Western herbal medicine consultations for common menstrual problems; practitioner experiences and perceptions of treatment

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Abstract

To explore the prevalence with which Australian Western herbalists treat menstrual problems and their related treatment, experiences, perceptions, and interreferral practices with other health practitioners. Members of the Practitioner Research and Collaboration Initiative practice-based research network identifying as Western Herbalists (WHs) completed a specifically developed, online questionnaire. Western Herbalists regularly treat menstrual problems, perceiving high, though differential, levels of effectiveness. For menstrual problems, WHs predominantly prescribe individualised formulas including core herbs, such as Vitex agnus-castus, and problem-specific herbs. Estimated clients' weekly cost (median = $25.00) and treatment duration (median = 4–6 months) covering this Western herbal medicine treatment appears relatively low. Urban-based women are more likely than those rurally based to have used conventional treatment for their menstrual problems before consulting WHs (p = .001). Only 19% of WHs indicated direct contact by conventional medical practitioners regarding treatment of clients' menstrual problems despite 42% indicating clients' conventional practitioners recommended consultation with WH. Western herbal medicine may be a substantially prevalent, cost-effective treatment option amongst women with menstrual problems. A detailed examination of the behaviour of women with menstrual problems who seek and use Western herbal medicine warrants attention to ensure this healthcare option is safe, effective, and appropriately co-ordinated within women's wider healthcare use.

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