Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in Palestine: use and safety implications

Ansam F Sawalha
Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine: Research on Paradigm, Practice, and Policy 2007, 13 (2): 263-9

AIM: Utilization of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is exponentially rising. There are no published data available about the attitude and use of CAM in Palestine. The purpose of this study was to investigate the attitude, pattern of use, and reasons for CAM utilization among a random sample of people in north Palestine.

METHODS: A questionnaire was used to carry out the objective of the study. The questionnaire was distributed to a random sample of people in north Palestine during the month of October 2005. The questionnaire included three sections: demographic factors and attitude toward CAM, types of CAM encountered by the respondents in the last year, and reasons that motivated CAM use. Data collected from the returned questionnaire were coded and entered into the Statistical Package for Social Sciences program (SPSS) version 10 (SPSS Software, Inc., Chicago, IL).

RESULTS: 72.8% of respondents have used at least one type of CAM in the last year. CAM users were mainly middle-aged, low-income, educated women. Herbal therapy, prayers, and honey were the most commonly utilized types of CAM. Respondents have used CAM mainly to treat respiratory and gastrointestinal disorders. Respondents have utilized CAM mainly because they believed that it is all natural and safe.

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS: CAM utilization in Palestine is very common. Some of the types of CAM used in Palestine are common elsewhere, whereas other types were unique to this area. The herbal products used by the respondents were mainly collected from nature. Safety of such products is questionable, and contamination cannot be ruled out. Awareness of potential adverse effects and proven benefits of various types of CAM needs to be raised.

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