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Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:136732. doi: 10.1155/2013/136732. Epub 2013 Feb 21.

Replacements of rare herbs and simplifications of traditional chinese medicine formulae based on attribute similarities and pathway enrichment analysis.

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  • 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.


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).

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