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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2015, Article ID 736074, 10 pages
Research Article

Characterizing Herbal Medicine Use for Noncommunicable Diseases in Urban South Africa

1South African Herbal Science and Medicine Institute (SAHSMI), Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of the Western Cape, Private Bag X17, Bellville 7535, South Africa
2South African Herbal Science and Medicine Institute, University of the Western Cape, Bellville 7535, South Africa
3The South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch 7602, South Africa
4International Centre for Reproductive Health (ICRH), Ghent University, De Pintelaan 185 UZP114, 9000 Gent, Belgium
5School of Pharmacy, University of the Western Cape, Bellville 7535, South Africa
6School of Public Health, University of the Western Cape, Bellville 7535, South Africa

Received 2 July 2015; Accepted 16 September 2015

Academic Editor: Cheryl Hawk

Copyright © 2015 Gail D. Hughes et al. 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.


Economic challenges associated with noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and the sociocultural outlook of many patients especially in Africa have increased dependence on traditional herbal medicines (THMs) for these diseases. A cross-sectional descriptive study designed to determine the prevalence of and reasons for THM use in the management of NCDs among South African adults was conducted in an urban, economically disadvantaged area of Cape Town, South Africa. In a cohort of 1030 participants recruited as part of the existing Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiological (PURE) study, 456 individuals were identified. The overall prevalence of THM use was 27%, of which 61% was for NCDs. Participants used THM because of a family history (49%) and sociocultural beliefs (33%). Hypertensive medication was most commonly used concurrently with THM. Healthcare professionals need to be aware of the potential dualistic use of THM and conventional drugs by patients, as this could significantly influence health outcomes. Efforts should be made to educate patients on the potential for drug/herb interactions.