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Cancer patients taking herbal medicines: a review of clinical purposes, associated factors, and perceptions of benefit or harm

Poonthananiwatkul, B., Howard, R. L., Williamson, E. M. and Lim, R. H. M. (2015) Cancer patients taking herbal medicines: a review of clinical purposes, associated factors, and perceptions of benefit or harm. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 175. pp. 58-66. ISSN 0378-8741

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.jep.2015.08.052

Abstract/Summary

Ethnopharmacological relevance: Cancer patients in all cultures are high consumers of herbal medicines (HMs) usually as part of a regime consisting of several complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) modalities, but the type of patient, the reasons for choosing such HM-CAM regimes, and the benefits they perceive from taking them are poorly understood. There are also concerns that local information may be ignored due to language issues. This study investigates aspects of HM-CAM use in cancer patients using two different abstracting sources: Medline, which contains only peer-reviewed studies from SCI journals, and in order to explore whether further data may be available regionally, the Thai national databases of HM and CAM were searched as an example. Materials and methods: the international and Thai language databases were searched separately to identify relevant studies, using key words chosen to include HM use in all traditions. Analysis of these was undertaken to identify socio-demographic and clinical factors, as well as sources of information, which may inform the decision to use HMs. Results: Medline yielded 5,638 records, with 49 papers fitting the criteria for review. The Thai databases yielded 155, with none relevant for review. Factors associated with HM-CAM usage were: a younger age, higher education or economic status, multiple chemotherapy treatment, late stage of disease. The most common purposes for using HM-CAM cited by patients were to improve physical symptoms, support emotional health, stimulate the immune system, improve quality of life, and relieve side-effects of conventional treatment. Conclusions: Several indicators were identified for cancer patients who are most likely to take HM-CAM. However, interpreting the clinical reasons why patients decide to use HM-CAM is hampered by a lack of standard terminology and thematic coding, because patients' own descriptions are too variable and overlapping for meaningful comparison. Nevertheless, fears that the results of local studies published regionally are being missed, at least in the case of Thailand, appeared to be unfounded.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy > School of Pharmacy > Pharmacy Practice Research Group
ID Code:42755
Publisher:Elsevier

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