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Complementary Medicine

Herbal Supplements Most Used Type of Complementary Medicine

In an effort to stay healthy, solve a chronic health issue or seek an alternative to drugs, many adults have tried complementary medicine.

From acupuncture and massage to herbs and yoga, these modalities are more popular than ever.

But, according to a new report, where you live may influence the type of complementary medicine you opt to use.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), recently issued a report on regional variation in the use of complementary health approaches by U.S. adults.

"Herbal and botanical dietary supplements were the most popular complementary health approach in 2012, used by about 18% of adults and more than twice as popular as other approaches."

Researchers analyzed data for almost 35,000 U.S. adults who participated in the 2012 National Health Interview Survey and found that herbal and botanical dietary supplements were the most popular complementary health approach in 2012, used by about 18% of adults and more than twice as popular as other approaches.

Regional Differences

The report looked at six most commonly used complementary health approaches used by adults in the U.S. including botanical supplements, practitioner based chiropractic manipulation, yoga and meditation, massage therapy and special diets. Here’s how use of these approaches differed by nine geographic regions across the country:

Herbal and botanical supplements. Usage of these supplements was greatest in the Mountain region, with 28.7% of respondents using them, followed by the Pacific at 23.3%, and the West North Central region at 23.1%. By contrast, those in the Mid-Atlantic, West South Central, and South Atlantic regions reported low usage, averaging only about 13%.

Practitioner-based chiropractic manipulation. People in the West North Central region were the most frequent users of practitioner-based chiropractic manipulation or osteopathic manipulation at 16.4%, nearly double that of the national average of 8.5%.

Chiropractic manipulation is a technique that uses a type of hands-on therapy to adjust problems related to the body’s structure, primarily the spine, and its function. Osteopathic manipulation is a full-body system of hands-on techniques to alleviate pain, restore function, and promote health and well-being.

The Pacific and East North Central regions were just above the national average at 9.3 % and 9.5% respectively, while the East South Central reported 6.5% and the South Atlantic and West South Central regions reported about 6%.

Yoga and meditation. Yoga with deep breathing or meditation was more popular in the Pacific and Mountain regions at about 12%, while the Mid Atlantic and South Atlantic regions averaged about 7%. In addition, the West South Central (6%) and East South Central (5.1%) regions were well below the national average of 8.4%.

Massage therapy. The national average for massage therapy devotees was 6.8%, and the greatest numbers of users were centered in the Pacific and Mountain regions with about 9.4%, while West North Central followed with 8.4%. The East South Central reported the fewest seeking massage therapy, with just 2.5%.

Special diet. And about 3% of respondents nationally reported using a special diet, defined as “a variety of nutritional approaches ranging from a basic, healthy vegetable-based diet to adopting highly restrictive diets and supplement programs.” This would include being vegan, vegetarian, Paleo, or gluten-free, among others.

Researchers noted that the regional differences may be accounted for as a result of environmental, economic, and cultural features within the specific areas. Just as there are likely to be more yoga studios in states like California and Oregon compared to some other areas, industries in the West North Central region, covering Kansas to North Dakota, might lead to greater need for chiropractic care.

The Bottom Line

Each of these complementary approaches plays a role in health. With an aging population that faces chronic issues, which typically do not respond as well to conventional medicine, interest in these treatments will most likely increase over the next decade. Additionally, with the ever-increasing cost of health care, more people will be looking at preventive care to keep their body and mind working at an optimal level.

Interested in taking an herbal or botanical supplement? The American Botanical Council’s Herbal Library is a terrific resource for researching different herbs and their relevance to modern medicine.

Back bothering you? Maybe chiropractic manipulation can help alleviate your symptoms. The American Chiropractic Association can help you locate the doctor of chiropractic closest to you.

A whole-person approach to wellness, like that offered by an doctor of osteopathy (DO), may work better for some than a traditional approach. DOs attend medical school, are licensed, can be specialists, and can write prescriptions, just like MDs; in addition, they focus heavily on preventive health care and use osteomanipulative treatment. Find out if any doctors near you are DOs.

You may also want to consider consulting with a Naturopathic Doctor or N.D. For more information on credentialing, visit the NCCAM website. To find an ND in your area, use the physician search on the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) website.

Yoga is also a great alternative approach, as it centers on wellness of the body and mind. Read our article about why yoga is such a great activity, and try out a yoga class or qualified instructor close by.

Complementary and alternative medicines contribute much to health, so don’t let where you live limit you. Your well-being counts on your being open to different approaches!

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