BACKGROUND : Herbal medications are used worldwide for a variety of diseases and conditions. Patients often elect not to disclose
their herbal use history, or health care practitioners fail to enquire about specific alternative therapy. The aim of this study was
to assess the conditions most frequently self-treated with herbal remedies by patients visiting a tertiary hospital in Garankuwa,
METHODS : Patients attending an out-patient’s clinic at the Dr George Mukhari Academic Hospital were given a questionnaire
regarding their use of herbal remedies for various reasons. Assessment was done on past, current, and possible future use of
herbal interventions. These interventions were categorised into acute medical conditions, chronic ailments, and cultural uses.
RESULTS : Respiratory tract infections were most frequently treated (34%). Other highly ranked uses included protection from evil
spirits (32%) and for HIV/AIDS (29%). Digestive ailments (27%), hypertension (18%), and general malaise (17%) accounted for
the remainder. Previous herbal use amounted to 74%, but only 30% indicated that they would use herbal medication in future.
CONCLUSIONS : Traditional medication plays an important role in many communities in South Africa. For this reason health
care workers need to be aware of the conditions most frequently self-treated with herbal remedies. Having knowledge about the
incidence of herbal treatment for a specific condition could alert the health care practitioner to possible reasons for unidentifiable
drug interactions, adverse events, treatment failure, or even death.