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Josephine P. Briggs, M.D.
Josephine P. Briggs, M.D.

Director’s Page
Josephine P. Briggs, M.D.

New Data Reveal Americans’ Use of Complementary Health Approaches

February 10, 2015

Today, we have new data about Americans’ use of natural products and mind and body practices. Every 5 years we partner with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics to administer a complementary health questionnaire as part of the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), in which tens of thousands of Americans are interviewed about their health- and illness-related experiences. These new data come from the 2012 NHIS survey, and it is the most current and comprehensive source of information on the use of complementary approaches by adults and children in this country.

Some of the survey results that I find especially interesting are the shifts in Americans’ use of natural products. Adults’ use of fish oil, probiotics or prebiotics, and melatonin increased significantly between 2007 and 2012, while use of glucosamine/chondroitin, echinacea, and garlic decreased during that same time period. Fish oil was the most commonly used natural product among children; in 2007, however, echinacea was at the top of the list. Some of the data trends are in line with published research on the efficacy of natural products and help to reaffirm the importance of research on these products and of sharing the findings with consumers.

Additional survey results reveal widespread use of mind and body practices such as yoga, meditation, and chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation. Of particular interest is that approximately 21 million adults—nearly double the number from the 2002 survey—and 1.7 million children practiced yoga. The high rates of use may be, in part, due to a growing body of evidence that some mind and body practices can help people better manage pain and reduce stress.

You can read more about Americans’ use of natural products and mind and body approaches in the full report at: www.nccih.nih.gov/NHIS2012.

We at NCCIH pay attention to the patterns of use of complementary health approaches—it’s one of the guiding principles that help determine what products and practices we study—and knowing about what Americans use can help us identify their unmet health needs. As always, be safe, be well, and make informed health decisions!

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