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Traditional medicine use by cancer patients in Thailand

Poonthananiwatkul, B., Lim, R., Howard, R., Pibanpaknitee, P. and Williamson, E. (2015) Traditional medicine use by cancer patients in Thailand. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 168. pp. 100-107. ISSN 0378-8741

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.jep.2015.03.057


Ethnobotanical relevance Cancer patients commonly use traditional medicines (TM) and in Thailand these are popular for both self-medication and as prescribed by TM practitioners, and are rarely monitored. A study was conducted at Wat Khampramong, a Thai Buddhist temple herbal medicine hospice, to document some of these practices as well as the hospice regime. Materials and methods Cancer patients (n=286) were surveyed shortly after admission as to which TMs they had previously taken and perceptions of effects experienced. They were also asked to describe their current symptoms. Treatment at the hospice is built upon an 11-herb anti-cancer formula, yod-ya-mareng, prescribed for all patients, and ideally, its effects would have been evaluated. However other herbal medicines and holistic practices are integral to the regime, so instead we attempted to assess the value of the patients׳ stay at the hospice by measuring any change in symptom burden, as they perceived it. Surviving patients (n=270) were therefore asked to describe their symptoms again just before leaving. Results 42% of patients (120/286; 95% CI 36.4%, 47.8%) had used herbal medicines before their arrival, with 31.7% (38/120; 95% CI 24%, 40.4%) using several at once. Mixed effects were reported for these products. After taking the herbal regime at Khampramong, 77% (208/270 95% CI; 71.7%, 81.7%) reported benefit, and a comparison of the incidence of the most common (pain, dyspepsia, abdominal or visceral pain, insomnia, fatigue) showed statistical significance (χ2 57.1, df 7, p<0.001). Conclusions A wide range of TMs is taken by cancer patients in Thailand and considered to provide more benefit than harm, and this perception extends to the temple regime. Patients reported a significant reduction in symptoms after staying at Khampramong, indicating an improvement in quality of life, the aim of hospices everywhere. Based on this evidence, it is not possible to justify the use of TM for cancer in general, but this study suggests that further research is warranted. The uncontrolled use of TMs, many of which are uncharacterised, raises concerns, and this work also highlights the fact that validated, robust methods of assessing holistic medical regimes are urgently needed.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy > School of Pharmacy > Pharmacy Practice Research Group
ID Code:40242

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