Characterization of the therapeutic properties of Chinese herbal materials by measuring delayed luminescence and dendritic cell-based immunomodulatory response

J Photochem Photobiol B. 2017 Mar;168:1-11. doi: 10.1016/j.jphotobiol.2017.01.018. Epub 2017 Jan 22.


Based on the traditional Chinese medicine theory, the Chinese pharmacopeia assigns a therapeutic description of "taste" to all herbs; thus, an herb's "taste" is valued in traditional Chinese medicine as a major ethnopharmacological category and reflects the herb's therapeutic properties. These properties guide the practitioner with respect to preparing a specific herbal formula in order to provide each patient with a personalized intervention. The key challenge in evidence-based medicine is to characterize herbal therapeutic properties from a multi-target, multi-dimensional systems pharmacology perspective. Here, we used delayed luminescence (DL, the slowly decaying emission of photons following excitation with light) as a rapid, direct, highly sensitive indicator to characterize the properties of herbal medicines. The DL parameters were able to reliably identify a specific category of herbal materials with the so-called "sweet" taste. To support the DL results and provide biological relevance to the DL results, we used a murine bone marrow-derived dendritic cell-based assay to examine the immunomodulatory effects of herbal extracts from various "taste" categories. Our results indicate that DL may serve as a robust and sensitive tool for evaluating the therapeutic properties of herbs based on the traditional Chinese medicine classification of "taste". Thus, DL provides a promising technological platform for investigating the properties of Chinese herbal medicines both qualitatively and quantitatively.

Keywords: Chinese herbal medicine; Delayed luminescence; Dendritic cell; Immunity; Therapeutic classification.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Marrow Cells
  • Dendritic Cells / drug effects
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology*
  • Herbal Medicine
  • Immunomodulation / drug effects*
  • Luminescence
  • Luminescent Measurements*
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional / methods*
  • Mice
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Plant Extracts / radiation effects
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use
  • Plants, Medicinal / classification
  • Taste / immunology
  • Taste / radiation effects


  • Plant Extracts