By Riaan Reay | October 30, 2020

I have been thinking for a while, well face it, during the lockdown period due to the COVID pandemic, I suppose we all have done some sort of thinking.  The thought of being healthy, the absence of disease, has now appealed to me in a new way.  Hear me out.  I used to be an avid runner but due to having worked as a retail pharmacist (long hours, some up to 60 hours plus weeks), I have not hot the road as I would have liked.  Considering that I now have more time for myself and my family due to a change in working hours (more comfortable ones averaging 45 hours per week) the time has come to put on those blue Nike running shoes and the Tom-Tom sports watch and hit the road running.  Therefore, the saying a healthy mind houses a healthy body is applicable to me, here and now.  Having had a very time-consuming job, the job has made this pharmacist a bit lazy or as my wife would put, I am comfortable.  I all honesty that and my wife and I have a toddler.  That has led to many interrupted sessions of sleep and fatigued bodies and minds, even though we are very blessed having a healthy kid. 

Besides thinking and introspection in the lockdown period, I have also been doing a lot of reading.  The topic that I have found the most appealing is natural medicines, defined in two terms namely, nutraceuticals and phytomedicine.  Let us not get lost in the two terminologies even though there is a difference.  I have decided to include both nutraceuticals and phytomedicine under one term, namely plant-based medicine.  Just to add some difference between the two terms: nutraceuticals and phytomedicine here goes.  Nutraceuticals are available as complementary medicine, which means that it is to be used as an additional treatment/supplemental medicine in your chronic medicine basket (Naidoo and Mokantla, 2019).  Nutraceuticals is also currently not described in the South African legislation.  Phytomedicine is a herbal medicine that has disease treatment and healing properties.  Legally there is a difference.  In nutraceutical medicine dossier preparation, there are not such stringent information required as in normal pharmaceutical drug preparation.  The greater the claims, the greater the information required. 

The focus of this article will more accurately be to broadly discuss phytomedicines.  I would for non-technical readers rather use the term plant-based medicine.  Considering that according to the World Health Organization (WHO) between 70-95% of the people in the world use some sort of natural medicine to treat primary healthcare conditions.  Phytomedicine came into existence from the earliest of civilizations.  One known book is the Sheng Nongs Herbal Book which is a preliminary source of traditional Chinese medicine that dates to 3000 BC.

The plant-based medicine market was previously dominated by health foods and speciality stores but now mainstream advertising by pharmaceutical giants has made their place visible in almost every sphere.  Plant-based medicine in amalgamation with various healthcare fields has indeed revolutionized and strengthened the foundation of the existing healthcare system.  As far as evolutionary pharmacology (the part I love) is concerned, the secondary metabolites of a plant comprise an important collection of bioactive compounds, and if selected and propagated naturally can be used as a remedy against various human infections and health disorders (Srivastava, 2019).

When we talk about amalgamation, we get the term holistic approach to health, which also refers to the saying of a healthy mind houses a healthy body.

In the following weeks, I will share with you the supportive effect of plant-based medicine in a supportive role in primary healthcare disorders.  Please note that I am not in any words saying that this is the treatment of primary healthcare disorders, rather supportive.  Even though this plant-based medicine is used in treatment thereof in our traditional space and in many other parts of the world, especially in India. 

Today, relevant in the world, mental health is a topic of huge importance and will become more so.  The mainframe (a.k.a. the brain) that controls the way we view the world we live in is very susceptible to different stimuli.   For instance, the food we eat (or the food we do not eat), the use of alcohol, tobacco, medicines and blood sugar metabolism have a large effect on the brains current and future health.  The emotional effects of the lockdown, children on the internet, social media’s engulfing of virtually every part of our daily lives.  This all is emotionally draining.   

Here follows a list of plant-based medicine (listed below) that can be used to act as mental health support, as explained in the paragraph above.  These plant-based medicines can be found in a combination of products or on their own.  The challenge sometimes lies to source these products at a reasonable cost. 


Plant-based medicine (name)


Withania somnifera


Asparagous racemosus


Embilica officinalis


Trigonella foenum graecum

Blood sugar support

Gymnema sylvestre

Blood sugar support

Griffonia simplicifolia

Brain health

Centella asiatica

Memory Support

Curcuma longa

Memory Support

Mucuna pruriens


Rhodiola rosea



Just a short summary of the table above.  An adaptogen is used to ensure that the cellular functions are returned to normal, especially after prolonged periods of mental and physical stress. The Rhodiola Rosea antidepressant effects were compared with Zoloft®/Serlife®/Serdep® and found to be effective for treatment in mild depression (Mao et. al., 2015).  Blood sugar support is important because the brain needs a continuous supply of energy to function optimally.  The tonic in the table above has shown to increase the brains dopamine levels which give the brain an additional edge on being able to deal with mental stressors.   

I hope that this article has shed some light on the importance of a holistic approach to mental health and the presence of plant-based medicine to support or treat some forms of depression and anxiety. 

I hope you have enjoyed the article.  Next time I will have another article about plant-based medicines. 


Best Wishes.

References available.