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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Herbal medicine: women's views, knowledge and interaction with doctors: a qualitative study

Kathryn A Vickers1, Kate B Jolly2 and Sheila M Greenfield3*

Author Affiliations

1 Foundation Year One Doctor, Stepping Hill Hospital, Poplar Grove, Stockport, Cheshire SK2 7JE, UK

2 Department of Public Health and Epidemiology, The University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK

3 Department of Primary Care and General Practice, The University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2006, 6:40  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-6-40

Published: 7 December 2006



There is growing concern that serious interactions are occurring between prescribed/over the counter and herbal medicines and that there is a lack of disclosure of herbal use by patients to doctors. This study explores women's perspectives about the safety of herbal remedies, herb-drug interactions and communication with doctors about herbal medicines.


Qualitative, cross-sectional study, with purposive sampling which took place in Cheshire, UK. Eighteen in depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with female herbal medicine users aged 18 years and above.


The large majority did not inform their GPs of their use of herbal medicines. This was due to lack of physician enquiry, perception of importance and fear of a negative response. Several women were not aware that herbal remedies could interact with prescribed or over the counter medicines. Of the women who had experienced adverse effects none had reported them, believing them of low importance.


The women had little knowledge about herb-drug interactions and rarely disclosed use of herbal medicines to their doctor. Doctors' communication and openness regarding herbal medicines needs to improve and there should be increased access to accurate information on herbal medicines in the public and health care domain.