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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Use of home remedies: a cross-sectional survey of patients in Germany

Lisa Maria Parisius1*, Beate Stock-Schröer2, Sarah Berger1, Katja Hermann1 and Stefanie Joos1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of General Practice and Health Services Research, University Hospital Heidelberg, Voßstrasse 2, Heidelberg 69115, Germany

2 Karl and Veronica Carstens-Foundation, Am Deimelsberg 36, Essen 45276, Germany

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BMC Family Practice 2014, 15:116  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-15-116

Published: 11 June 2014

Abstract

Background

Reliable information regarding patient knowledge of home remedies and the types of health problems patients use them for is scarce. Nevertheless, anecdotal evidence indicates that home remedies are used by patients for managing minor health problems and that this can be sufficient for symptom management while the body recovers from minor health problems. The aim of the presented study was to explore patient use of home remedies in Germany.

Methods

A questionnaire was developed and pretested in a pilot study phase. The revised questionnaire was comprised of questions about general knowledge and experienced efficiency of home remedies, the use of home remedies for common health problems and socio-demographic data. Patients were recruited via randomly selected addresses of general practitioners (GPs) in three regions of Germany (Heidelberg, Erfurt and Hanover and surrounding areas). The questionnaire was handed out in the waiting area of GP practices. The data was analyzed descriptively.

Results

480 of 592 patients from 37 GP practices were included, according to a response rate of 81%. Based on the survey results, home remedies were widely known and used by about 80% of our respondents (on average 22 different home remedies were used per person). The most frequently used home remedies were steam-inhalation, hot lemon drink, honey, chamomile tea and chicken soup. 80% of respondents tried home remedies before pharmaceutical options. Information about home remedies was most commonly gained from family members, rather than from written guides, media or GPs.

Conclusions

These results provide an initial overview on the use of home remedies from the patient’s perspective in a German context. Bearing in mind the high use of home remedies that was reported by patients in the study, it is highly likely that GPs in Germany may need to advise patients on their use of home remedies during consultations. To this end, given the scarcity of reliable information on home remedies, further research is needed.

Keywords:
Home remedies; Traditional medicine; General practice; Symptom management; Minor health problems