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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Medicinal herb use among asthmatic patients attending a specialty care facility in Trinidad

Yuri N Clement*, Arlene F Williams, Derick Aranda, Ronald Chase, Nadya Watson, Rochelle Mohammed, Odia Stubbs and Deneil Williamson

Author Affiliations

Faculty of Medical Sciences, The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2005, 5:3  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-5-3

Published: 15 February 2005



There is an increasing prevalence of asthma in the Caribbean and patients remain non-compliant to therapy despite the development of guidelines for management and prevention. Some patients may self-medicate with medicinal herbs for symptomatic relief, as there is a long tradition of use for a variety of ailments. The study assessed the prevalence of use and the factors affecting the decision to use herbs in asthmatic patients attending a public specialty care clinic in Trinidad.


A descriptive, cross-sectional study was conducted at the Chest Clinic in Trinidad using a de novo, pilot-tested, researcher-administered questionnaire between June and July 2003.


Fifty-eight out of 191 patients (30.4%) reported using herbal remedies for symptomatic relief. Gender, age, ethnicity, and asthma severity did not influence the decision to use herbs; however, 62.5% of patients with tertiary level schooling used herbs, p = 0.025. Thirty-four of these 58 patients (58.6%) obtained herbs from their backyards or the supermarket; only 14 patients (24.1%) obtained herbs from an herbalist, herbal shop or pharmacy. Relatives and friends were the sole source of information for most patients (70.7%), and only 10.3% consulted an herbalist. Ginger, garlic, aloes, shandileer, wild onion, pepper and black sage were the most commonly used herbs.


Among patients attending the Chest Clinic in Trinidad the use of herbal remedies in asthma is relatively common on the advice of relatives and friends. It is therefore becoming imperative for healthcare providers to become more knowledgeable on this modality and to keep abreast with the latest developments.