'Asking the right question'. A comparison of two approaches to gathering data on 'herbals' use in survey based studies

James S. McLay (Lead / Corresponding author), Abdul R. Pallivalappila, Ashalatha Shetty, Binita Pande, Moza Al Hail, Derek Stewart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
178 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Over the last decade academic interest in the prevalence and nature of herbal medicines use by pregnant women has increased significantly. Such data are usually collected by means of an administered questionnaire survey, however a key methodological limitation using this approach is the need to clearly define the scope of 'herbals' to be investigated. The majority of published studies in this area neither define 'herbals' nor provide a detailed checklist naming specific 'herbals' and CAM modalities, which limits inter-study comparison, generalisability and the potential for meta-analyses. The aim of this study was to compare the self-reported use of herbs, herbal medicines and herbal products using two different approaches implemented in succession. 

Methods: Cross-sectional questionnaire surveys of women attending for their mid-trimester scan or attending the postnatal unit following live birth at the Royal Aberdeen Maternity Hospital, North-East Scotland. The questionnaire utilised two approaches to collect data on 'herbals' use, a single closed yes/no answer to the question "have you used herbs, herbal medicines and herbal products in the last three months"; and a request to tick which of a list of 40 'herbals' they had used in the same time period. 

Results: A total of 889 responses were obtained of which 4.3% (38) answered 'yes' to herbal use via the closed question. However, using the checklist 39% (350) of respondents reported the use of one or more specific 'herbals' (p

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0150140
Number of pages9
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
Early online date25 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Medicine


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