A huge difference about the targeting points between TCM and Modern Medicine/Drug development

If you don’t know the TCM stands for Traditional Chinese Medicine, please read other articles first, to learn this very old but different system.

Or, check out this research paper first:

Open complex giant system and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Shuyun Wang et al., Traditional Medicine and Modern Medicine. Vol. 1, No. 3 (2018) 193–197

Here, let’s talk about one huge difference between TCM approach and current available drugs’ approach developed by “standard” drug development process.

The typical drugs are developed by identifying a clear pathway of the disease, and find an inhibitor to stop certain reaction in the disease.

Etanercept « New Drug Approvals

For example, this picture shows some drugs that had clear targeting points at TNF to stop the arthritis being worse, because they stopped TNF to bind the TNF Receptor, and stopped the inflammation. Sounds great. Yes, it is.


TCM herbal formula has been practiced for thousands of years, and are recognized by it’s effectiveness and low side-effects. And there are many records that showed the TCM have cured people’s disease. Yes, CURED, not just treated. However, science still can’t understand it. And currently there’s no way to standardize such practice or application yet scientifically.

There are numerous studies for the TCM and herbs.

Here’s a great research paper that showed the interesting story behind:

A Systems Biology-Based Investigation into the Pharmacological Mechanisms of Wu Tou Tang Acting on Rheumatoid Arthritis by Integrating Network Analysis – PMC (nih.gov), Yanqiong Zhang etc. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013; 2013: 548498.

In this research paper, they studied one very simple herbal formula with only 5 ingredients (herbs), and they found out there are hundreds of target points for active interaction in the body. See below picture :

This picture shows the effects of the active compounds in a TCM formula on the system of neuroactive ligand-receptor interaction for RA patients.

This picture shows a PPI (Protein-Protein Interaction) network for known targets of RA and candidate effector molecules of a TCM formula based on their PPI data. In total, there are 6713 interactions between 3231 proteins.

This is just a very simple herbal formula with only 5 ingredients. It had 6713 protein-protein interactions, between 3231 proteins! With hundreds of active targeting points.

There are other herbal formulas with 10+ or 20+ herbs, to treat the arthritis (BTW, the categorization of disease is different in TCM from medical science, check our other articles for more detail).

So, you see. How the approach is different?

Cite the conclusion: “Different from western medicine, TCM is an independent system of theory, which treats the function and dysfunction of living organisms in a more holistic way. It is very difficult to understand the therapeutic mechanisms of TCM because of the complexity of the chemical components and their actions in vivo. ”

Think it deeper:

If we only have one targeting point, how can we fix a complicated and systematic problem such as arthritis?

If we look at this in a systematic way, then, it all makes sense when are  talking about “balanced body (normal)” and “imbalanced body (ill with disease).

Only with the appoach that uses multiple (hundreds or thousands) targeting points with active interactions, it is possible to change our body from “imbalanced (illed, with disease)” to “balanced (normal)”. That’s called recover or cure.

Hope one day, we can figure out all those thousands and thousands of molecule interactions’ mechanism. But it seems like a long way to go for current science’s limitation.

Anway, this give you a hint that why sometimes TCM herbs would work perfectly to cure the disease, although we don’t unuderstand it very much yet.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shopping Cart