Original Research

Concurrent use of herbal and prescribed medicine by patients in primary health care clinics, South Africa

Tebogo Tsele-Tebakang, Heather Morris-Eyton, Erica Pretorius
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 15, No 1 | a3829 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v15i1.3829 | © 2023 Tebogo Tsele-Tebakang, Heather Morris-Eyton, Erica Pretorius | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 02 September 2022 | Published: 29 June 2023

About the author(s)

Tebogo Tsele-Tebakang, Department of Complementary Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
Heather Morris-Eyton, Department of Sport and Movement Studies, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
Erica Pretorius, Centre for Academic Technologies, Academic Development and Support, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa


Background: The use of herbal medicine (HM) as a self-management practice for treating various diseases has gained popularity worldwide. Consumers co-administer herbal products with conventional medicine without the knowledge of possible herb-drug interaction (HDI).

Aim: This study aimed to assess patients’ perception and use of HM and their knowledge of HDI.

Setting: Participants attending primary health care (PHC) clinics in three provinces (Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Free State), South Africa, were recruited.

Methods: Focus group discussions comprising a total of thirty (N = 30) participants were conducted using a semi-structured interview guide. Discussions were audio-recorded and then transcribed verbatim. Data were analysed using thematic content analysis.

Results: Reasons for using HM, sources of information on HM, co-administration of HM and prescribed medicine, disclosure of the use of HM, PHC nurses’ attitudes and not having time to engage were frequently discussed. Respondents’ lack of knowledge and perceptions about HDI and their dissatisfaction with prescribed medicine because of experienced side effects were also discussed.

Conclusion: Because of the lack of discussions and non-disclosure about HM in PHC clinics, patients are at risk of experiencing HDIs. Primary health care providers should regularly enquire about HM use on every patient, to identify and prevent HDIs. The lack of knowledge about HDIs by patients further compromises the safety of HM.

Contribution: The results highlighted the lack of knowledge of HDI by patients thus assisting the healthcare stakeholders in South Africa to implement measures to educate patients attending PHC clinics.


herbal medicine (HM); primary health care providers; primary health care nurses; herb-drug interaction; Primary health care clinics; African traditional medicine (ATM).

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 3: Good health and well-being


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