Background Traditional medicine is widely practised in our country due to the ethnic diversity of this country. It is estimated to account for more than 50% of our local practice. This study is to assess the usage of traditional medicine among patients who have rheumatological problems.
Objectives To determine the incidence of traditional medicine usage as a form of complementary therapy in a cohort of Malaysian rheumatology patients.
Methods A prospective survey by using a standard questionnaire; the questionnaire was translated into 3 languages and was validated. The survey was conducted in December 2000 in the rheumatology clinic of the University of Malaya and Sunway Medical Centre. Patients who have rheumatological problem were interviewed after obtained verbal consent. Patients’ demographic data, monthly income, educational status, diagnosis, duration of disease and the usage of food supplements and traditional medicine were surveyed.
Results A total of 141 patients were interviewed. The mean age of the patients was 48.9 and the female: male ratio was 3:1. Racial breakdown was as follows: Malay = 23%, Chinese = 43%, Indian = 31% and others = 3%. 20% of the patients received primary education, 50% and 23% had education up to secondary and tertiary level respectively; however 7% had no formal education. 55% of the patients had monthly income of < RM1000 (US$250). 12% had duration of disease of less than 1 year and 30% had more than 10 years’ disease. 54% of the patients had Rheumatoid arthritis, 7% had osteoarthritis. 69% admitted consuming food supplements; vitamin C and B were the most common food supplement. 35% used traditional medicine and 69% used 2 or more type of traditional medicine at any one time for more than 2 months. 25% spent more than RM 100(US$25) for their traditional treatment. The most common reason for consuming traditional medicine as complementary medicine was the combination of both western and traditional treatment was thought to be more effective. There was no statistical significance between monthly income (P = 0.32) and duration of disease (p = 0.48) as to the usage of complementary therapy.
Conclusion 35% of the 141 patients used traditional medicine as a form of complementary medicine; 69% used two or more types of traditional medicine for more than 2 months.
69% of them consumed food supplements and vitamin C and B was the most common food supplements.
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