The use of traditional plant medicines for non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus in South Texas

Polly Hitchcock Noël, Jacqueline A. Pugh, Anne C. Larme, Genevieve Marsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


The use of traditional plant medicines, as well as the factors associated with their use, were documented in 662 outpatients with non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus enrolled at six primary care clinics in South Texas. Forty-nine percent of the patients reported using alternative treatments for their diabetes, which included 61 different traditional plant medicines. The four most commonly reported were nepal (Opuntia streptacantha) or the prickly pear cactus, chaya (Cnidoscolus chayamansa), mispero (Eriobotrya japonica) or loquat, and savila (Aloe vera). Logistic regression was used to develop a multivariate model which indicated that alternative medicine use is positively associated with age and diabetes-related 'hassles', and was more likely among border residents and individuals who were born in Mexico. Disease severity was not associated with the use of alternative treatments when controlling for other variables. Users of alternative treatments also appeared just as likely to adhere to orthodox biomedical treatment recommendations as non-users. While preliminary reports in the literature suggest that some of the identified plants have hypoglycaemic properties, information is limited or nonexistent for many of the other plants. Given their preponderance in this region, some of these plants should be targeted for further investigation to document their efficacy or to screen for toxicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)512-517
Number of pages6
JournalPhytotherapy Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Nov 1 1997


  • Aloe vera
  • Cnidoscolus chayamansa
  • Eriobotrya japonica
  • Opuntia streptacantha

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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