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The use of herbal remedies to promote general wellbeing by individuals of African-Caribbean origin in England

Within the Caribbean community there is a tradition of using herbal remedies to maintain general health and wellbeing, for both everyday common ailments and chronic conditions such as hypertension. This paper presents an account of an ethnographic study which aimed to describe and illuminate Caribbean hypertensive patients’ use of herbal remedies. The design was informed by the focused ethnographic approach of Muecke, and van Maanen’s adjectival approach. There were three phases: phase one, focus groups; phase two, semistructured interviews; and phase three, further interviews using vignettes derived from the preliminary data. Thirty-six participants were recruited through general practice surgeries in two UK cities. All were of Caribbean origin. Data were managed with the aid of Atlas/ti qualitative data software package and analysed using Roper and Shapira’s framework for analysis of ethnographic data. Findings were grouped into four major themes: the use of herbal remedies and how this was learned from family members; specific herbal remedies for hypertension; the need for caution in using herbal remedies; and where herbal remedies were obtained. The findings demonstrated that participants had a propensity towards self-care and medication with herbal remedies, complementary to or in place of Western medicines. They used these remedies as an empowerment strategy to gain control over their treatment and condition but did not always reveal this to professionals. In the light of these findings from practitioners it is concluded that it may be useful for professionals working in primary care to acknowledge the possible use of herbal remedies and improve their cultural competence in helping patients manage their hypertension.

Author(s): Nigel Mathers, Gina MA Higginbottom

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