|Title||Experience of Western Herbal Medicine practitioners in supporting brain health in mid-life and older patients: a qualitative research study|
|Authors||Hundal, S. and Green, J.|
Introduction and Aims
Dementia is a public health and social care priority, necessitating multi-domain preventative healthcare strategies in at-risk populations The evidence on the use of herbs in addressing neurological, psychological, metabolic and cardiovascular conditions implicated in dementia pathology, and the holistic therapeutic and philosophical attributes of its clinical practice suggest a role for Western herbal medicine (WHM) in primary prevention and healthy brain ageing.
The aim of this qualitative study was to explore the current real-life application of WHM in supporting cognitive and vascular brain health in mid-life and older patients.
Three WHM practitioners were recruited using purposive sampling and a set of inclusion criteria. Semi-structured interviews were used to explore their herbal and therapeutic management approach; and gauge their views on the preventative role of WHM in the assay group. Data from taped interview transcripts, providing a total of 110 minutes, were analysed using simple thematic analysis to identify main themes in the practitioners’ narratives.
Four themes emerged from the practitioners’ narratives of their experience of working with the assay group: the memory loss and cognitive function issues, as well as other conditions implicated in dementia pathology their patients presented with; their use of herbs as well as dietary and lifestyle recommendations in the individualised therapeutic management of those presentations; patient compliance and other issues of working with the target patient group; and the potential role for WHM in managing brain health in an aging population within the wider healthcare ecosystem.
The small exploratory study is the first of its kind attempting to capture the experience of WMH practitioners working with brain health in mid-life and elderly patients. It provides some important insights into the current WHM therapeutic practice and professional competency and some indicators for its future role: WMH’s unique attributes of individualisation and plurality of practice, patient-responsive treatment and the collaborative patient-practitioner therapeutic relationship. Although its findings cannot be generalised, the study provides a reference for future deductive qualitative research. In particular, it warrants further investigation into the role that WHM can play alongside conventional medicine in managing brain health in an aging population.
|Keywords||herbal medicine, dementia, cognition, holistic care, aging|
|Conference||UCL Spices and Medicine Symposium|
|Accepted author manuscript|
|Published||10 Oct 2018|