Herbal Product Use and Menopause Symptom Relief in Primary Care Patients: A MetroNet Study
Rhonda K. Dailey, M.D., Anne Victoria Neale, Ph.D., M.P.H., Justin Northrup, M.P.T., Patricia West, Ph.D., R.N., Kendra L. Schwartz, M.D., M.S.P.H.
Abstract and Introduction
Objectives: The four study objectives were to determine (1) the prevalence of use of four herbal product types promoted to reduce menopause symptoms (phytoestrogens, St. John’s wort, Ginkgo biloba, and ginseng) among primary care patients approaching or in menopause, (2) the extent to which women who use these types of herbal products report menopause related symptoms compared with herbal product nonusers, (3) the frequency of reported symptom reduction after use, and (4) if use was disclosed to their physicians.
Methods: A cross section of ethnically diverse women 40-55 years of age (35.5% African American, 60.2% Caucasian) who were recruited from eight primary care centers in Michigan to complete a self report survey. The questionnaire included demographic items, health history, recent use of four herbal product types purported to relieve menopause symptoms and perception of symptom improvement, and interest in additional herbal product information.
Results: Of 397 women, 24.9% reported taking, in the previous 6 months, at least one of the four study herbs. Herbal product use did not vary by patient demographics or health characteristics. Herbal product users reported more menopause symptoms than nonusers, and 68% of the users said that the herbs improved their symptoms; 56.4% said that their physician was aware of their herbal product use.
Conclusions: Primary care patients experiencing common menopausal symptoms are likely to use herbal products that are purported to provide menopause symptom relief, and many believe that these products improve their menopausal symptoms. Healthcare providers should be aware of patient’s positive attitude, use patterns, and lack of disclosure of use of herbal medicines. Inquiry of herbal product use is another way for physicians to learn about patient self medication of bothersome symptoms.