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In 1993 a representative population survey of 3004 individuals 15 years or older living in South Australia assessed the rates of use and types of alternative medicine and therapists used by this population (Victoria, NSW and Queensland Departments of Health, 1997). The findings of this study were similar to those found in the USA. From that survey we know that Aus$621 million was spent on alternative medicines in Australia in 1993. A sum of Aus$309 million was spent on alternative therapists. The percentage share and dollar value of those (non-prescribed) is shown in Table 31.3.

In the USA traditional vitamins and minerals - now a US$4.6 billion business for nutritional supplements - lead the list of the most desired health-promoting substances. Vitamins E and C are by far the most popular, followed by calcium, the B vitamins, p-carotene and iron (Sloan, 1996). Perhaps the most noteworthy nutrition trend in the last couple of years is

Table 31.3. The percentage market shares and value of alternative medicines (non-prescribed) in Australia. From Victoria, NSW and Queensland Departments of Health (1997).


Share of market (%)

Value (Aus $)

Vitamins (non-prescribed)


248 million

Herbal medicines


62 million

Mineral supplements


56 million

Evening primrose oil


49 million

Homeopathic medicines


24 million

Aromatherapy oils


24 million



18 million

Chinese medicines


12 million

Premenstrual treatments


9 million

the growing acceptance of botanicals by mainstream consumers. Sales of herbal remedies are growing by 15% annually, with 1995 year-end sales at about US$2.0 billion (Sloan, 1996). More than one-third of consumers surveyed by HealthFocus want to learn more about herbal remedies and how they relate to disease, while 29% want information about how to use or act on what they learn about them (Gilbert, 1995).

Sales of herbal teas are one indication of the growing interest in herbal food products. The sales of ready-to-drink teas grew 60.6% from 1994 to 1995, with total annual sales from all outlets approaching US$2 billion (Sloan, 1996). Sales of functional teas, designed to offer consumers specific health benefits are expected to increase from $60 million in 1995 to $100 million by 2000 (MIS, 1995). In Australia, it is estimated that the herbal market could easily reach Aus$550 million by the end of 1998. Based on herbal manufacturers' estimates that their products represent around 20/25% of the supplement market we can say that the market for herbals is worth Aus$100-120 million, while vitamins and minerals are worth Aus$386-396 million. The growth rate in the herbal/vitamin and mineral market is estimated at 30-35% per annum.

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