Metabolomics: towards understanding traditional Chinese medicine

Planta Med. 2010 Dec;76(17):2026-35. doi: 10.1055/s-0030-1250542. Epub 2010 Nov 5.


Metabolomics represent a global understanding of metabolite complement of integrated living systems and dynamic responses to the changes of both endogenous and exogenous factors and has many potential applications and advantages for the research of complex systems. As a systemic approach, metabolomics adopts a "top-down" strategy to reflect the function of organisms from the end products of the metabolic network and to understand metabolic changes of a complete system caused by interventions in a holistic context. This property agrees with the holistic thinking of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a complex medical science, suggesting that metabolomics has the potential to impact our understanding of the theory behind the evidence-based Chinese medicine. Consequently, the development of robust metabolomic platforms will greatly facilitate, for example, the understanding of the action mechanisms of TCM formulae and the analysis of Chinese herbal (CHM) and mineral medicine, acupuncture, and Chinese medicine syndromes. This review summarizes some of the applications of metabolomics in special TCM issues with an emphasis on metabolic biomarker discovery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / adverse effects*
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Liver Failure / chemically induced
  • Liver Failure / metabolism
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional*
  • Metabolomics / methods*
  • Systems Biology


  • Biomarkers
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal