Exploratory data on herbal product use is being gathered by survey on a multiethnic population of people with diabetes in southern Texas. Herbal and folk medicine usage has been examined in local Mexican-American communities but other ethnic groups and medically significant populations are less studied. Diabetes is in near epidemic proportions in South Texas and patients often take multiple medications to treat the diabetes and co-occurring diseases such as hypertension, cancer and depression. Data should give local health care providers information on herbal products in high usage in specific sub-populations, so that they may be alert for interactions, and as a resource for which specific prescription drug/herbal interaction testing is of most urgent need. Preliminary data indicate about 35% uses one or more herbal product, 94% concurrently with prescription medicine, and only 33% had informed doctor/pharmacist of usage. All have a diagnosis of diabetes (35/57% M/F, 66% Hispanic, 21% White, non-Hispanic, 3% African-American, 2% Native American, 8% other). Highly significant differences are seen between Hispanic and White usage. Only aloe vera and saw palmetto usage overlap between groups, Hispanic herbal efficacy attitudes are more positive, but Whites report use of herbals at higher percentages. The four most common are aloe vera (24%), prickly pear cactus (20%), chaya Cnidoscolus chayamansa Euphorbiaceae (14%) and saw palmetto (7%) but usage was ethnically divided. No White, non-Hispanic reported use of cactus or chaya.

Key words: Cnidoscolus chayamansa, diabetes, ethnobotany, Euphorbiaceae, herbal medicine, Hispanic