Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has been an important medical system in China for thousands of years. Lately, certain techniques like acupuncture and herbal medicines are also becoming increasingly popular in the West. Although the two medical systems are fundamentally different, both TCM and Western medicine are practiced alongside each other in China. Patients can choose between TCM, which offers a holistic approach to treatment and diagnosis, or Western medicine and its more mechanical view of disease.
In this paper the two medical systems are compared, and important differences and potential synergies are discussed. From this discussion it is evident that one of the most relevant ways the two can influence each other are to use TCM as a source of information in network medicine which is getting more and more popular and is proposed to be the future paradigm in drug discovery. But for the time being, the study of constituents in herbal medicines from TCM as a possible source of novel lead compounds seems to be even more relevant. Natural products have proven a good source of complex and biologically active compounds that have even resulted in blockbuster drugs.
As a part of an international staff exchange programme titled Traditional Chinese Medicine in the Post-genomic Era: Identifying Lead Therapeutic Compounds Against Cancer" this last potential for synergetic influence was investigated. Compounds from Bretschneidera Sinensis hemsl. a plant used in TCM was extracted, purified and structurally characterized at the Modern Research Centre of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Shanghai in hopes of finding novel compounds with possible anti-cancer properties.
Bretschneidera Sinensis hemsl. has never before been investigated, and eight compounds were isolated from the plant for the first time. 4 of these compounds were structurally characterized, and found to be previously known compounds. Although no new compounds were isolated, biologically active compounds were found, and this work adds to previous studies that indicate that TCM is indeed a valuable source of biologically active components.||en