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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 938764, 17 pages
Research Article

A Systems-Pharmacology Analysis of Herbal Medicines Used in Health Improvement Treatment: Predicting Potential New Drugs and Targets

1College of Life Science, Northwest University, Xi’an, Shaanxi 710000, China
2Department of Materials Science and Chemical Engineering, Dalian University of Technology, Dalian, Liaoning 116000, China
3Center of Bioinformatics, College of Life Science, Northwest A & F University, Yang ling, Shaanxi 712100, China
4School of Chinese Medicine, Hong Kong Baptist University, Kowloon Tong 999077, Hong Kong
5Lab of Pharmaceutical Resource Discovery, Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Dalian, Liaoning 116000, China

Received 29 April 2013; Revised 23 September 2013; Accepted 4 October 2013

Academic Editor: Y. Ohta

Copyright © 2013 Jianling Liu 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.


For thousands of years, tonic herbs have been successfully used all around the world to improve health, energy, and vitality. However, their underlying mechanisms of action in molecular/systems levels are still a mystery. In this work, two sets of tonic herbs, so called Qi-enriching herbs (QEH) and Blood-tonifying herbs (BTH) in TCM, were selected to elucidate why they can restore proper balance and harmony inside body, organ and energy system. Firstly, a pattern recognition model based on artificial neural network and discriminant analysis for assessing the molecular difference between QEH and BTH was developed. It is indicated that QEH compounds have high lipophilicity while BTH compounds possess high chemical reactivity. Secondly, a systematic investigation integrating ADME (absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion) prediction, target fishing and network analysis was performed and validated on these herbs to obtain the compound-target associations for reconstructing the biologically-meaningful networks. The results suggest QEH enhance physical strength, immune system and normal well-being, acting as adjuvant therapy for chronic disorders while BTH stimulate hematopoiesis function in body. As an emerging approach, the systems pharmacology model might facilitate to understand the mechanisms of action of the tonic herbs, which brings about new development for complementary and alternative medicine.