Plant-Based Drugs and Autism Spectrum Disorders

What Are Plant-Based Drugs?

Also called herbal medicine products (or Botanical Drugs by the US Food and Drug Administration), plant-based drugs work to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent disease because of one or more plant ingredients inside them. They contain roots, leaves, barks, seeds, algae, fungi, or a mix of these things, and they come in a powder, tea, pill, drink, cream, or injected shot. Recently, plant-based drugs have experienced a surge in popularity because of multiple studies explaining their potential benefits.

Typical Plant-Based Drugs and Their Uses

Plant-based drugs have shown significant promise for changing human behaviors and relieving the symptoms of psychological diseases and disorders. Typically, these drugs have focused on three areas: treating depression, enhancing brainpower, and treating anxiety.  Let's take a look at some of the specifics. Don't worry about memorizing the scientific names: you can always reference this paper when you decide to go shopping.

  • For depression, Salvia divinorum, lavender oil, Hypericum extract, and Ginkgo biloba extract may be effective treatments.
  • Sage, rosemary, ginseng extract, lemon balm, green tea, Yokukansan, and Fufangdanshen have shown some capacity to enhance brainpower and stave off brainpower decline.
  • Anxiety may respond to Piper methysticum, Kava, Passiflora incarnata, Scutellaria lateriflora, Zizyphus jujuba, Matricaria recutita, Ginkgo biloba, and Valerian.

Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs)?

Before we can look into the potential for plant-based drugs to treat Autism spectrum disorders (ASD), we should look at what ASDs are. Affecting patient communication and behavior, the symptoms of these disorders usually appear within the first two years of life while the brain is still developing, hence the term "developmental disorder." There are many types of Autism – ranging along a spectrum.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) says that ASDs affect interactions between people, lead to repetitive behaviors, and limit interests. In turn, these symptoms negatively impact people who have ASDs at school, at work, and in their relationships.

Plant-Based Drugs Treating ASDs

Like most disorders of the mind, ASDs do not respond well to mainstream drugs, and when they do respond, there are often terrible side effects. As more and more families grapple with the realities of ASDs, plant-based drugs and herbal treatments have taken on a new importance.

Potential Ingredients

Flavonoids are found in fruits, vegetables, grains, barks, roots, stems, and flowers, and they can lower oxidative stress levels, which tend to be high in ASD patients. They may also have anti-inflammatory effects and even protect the brain from harm For example, green tea therapy using Camellia sinensis extract can help to temper behaviors. In one study, mice pips seemed to respond to Green tea doses, giving researchers reason to look into flavonoids more deeply. In another study, 30-50% of children made better eye contact and paid attention for effectively after taking a flavonoid mixture over a four-month period.


  • Cannabinoids are cannabis-derived ingredients that include THC and CBD, the latter of which may be able to treat ASD symptoms. This research is still young, though, and physicians will need to look into safety, side effects, and benefits in greater detail.


  • Piperine comes from the Indian medicinal plant Piper longum and the black pepper Piper nigrum. Previously used to treat seizure disorders, it is antioxidant and brain-protecting like flavonoids. It may also be able to enhance brainpower, and in one study, there was evidence that it may be able to improve balance and motor skills in ASD patients.


  • Also similar to flavonoids, resveratol may be anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Grapes, pines, peanuts, and red wine all contain resveratol, and multiple studies have pointed to resveratol as a possible treatment for the behavioral symptoms of ASDs.


  • Curcumin has a long history of helping to defend against brain diseases and disorders, and it may be able to support the brain during development and make the symptoms of ADS less severe as a result.


  • Popular among Indian tribes for 3,000 years, bacosides come from the Bacopa monneri herb found in Asia. It may be able to enhance brainpower, thus affecting the behavioral symptoms of ASDs.

Potential Ingredients

In the future, plant-based drugs seem poised to continue to grow in popularity. Researchers have uncovered significant evidence of their potential as ASD treatments, and they deserve our attention and consideration. Flavonoids, cannabinoids, piperine, resveratol, curcumin, bacosides, and others: there is no telling which of these the best treatments will turn out to be, which is why it is worth looking in all directions and leaving no herb and no extract unstudied.


Urdaneta, K. E., Castillo, M. A., Montiel, N., Semprún-Hernández, N., Antonucci, N., & Siniscalco, D. (2018). Autism Spectrum Disorders: Potential Neuro-Psychopharmacotherapeutic Plant-Based Drugs. Assay and drug development technologies, 10.1089/adt.2018.848. Advance online publication. doi:10.1089/adt.2018.848