Alternative Medicine

 Alternative Medicine

  • As of 2008, 50% of Americans use alternative medicine products because of the wide perception that naturally derived products are as safe and effective as regulated pharmaceuticals,1 but 60% of them do not share the use of dietary supplements or alternative medications to their doctors. Americans spend $14.8 billion annually for non-vitamin, non-mineral natural products.
  • Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 2003 to 2006 show that about 50% of adults (44% men and 53% women) uses a dietary supplement with at least one botanical ingredient. Multivitamin-multimineral use was the most frequently reported dietary supplement (33%).2
  • More women/girls than men/boys were supplement users, with 44 percent of males listed as users, compared with 53 percent of females. Furthermore, multivitamin-multimineral supplements were the most popular, with 33 percent amongst users. The use of supplement that contained the vitamins A, B-6, B-12, C, and E was 30% and 20% reported taking a supplement that contained at least one botanical ingredient.
  • Given the lack of evidence of efficacy and safety of these alternative medicines, it is important to understand the cultural differences in values and beliefs about traditional medicine that may underlie these findings.3 The regular users of alternative medicines in London are more likely to be women, of African origin, and of higher socioeconomic status.3, 4


1. Qato DM, Alexander GC, Conti RM, Johnson M, Schumm P, Lindau ST. Use of prescription and over-the-counter medications and dietary supplements among older adults in the United States. JAMA. Dec 24 2008;300(24):2867-2878.

2. Bailey R L, Gahche JJ, Lentino CV, et al. Dietary supplement use in the United States, 2003-2006. J Nutr. Feb 2011;141(2):261-266.

3. Cappuccio FP, Duneclift SM, Atkinson RW, Cook DG. Use of alternative medicines in a multi-ethnic population. Ethn Dis. Winter 2001;11(1):11-18.

4. Enas EA. How to Beat the Heart Disease Epidemic among South Asians: A Prevention and Management Guide for Asian Indians and their Doctors. Downers Grove: Advanced Heart Lipid Clinic  USA; 2011.

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