Background: The self-treatment with complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) in chronic diseases is portraying an expanding trend worldwide. Yet, little is known concerning patients' motives to use CAM in the control of blood pressure.
Objective: This study aims to explore the self-use of CAM in the management of hypertension and explore patients' attitudes, perceived benefits, and disclosure to the physician.
Materials and methods: A qualitative technique was adopted and face-to-face interviews, using a validated interview guide, were carried out among twenty hypertensive patients. A purposive sampling method was used to recruit patients at Al-Karama Teaching Hospital in Baghdad; the capital of Iraq; from January to April 2015. All the interviews were audio-recorded, then transcribed verbatim and examined for thematic relationships.
Results: Three major themes were identified through thematic content analysis of the interviews. These encompassed patients' understanding of CAM; experience and perceived benefits; and communication with the doctors. The use of CAM was prevalent among the majority of the respondents. The most commonly used therapies were biological-based practices (herbal remedies, special diet, vitamins, and dietary supplements); traditional therapies (Al-Hijama or cupping); and to a less extent of manipulative body-based therapies (reflexology). Factors influencing the use of CAM were traditions, social relationships, religious beliefs, low-cost therapy, and safety of natural products.
Conclusion: The use of CAM was common as a practice of self-treatment among hypertensive patients in Iraq. This was underpinned by the cultural effects, social relationships, religious beliefs, and the perception that natural products are effective and safe. Understanding patients' usage of CAM is of great importance as long as patient's safety and interaction with the standard prescribed treatment are major concerns.
Keywords: Al-hijama; Iraq; complimentary alternative medicines; hypertension.