To determine how the Thai elderly perceived the benefits of herbal medicine consumption and to study related variables influencing their perception.
A cross-sectional study was used.
419 participants were chosen by systematic stratified sampling; people between 60-96 years of age (mean age 70.2 years); 68.3 % female, and 31.7% male of Chonburi Province (Thailand).
To determine the elderly perception about the benefits of herbal medicine consumption, a scale from one to four based upon 12 simply worded item check lists was used among the others. The questionnaires were conducted in June to August 2008 in 3 different regions (urban, suburban and rural areas).
97.4% having used herbal medicines in many ways. Most of the elderly used the local herbals together with conventional medicines. They believed that herbals could reduce expenses (51%), cure diseases (41.9%), relieve symptoms (35.4%), and provide good health (33.6%). A 16.7% of the elderly had the strongest opinion regarding the use of herbal medicines as substitutes for conventional medicines. They also strongly agreed on using them as nutrients (39.8%). The study found significant correlation among levels of education, stress levels, happiness levels, and perception of benefits of herbal medicine consumption.
This study indicated that levels of education, happiness, and stress could influence the perception of herbal medicine consumption. Knowing how people perceive herbal medicine, its use, and local culture can help practicing health professionals, among other things, to avoid side effects from prescriptions and so maintain or promote the elderly health status.