Network pharmacology analysis of the therapeutic mechanisms of the traditional Chinese herbal formula Lian Hua Qing Wen in Corona virus disease 2019 (COVID-19), gives fundamental support to the clinical use of LHQW

Phytomedicine. 2020 Dec:79:153336. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2020.153336. Epub 2020 Sep 6.


Background: The traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) herbal formula Lian Hua Qing Wen (LHQW) improves the results of COVID-19 treatment. Three very recent studies analyzed with network pharmacology some working mechanisms of LHQW. However, we used more techniques and also included Angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) (a SARS-CoV receptor, possibly the viral entry point in alveolar lung cells) and the immune system, as cytokine storm is essential in the late phase.

Purpose: Extensive detailed Network Pharmacology analysis of the LHQW- treatment mechanism in COVID-19.

Methods: TCM-herb-meridian and protein interaction network (PIN) of LHQW, based on LHQW herbs meridian information and the protein-protein interaction (PPI) information of the LHQW-component targets. Hub and topological property analyses to obtain crucial targets and construct the crucial LHQW-PIN. Functional modules determination using MCODE, GO and KEGG pathway analysis of biological processes and pathway enrichment. Intersection calculations between the LHQW-proteins and ACE2 co-expression-proteins.

Results: LHQW herbs have relationships to Stomach-, Heart-, Liver- and Spleen-systems, but most (10 of the 13 herbs) to the Lung system, indicating specific effects in lung diseases. The crucial LHQW PIN has the scale-free property, contains 2,480 targets, 160,266 PPIs and thirty functional modules. Six modules are enriched in leukocyte-mediated immunity, the interferon-gamma-mediated signaling pathway, immune response regulating signaling pathway, interleukin 23 mediated signaling pathway and Fc gamma receptor-mediated phagocytosis (GO analysis). These 6 are also enriched in cancer, immune system-, and viral infection diseases (KEGG). LHQW shared 189 proteins with ACE2 co-expression proteins.

Conclusions: Detailed network analysis shows, that LHQW herbal TCM treatment modulates the inflammatory process, exerts antiviral effects and repairs lung injury. Moreover, it also relieves the "cytokine storm" and improves ACE2-expression-disorder-caused symptoms. These innovative findings give a rational pharmacological basis and support for treating COVID-19 and possibly other diseases with LHQW.

Keywords: COVID-19; Lian Hua Qing Wen (LHQW); Network pharmacology; Traditional Chinese Medicine.

MeSH terms

  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2
  • Antiviral Agents
  • Betacoronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • COVID-19 Drug Treatment
  • Coronavirus Infections / drug therapy
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional*
  • Pandemics
  • Peptidyl-Dipeptidase A
  • Pneumonia, Viral
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Virus Internalization / drug effects


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • Peptidyl-Dipeptidase A
  • ACE2 protein, human
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2