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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 687197, 13 pages
Research Article

Why Urban Citizens in Developing Countries Use Traditional Medicines: The Case of Suriname

1Naturalis Biodiversity Center, P.O. Box 9514, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
2School of Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK

Received 28 January 2013; Accepted 17 March 2013

Academic Editor: Andrea Pieroni

Copyright © 2013 Tinde van Andel and Luísa G. Carvalheiro. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The use of traditional medicines (TMs) among urban populations in developing countries and factors underlying people’s decision to use TMs are poorly documented. We interviewed 270 adults in Paramaribo, Suriname, using a stratified random household sample, semistructured questionnaires, and multivariate analysis. Respondents mentioned 144 medicinal plant species, most frequently Gossypium barbadense, Phyllanthus amarus, and Quassia amara. 66% had used TMs in the previous year, especially people who suffered from cold, fever, hypertension, headache, uterus, and urinary tract problems. At least 22% combined herbs with prescription medicine. The strongest explanatory variables were health status, (transfer of) plant knowledge, and health status combined with plant knowledge. Other predictive variables included religion, marital status, attitude of medical personnel, religious opinion on TMs, and number of children per household. Age, gender, nationality, rural background, education, employment, income, insurance, and opinion of government or doctors had no influence. People’s main motivation to use TMs was their familiarity with herbs. Given the frequent use of self-collected, home-prepared herbal medicine and the fact that illness and traditional knowledge predict plant use rather than poverty or a limited access to modern health care, the potential risks and benefits of TMs should be put prominently on the national public health agenda.