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Herbal supplements in the print media: communicating benefits and risks

Peacock, Matthew, Badea, Mihaela, Bruno, Flavia, Timotijevic, Lada, Laccisaglia, Martina, Hodgkins, Charo, Raats, Monique and Egan, Bernadette (2019) Herbal supplements in the print media: communicating benefits and risks BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 19, 196. pp. 1-14.

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Abstract

Background

The rise in use of food supplements based on botanical ingredients (herbal supplements) is depicted as part of a trend empowering consumers to manage their day-to-day health needs, which presupposes access to clear and accurate information to make effective choices. Evidence regarding herbal supplement efficacy is extremely variable so recent regulations eliminating unsubstantiated claims about potential effects leave producers able to provide very little information about their products. Medical practitioners are rarely educated about herbal supplements and most users learn about them via word-of-mouth, allowing dangerous misconceptions to thrive, chief among them the assumption that natural products are inherently safe. Print media is prolific among the information channels still able to freely discuss herbal supplements.

Method

This study thematically analyses how 76 newspaper/magazine articles from the UK, Romania and Italy portray the potential risks and benefits of herbal supplements.

Results

Most articles referenced both risks and benefits and were factually accurate but often lacked context and impartiality. More telling was how the risks and benefits were framed in service of a chosen narrative, the paucity of authoritative information allowing journalists leeway to recontextualise herbal supplements in ways that serviced the goals and values of their specific publications and readerships.

Conclusion

Providing sufficient information to empower consumers should not be the responsibility of print media, instead an accessible source of objective information is required.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences > School of Health Sciences
Authors :
NameEmailORCID
Peacock, MatthewM.Peacock@surrey.ac.uk
Badea, Mihaela
Bruno, Flavia
Timotijevic, LadaL.Timotijevic@surrey.ac.uk
Laccisaglia, Martina
Hodgkins, CharoC.Hodgkins@surrey.ac.uk
Raats, MoniqueM.Raats@surrey.ac.uk
Egan, BernadetteM.Egan@surrey.ac.uk
Date : 2 August 2019
Funders : European Union Seventh Framework Programme
DOI : 10.1186/s12906-019-2602-9
Grant Title : PlantLIBRA project
Copyright Disclaimer : © The Author(s). 2019. Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
Uncontrolled Keywords : Food supplements; Herbal remedies; Consumer information; Print media; Self-medication
Depositing User : Clive Harris
Date Deposited : 15 Aug 2019 07:34
Last Modified : 15 Aug 2019 07:34
URI: http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/id/eprint/852412

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