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12-month herbal medicine use for mental health from the national Comorbidity survey replication (NCS-R)

Simha E. Ravven, MD

Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, The Cambridge Hospital, Cambridge, MA, USA

M. Bridget Zimmerman, PhD

Department of Biostatistics, The University of Iowa College of Public Health, Iowa City, IA, USA

Susan K. Schultz, MD

Department of Psychiatry, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, IA, USA

Robert B. Wallace, MS, MD

Department of Internal Medicine. University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Department of Epidemiology, The University of Iowa College of Public Health, Iowa City, IA, USA

BACKGROUND: Herbal medicine is widely used by individuals with mental health problems, although research on their health characteristics and health care utilization patterns—including concomitant treatment with conventional mental health care and psychotropic medication—remains limited.

METHODS: We gathered data from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R), a representative survey of US adults in which diagnoses of mental disorders were based on a fully structured diagnostic interview.

RESULTS: Our analysis found that NCS-R respondents with mental disorders were significantly more likely to have used herbal medicines for mental health problems than respondents who did not meet criteria for a mental disorder. Users of herbal medicines for mental health problems were likely to utilize conventional health care as well, particularly conventional psychiatric medication. Herbal use also was associated with having multiple comorbid medical problems.

CONCLUSIONS: A substantial proportion of US adults use herbal medicine to treat mental health problems. Herbal medicine is frequently used concomitantly with conventional health care, including prescription psychotropic medication. Herbal use also is associated with having multiple chronic medical problems. These factors increase the potential for interactions between herbal medicines and psychiatric and nonpsychiatric medications.

KEYWORDS: complementary and alternative medicine, herbal medicine, mental illness


CORRESPONDENCE: Simha E. Ravven, MD The Cambridge Hospital Department of Psychiatry 1493 Cambridge Street Cambridge, MA 02193 USA E-MAIL:
Annals of Clinical Psychiatry ©2011 Quadrant HealthCom Inc.

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