Objectives: To measure the frequency of herbal medicine use among patients with diabetes mellitus in Palestine; to determine demographic characteristics that may increase the likelihood of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) use and to find out how benefits, if any, were perceived by patients.
Method: Cross-sectional survey of patients attending the outpatient diabetes departments at 7 Governmental Hospitals. The method was based on semi-structured questionnaires.
Results: A total of 1883 patients with diabetes were interviewed. Of the participants, 51.9% (n = 977) reported taking herbs primarily bought from Palestine (98%) and used in crude form mainly as decoctions (44.1%). The five most common herbal products used were: Trigonella berythea (Fabaceae) (n = 191, 19.6%), Rosmarinus officinalis (Lamiaceae) (n = 132, 13.5%), Olea europaea (Oleaceae) (n = 131, 13.4%), Teucrium capitatum (Lamiaceae) (n = 111, 11.4%), and Cinnamomum zeylanicum (Lauraceae) (n = 105, 10.8%). Most CAM users were above 40 years old 79.6% (n = 778), predominantly female (53.2%) and residents of refugee camps and rural areas (59.3, and 53.5, respectively). The recommendations of a family member or friend was the main factor prompting the use of CAM (40.2 and 37.1%). Most CAM users (71.7%) were satisfied with the perceived effects. Interestingly, 68% of patients recruited in the study did not disclose CAM use to their physicians or pharmacists.
Conclusion: Use of herbal therapies in diabetes is highly prevalent in Palestine. More than 70% of those using CAM (977, 51.9%) reported positive benefits including a feeling of slowing down disease progression, symptom relief, disease resolution or a reduction in the side effects of allopathic medication. Use of CAM should be explored with patients before clinical decisions are made. There is a need for health education relating to herbal use in conjunction with conventional medicines in diabetes.
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