Multi-herb therapy has been widely used in Traditional Chinese medicine and tailored to meet the specific needs of each individual. However, the potential molecular or systems mechanisms of them to treat various diseases have not been fully elucidated. To address this question, a systems pharmacology approach, integrating pharmacokinetics, pharmacology and systems biology, is used to comprehensively identify the drug-target and drug-disease networks, exemplified by three representative Radix Salviae Miltiorrhizae herb pairs for treating various diseases (coronary heart disease, dysmenorrheal and nephrotic syndrome). First, the compounds evaluation and the multiple targeting technology screen the active ingredients and identify the specific targets for each herb of three pairs. Second, the herb feature mapping reveals the differences in chemistry and pharmacological synergy between pairs. Third, the constructed compound-target-disease network explains the mechanisms of treatment for various diseases from a systematic level. Finally, experimental verification is taken to confirm our strategy. Our work provides an integrated strategy for revealing the mechanism of synergistic herb pairs, and also a rational way for developing novel drug combinations for treatments of complex diseases.
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