Folk remedies popular among older rural residents

Researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC, have found that alternative medicine is just as popular in rural areas as in urban ones.1

The difference between the two areas is that older, rural residents of North Carolina are more likely to use folk remedies, such as vitamins, Epsom salts, or a vinegar "tonic," rather than massage therapy, acupuncture or herbal medicines.

The study surveyed 701 diabetic patients to determine how many were using folk or home remedies to treat their condition. Study participants reported that they are not using alternative therapies to treat chronic conditions, such as diabetes, but are using home remedies to treat sore throats, headaches, and injuries.

More than half (52%) of the respondents used food home remedies (honey, lemon, and garlic), and 57% used other home remedies (tobacco, Epsom salts, and salves). Vitamins were used by 45% of the study participants and minerals were used by 17%. Only 6% used herbs to treat themselves.

Blacks and Native Americans were more likely to use home remedies than whites. Eighty-one percent of black participants and 76% of Native American participants reported using home remedies.

Researchers point out the importance of home health providers understanding all of the remedies patients might use to make sure that patients understand the reason for different prescribed treatments and their potential interaction with home remedies.


1. Arcury TA, et al. Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use as Health Self-Management: Rural Older Adults with Diabetes. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci 2006; 61(2):S62-S70.