Objective: To determine use of botanical dietary supplements (BDS) in women between the ages of 40 and 60 years at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) clinics, including information about commonly used BDS, the reason for use, information resources used, and the overall perception of safety and efficacy of BDS.
Design: Five hundred female outpatients at UIC clinics were interviewed by healthcare practitioners using a botanical/drug history questionnaire. Respondents were 46.8% African American, 39.6% Caucasian, 11.7% Hispanic, and 1.5% Asian, with a mean age of 50.34 years.
Results: BDS were used by 79% of respondents (n = 395), of which 36.5% used BDS daily. Of the positive respondents, 51.7% used one or two BDS, whereas 48.4% used three or more. Commonly used botanicals included soy (42%), green tea (34.68%), chamomile (20.76%), gingko (20.51%), ginseng (17.97%), Echinacea (15.44%), and St. John's wort (7.34%). Black cohosh, garlic, red clover, kava, valerian, evening primrose, and ephedra were used by less than 15% of respondents. Efficacy ratings were high for BDS, and 68% claimed to have no side effects. Only 3% of respondents obtained BDS information from healthcare professionals, and 70% of respondents were not informing their physician of BDS use.
Conclusions: A high percentage of women at UIC clinics were using multiple BDS. The respondents believed that these products were both safe and effective for the treatment of common ailments. Concomitant BDS use with prescription and over-the-counter medications was commonplace, often without a physician's knowledge. Consumer education about the possible benefits and risks associated with BDS use is urgently needed.