Meeks-Gardner, Julie; Grant, D. ; Hutchinson, S.E.; Wilks, Rainford J.
Author Affiliation, Ana.
Tropical Medicine Research Institute
The use of herbal teas and remedies in Jamaica
West Indian Medical Journal
Date of Publication
We investigated the prevalence of the use of herbs among adults and children in Jamaica in 1996. Two concurrent surveys were conducted in randomly selected urban and rural areas: among adults and among caretakers of young children. From over 90% of the selected households, all caretakers of children under 6 years and one randomly selected adult (18 years or older) were interviewed using structured questionnaires. The 457 adults reportedly used 156 types of herbs: a mean of 6 +/- 3 (mean +/- standard deviation) by the urban adults, and 10 +/- 6 by the rural adults (t-test, p < 0.001). Almost 100% of respondents had at some time used herbs for teas or for treating illnesses. The most common method of preparation was by infusion or boiling in water, then adding sugar. Urban respondents, women and those who were employed were more likely to buy medicines than to use herbal remedies. One hundred and sixty-seven caretakers of 203 children under 6 years were interviewed. The mean number of herbs given to each child was between 2 and 3. The most common herbs were introduced within the first 6 months of life. Many caretaker factors were associated with herbal use. Public health implications include the potential toxicity of some herbs, the possibility that herbal teas given to young children may displace more nutritious foods and delay presentation to health care facilities. The findings will allow policy makers to target those most likely to use herbal preparations or to give them to young children, and target herbs to be analyzed for toxic or beneficial properties.....