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Botanical dietary supplement use in peri- and postmenopausal women

Mahady, Gail B. PhD, RPh1,2; Parrot, Julie MSc1; Lee, Cathy PharmD1; Yun, Gina S. PharmD1; Dan, Alice PhD3


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.

From the 1University of Illinois at Chicago/National Institutes of Health Center for Botanical Dietary Supplements Research, Program for Collaborative Research in the Pharmaceutical Sciences, 2Department of Pharmacy Practice, 3Center for Excellence in Women's Health, University of Illinois, Chicago, IL.

Received March 4, 2002; revised and accepted June 20, 2002.

This work was supported in part by the Office on Women's Heath at the Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of Women's Health, Food and Drug Administration, Washington, DC, and National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine grant number P50-AT00155-404.

Address reprint requests to Gail B. Mahady, PhD, RPh, UIC/NIH Center for Botanical Dietary Supplements Research, College of Pharmacy, University of Illinois at Chicago, 833 South Wood Street, MC 877, Chicago, IL 60612. E-mail:

©2003The North American Menopause Society