Graduate Program

Nutrition and Dietetics

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Melanie Tracy Burns


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine cancer patients' use of, perceived benefits, and beliefs about herbs and spices after their cancer diagnosis.

Methods: An online questionnaire was used to explore types of herbs and spices used by cancer patients and assess cancer patients' experiences with, and perceived benefits of, and beliefs about spice and herb use. The online questionnaire included three sections: herb and spice use, herb and spice attitudes, and cancer characteristics and demographics. Participants were recruited through online cancer groups and registered dietitian nutritionists.

Results: The study included 135 cancer patients. Participants (71.9%) were likely to use herbs and spices as a CAM modality and (74.8%) were interested in learning more information about the health benefits of herbs and spices. Only half of the participants (47.4%) were concerned about herb/spice-treatment interactions, but participants were significantly more likely to be concerned about herb/spice-treatment interactions if the participant received diet information from a doctor (p = 0.018). There were no significant relationships between time since their cancer diagnosis, cancer stage, age, ethnicity, income level, gender, or education level and frequency (p = 0.618) or change in herb and spice use (p = 0.106).

Conclusions: Cancer patients may benefit from receiving information on the benefits and precautions of herbs and spices following their cancer diagnosis, but future research is needed to determine the perceived benefits and risks of specific herbs and spices.