The online survey was conducted by Can Tho University of Medicine and Pharmacy between February and April.
Findings were published on the journal Annali di Igiene: Medicina Preventiva e di Comunita (Ann Ig) recently.
Most of the 787 survey respondents were from South of Vietnam, with a mean age of 26 years old.
The purpose of the survey was to find out their attitude towards herbal medicines, the types of herbal medicines used, and the reasons for using them amid the ongoing pandemic.
Out of the 787 respondents, nearly half (46.8 per cent) said they had used nutritional supplements or herbal medicines for COVID-19 prevention or treatment.
Of which, vitamins and minerals were the most commonly used (75.8 per cent), followed by Traditional Vietnamese herbs (55.7 per cent), and herbal supplements (31.5 per cent).
When it comes to herbal medicines, over half of them (54.6 per cent) had access to herbal medicines from their home gardens. Two in five bought them from herbal drugstores, while traditional medicine hospital departments were the third most common source, with 35.3 per cent of them buying from there.
In Vietnam, herbal medicines can either be prescribed or purchased over the counter.
There is also a traditional medicine department in most of the hospitals across the country.
In fact, the healthcare authority has published a long-term plan to increase herbal-medicine based treatment rates to 30 per cent of all prescriptions by the year 2025, the researchers pointed out.
Why and why not
Those who used herbal medicines did so as they saw it as “natural”, while those who did not said they had a lack of experience and understanding towards its use.
Among the 368 respondents who used herbal medicines, 52.4 per cent said herbal medicines were natural, 50.3 per cent said they had positive experience using it, while 47.3 per cent said they could easily access these medicines.
For these 368 respondents, 87.8 per cent said they preferred using herbal medicines as a supplement to prevent infection and strengthen immunity, and 72.8 per cent preferred to use herbal products as a sanitiser.
“Manufacturers may plan to develop HM-based (herbal medicines-based) products to satisfy the current demand,” the researchers pointed out.
In the 419 respondents who did not use herbal medicines, 58.5 per cent explained they had a lack of experience or understanding of these medicines, while 40.3 per cent said that there was insufficient expert advice on its use.
The survey found that herbal medicines users were six times more likely to have a positive opinion of herbal medicines than non-users.
“Only a fifth (19.6%) of participants expressed a positive opinion of HM for the prevention/ treatment of COVID-19.
“The majority of participants responded ‘maybe’ to questions about their opinion of HM, demonstrating a general uncertainty in the effectiveness of HM.
“This highlights a key opportunity for policymakers to improve the awareness, understanding, attitudes towards, and practice around HM use among the Vietnamese people,” the researchers said.
In contrast, more than half (52.6 per cent) believed that vitamin C found in orange, grapefruit, lemon could help to treat or reduce the chances of developing COVID-19.
Source: Ann Ig
Perspectives on COVID-19 prevention and treatment using herbal medicine in Vietnam: A cross-sectional study
Authors: V.D. Tran et al