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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 136732, 9 pages
Research Article

Replacements of Rare Herbs and Simplifications of Traditional Chinese Medicine Formulae Based on Attribute Similarities and Pathway Enrichment Analysis

1Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, Shanghai Key Laboratory of Regulatory Biology, Institute of Biomedical Sciences and School of Life Sciences, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200241, China
2Department of Ophthalmology, West China Hospital, Sichuan University, Chengdu, Sichuan 610041, China
3Schizophrenia Program, Shanghai Mental Health Center, School of Medicine, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai 200030, China
4TCM Clinical Basis Institute, Zhejiang University of Chinese Medicine, Hangzhou, Zhejiang 310053, China

Received 14 September 2012; Revised 24 December 2012; Accepted 26 December 2012

Academic Editor: Shu-Ming Wang

Copyright © 2013 Zhao Fang et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


A Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) formula is a collection of several herbs. TCM formulae have been used to treat various diseases for several thousand years. However, wide usage of TCM formulae has results in rapid decline of some rare herbs. So it is urgent to find common available replacements for those rare herbs with the similar effects. In addition, a formula can be simplified by reducing herbs with unchanged effects. Based on this consideration, we propose a method, called “formula pair,” to replace the rare herbs and simplify TCM formulae. We show its reasonableness from a perspective of pathway enrichment analysis. Both the replacements of rare herbs and simplifications of formulae provide new approaches for a new formula discovery. We demonstrate our approach by replacing a rare herb “Forsythia suspensa” in the formula “the seventh of Sang Ju Yin plus/minus herbs (SSJY)” with a common herb “Thunberg Fritillary Bulb” and simplifying two formulae, “the fifth of Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang plus/minus herbs (FDHJST)” and “Fang Feng Tang” (FFT) to a new formula “Fang Feng Du Huo Tang” (FFDHT).