Current perspectives on Chinese medicines and dietary supplements in China, Japan and the United States


Chinese and other herbal medicines are being used increasingly by the general populations in both Eastern and Western countries, particularly as dietary supplements in the latter, to relieve and treat many different human diseases. By applying advanced scientific technology, herbal medicine can serve as a unique, fundamental basis for modern drug discovery and development. Herbal medicine must be researched and modernized in order to assure safety and efficacy, to provide qualitative and quantitative analyses for dietary supplements, and to develop new, effective, and safe world-class drugs. This drug design process is an iterative process of bioactivity-directed fractionation and isolation of natural lead compounds, chemical modification and improvement through structure-activity relationship, mechanism of action, drug metabolism, molecular modeling, and combinatorial chemistry studies, as well as efficacy and toxicity determination and clinical trials. From these studies, new drugs can be continuously generated from Chinese medicine. Importantly, now and in the future, not only bioactive lead compounds, but also active fractions and active prescriptions, must be investigated to continue the legacy of Chinese medicine for drug development in the 21st century. Such current perspectives and examples of herbal medicines and new drug development in China, Japan, the US, and other countries are illustrated in this paper.

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