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Open Access Research article

Use of bodily sensations as a risk assessment tool: exploring people with Multiple Sclerosis’ views on risks of negative interactions between herbal medicine and conventional drug therapies

Lasse Skovgaard124*, Inge Kryger Pedersen3 and Marja Verhoef4

Author Affiliations

1 The Danish MS Society, Mosedalvej 15, 2500 Valby, Denmark

2 Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen, Øster Farimagsgade 5, 1014 Copenhagen, Denmark

3 Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen, Øster Farimagsgade 5, 1014 Copenhagen, Denmark

4 NAFKAM, University of Tromsø, 9037 Tromsø, Norway

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2014, 14:59  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-14-59

Published: 18 February 2014

Abstract

Background

Most users of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) combine it with conventional medicine. Recent risk assessment studies have shown risks of negative interactions between CAM and conventional medicine, particularly when combining herbal medicine and conventional drug therapies (CDT). Little is known about the way users consider such risks. The present paper aims to gain knowledge about this issue by exploring views on risks of negative interactions when combining herbal medicine and CDT among people with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Methods

This paper draws on a qualitative follow-up study on a survey among members of the Danish MS Society. Semi-structured, in-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with a strategic selection from the survey respondents. The study was inspired by a phenomenological approach and emerging themes were extracted from the data through meaning condensation.

Results

Four themes characterized the informants’ views on risks of negative interactions when combining herbal medicine and CDT: 1) ‘naturalness’ in herbal medicine; 2) ‘bodily sensations’ as guidelines; 3) trust in the CAM practitioner; 4) lack of dialogue with medical doctor.

Conclusions

Generally, the combination of herbal medicine and CDT was considered by the informants to be safe. In particular, they emphasized the ‘non-chemical’ nature of herbal medicine and of their own bodily sensations as warrants of safety. A trustful relation to the CAM practitioner furthermore made some of them feel safe in their use of herbal medicine and CDT in combination. The informants’ use of bodily sensations as a non-discursive risk assessment may be a relevant element in understanding these issues.

Keywords:
Multiple sclerosis; Alternative treatment; CAM; Denmark; Contraindications; Negative interactions; Combination of conventional medicine and CAM; In-depth qualitative interviews; Mixed methods research