Institute for the Study of
Healthcare Organizations & Transactions


This paper was presented at the International Scientific Conference on Complementary, Alternative & Integrative Medicine Research, May 18, 2001 in San Francisco, California.  A version was also presented at the annual meeting of the Academy for Health Services Research and Health Policy, June 10, 2001 in Atlanta, Georgia.    Lucy Canter Kihlstrom, PhD


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It has been hypothesized that the use of herbal remedies derives, in part, from a mistrust of prescribed medications.

Purpose: To identify beliefs and attitudes toward medicines and herbal remedies and the extent to which they are associated with the use of herbals.

Method: A written survey was administered to 1326 individuals at the University of California, Berkeley (mean age 20.18, range 16-49; 62% female; 47% Asian, 36% Caucasian, 8% Hispanic, 5% African-American). Items adapted from a survey conducted by the Kennedy School of Government/Kaiser Family Foundation assessed perceived risks and benefits of herbal remedies, use, and knowledge of government regulation. An additional eight items adopted from Beliefs about Medicines Questionnaire (BMQ; Horne & Weinman, 1995) assessed attitudes and beliefs about prescription medications.

Results: 39% of the respondents were somewhat or very familiar with herbal remedies; 28% used herbals to some degree. Familiarity and use were closely associated with each other. Females reported more familiarity and use than did males. Of the two predominant ethnic groups, Caucasians reported more use and familiarity than did Asians. 28% of the respondents agreed with the statement that, in general, herbal remedies are good for the health and well-being of people. 45% of the respondents believed that using herbal remedies rarely harms individuals, however, 62% agreed with the statement that the government should strictly regulate herbal remedies that are produced for individuals under 16 years of age. The majority of respondents either did not know about government regulation of herbal remedies or held incorrect beliefs about the regulation of safety and efficacy. However, there was no relationship between knowledge about regulation and use and familiarity; individuals reported familiarity and use and little knowledge of regulation of safety and efficacy. A factor analysis of BMQ items confirmed 2 factors, harm and overuse. In general, those individuals who reported more familiarity with and greater use of herbal remedies believed that medications are overprescribed and generally harmful.

Conclusions: Dissatisfaction with prescribed medications seems to be related to familiarity and the use of herbal remedies. However, knowledge about the regulation of them is either lacking or is incorrect. If individuals choose to use herbal remedies, it should be with the full understanding that they are not regulated by the government for safety or efficacy.

Acknowledgements: Federal Support includes a grant from NIMH, MH 35856. The Scientific Visualization Center at the University of California, Berkeley aided in the preparation of this presentation.


Horne, R. & Weinman, J. (1995).  The Beliefs About Medicines Questionnaire (BMQ):  A New Method For Assessing Lay Beliefs About Medicines.  Proceedings of the Special Group in Health Psychology:  British Psychological Society.

NPR/Kaiser Family Foundation/Kennedy School of Government Survey on Americans and Dietary Supplements.  Accessed April 5, 1999, On line:


The PowerPoint Presentation


Lucy Canter Kihlstrom, PhD

Copyright 2001 Institute for the Study of Healthcare Organizations & Transactions