.7) and subjects endorsing family FTM use (AOR = 8.4; 95% CI = 4.0-30.2) were more likely to use herbal remedies. Acculturation, insurance status, socioeconomic status, and having a personal healthcare provider were not related to herbal use.

Conclusions: The use of practitioner-based FTM modalities was rare among this convenience sample of Mexican-American adolescents. Self-treatment with herbal use was common; harmful herbs were used infrequently. Access to care does not appear to motivate herb use. The high rates of herb use by dissatisfied patients, paired with high rates of non-disclosure and lack of provider inquiry, suggests that efforts to provide more culturally sensitive care, including routine inquiry about FTM use in Mexican-American adolescents, are needed. Patterns of complimentary and alternative medicine (CAM)/FTM use vary between age and ethnic cohorts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior
  • Adult
  • Complementary Therapies / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Disclosure
  • Female
  • Herbal Medicine / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mexican Americans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Phytotherapy
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Self Medication*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Texas