BACKGROUND: There is growing concern that serious interactions are occurring between prescribed/over the counter and herbal medicines and that there is a lack of disclosure of herbal use by patients to doctors. This study explores women's perspectives about the safety of herbal remedies, herb-drug interactions and communication with doctors about herbal medicines. METHODS: Qualitative, cross-sectional study, with purposive sampling which took place in Cheshire, UK. Eighteen in depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with female herbal medicine users aged 18 years and above. RESULTS: The large majority did not inform their GPs of their use of herbal medicines. This was due to lack of physician enquiry, perception of importance and fear of a negative response. Several women were not aware that herbal remedies could interact with prescribed or over the counter medicines. Of the women who had experienced adverse effects none had reported them, believing them of low importance. CONCLUSION: The women had little knowledge about herb-drug interactions and rarely disclosed use of herbal medicines to their doctor. Doctors' communication and openness regarding herbal medicines needs to improve and there should be increased access to accurate information on herbal medicines in the public and health care domain.