Home Remedies

Vol. 17 •Issue 14 • Page 32
Home Remedies

Rural adults use them to enhance their mental health and general well-being

Almost half of the adults in rural western North Carolina use home remedies, not only for specific ailments but also to enhance their mental health and general well-being, according to a new report by researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC (Complementary Health Practice Review, March 2004).

Remedies involving honey, lemon, vinegar or whiskey–used alone or in combination—were the most prevalent, followed by herbs, teas and other “traditional” cures, reported the team led by Thomas Arcury, PhD. He said the research has implications for how clinicians treat their patients.

“A clinician may ask patients if they are using an alternative treatment, going to an acupuncturist, or using herbs; but many patients may not think of home remedies as alternative treatments, and the physician may not think to ask about specific home remedies that may have an affect,” Dr. Arcury said. “For example, a physician would need to know if someone is treating diabetes with honey.”

The widespread rural use of home remedies contrasts sharply with the use of alternative therapies such as acupuncture, chiropracty and herbal medicine, which was estimated at only 8.6 percent, the study found.

“That people are using home remedies and not using the alternatives that end up being talked about in the press a lot is the important finding of this study to me,” said Dr. Arcury, a professor of family medicine. “Honey, lemon, vinegar and whiskey are traditional remedies. They are things people grew up using. They are things I was given when I was a kid. When I had a cold, my father gave me lemon and honey.”

The objectives of the study were as follows:

• to estimate the prevalence of complementary and alternative medicine use among rural adults,

• to identify characteristics of the adults who use such alternatives, and

• to analyze the health conditions for which alternative medicines and therapies are being used.

Data were collected as part of the larger Mountain Accessibility Project, which surveyed adults in 12 rural counties of North Carolina to assess the geographic, social, cultural and health status factors affecting the use of health care services.

Respondents were asked specifically about any home remedies they might use. They described 238 distinct remedies that researchers put into eight groups: honey-lemon-vinegar-whiskey, used alone or in combination; herbs; teas; traditional remedies involving substances such as baking soda or turpentine; vitamins and minerals; food; over-the-counter products; and products bought from health food stores.

Based on survey responses, an estimated 45.7 percent of the rural adult population use home remedies, researchers found. There were significant differences in use by age, gender and education.

Rural adults ages 30-44 are most likely to use any home remedies (56 percent), while people age 65 and older are least likely (35.7 percent). More women than men use home remedies (50 percent vs. 39 percent) and vitamins and minerals (7 percent vs. 3 percent).

Adults with a high school education or less are more likely to use the honey, lemon, vinegar and whiskey remedies but are less likely to use remedies of vitamins and minerals.

Dr. Arcury and three colleagues from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill also reported that respiratory and throat and mouth conditions most often were treated with honey, lemon, vinegar and whiskey remedies, while cardiovascular conditions, infections, allergies and mental health typically were treated with herbs. Digestive and urinary tract conditions and general well-being most often were treated with teas.

The research was supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.