A. Welz, A. Emberger-Klein, K. Menrad
Jul 10, 2019
BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine
BackgroundThe use of herbal medicine (HM) has become an essential form of treatment and it is more and more common around the world. Little is known about the reasons that drive people to initially use HM or to maintain their behaviour, and whether the so-called “push and pull factors” known in the context of decision making for complementary and alternative medicine, also play a role for HM use. Here, our goal was to provide answers to these open questions and to analyse the reasons that motivate new, established and long-term HM consumers in detail.MethodsThirteen reasons for HM usage, which were previously identified within a qualitative approach, were analysed quantitatively in a nationwide online survey in Germany. Data of 2,192 German HM users from the general population were grouped into new, established and long-term users. We performed a factor analysis in order to identify factors underlying the set of reasons.ResultsWe discovered a reliable factor associated with longstanding family traditions and cultural importance of HM in Germany. This finding shows that the reasons for HM use require a three-factor structure going beyond the well-known push and pull factors that explain the use of complementary and alternative medicine. In using the identified factors for further calculations, we were able to reveal important group differences and test how the factor scores perform as predictors for the new, established and long-term choice of HM. Our results showed that a high score on the push factor is associated more with initial HM usage, while long-term HM usage is impacted more by high scores on the pull and traditional factors.ConclusionsOur exploratory survey and analysis of the reasons that underlie HM usage aimed at providing a better understanding of the decision for this treatment form. The findings of our work deliver insights for medical practitioners and health-care providers, including the role of family traditions for HM usage and the finding that new HM users are driven to use this treatment form in part because of negative aspects they associate with conventional medicine.