Conventional and Complementary Therapy Use among Mexican Farmworkers in North Carolina: Applying the I-CAM-Q

J Agromedicine. 2019 Jul;24(3):257-267. doi: 10.1080/1059924X.2019.1592049. Epub 2019 Mar 22.


Objectives: This analysis documents the use of conventional health-care providers, traditional healers, and complementary therapies by Mexican farmworkers; identifies the purposes and perceived helpfulness of these modalities; and delineates variation in the use of traditional healers and complementary therapies. Methods: Two-hundred Mexican farmworkers in North Carolina completed interviews May-September, 2017. The International Complementary and Alternative Medicine Questionnaire (I-CAM-Q) elicited use of conventional health-care providers, traditional healers, and complementary therapies in the previous 12 months. Results: Most of the farmworkers had been treated by a conventional provider (63.0%). One-in-five had been treated by any traditional healer; 19.5% had been treated by a sobador, 4.5% by a curandero, 2.0% by an herbalist, and 2.0% by a spiritual healer. Conventional providers (69.8%) and sobadores (84.6%) most often treated acute conditions; 62.5% had used an herb, 46.0% a vitamin, 57.0% an over-the-counter medicine, and 13.5% a home remedy. Participants used various self-care practices, including music (36.5%), sleep (18.0%), prayer for health (15.0%), and social media (14.0%). Education was inversely associated with the use of a traditional healer and herbs; treatment by a conventional health-care provider was positively associated with using a traditional healer and vitamins. Conclusions: Mexican farmworkers use conventional health-care providers as well as traditional healers and complementary therapies. Research on how use of complementary therapies and a system of medical pluralism affects farmworker health is needed. Health-care providers need to recognize complementary therapy use and provide patient education about ineffective or harmful therapies.

Keywords: Complementary and alternative medicine; health disparities; immigrant workers; medical pluralism; migrant and seasonal farmworkers.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Complementary Therapies / statistics & numerical data*
  • Educational Status
  • Farmers*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicine, Traditional / statistics & numerical data*
  • Mexico / ethnology
  • Middle Aged
  • Nonprescription Drugs / therapeutic use
  • North Carolina
  • Phytotherapy
  • Plants, Medicinal
  • Self Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Transients and Migrants / statistics & numerical data


  • Nonprescription Drugs