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An update on the strategies in multicomponent activity monitoring within the phytopharmaceutical field

Johanna M Gostner1, Oliver A Wrulich1, Marcel Jenny1, Dietmar Fuchs2 and Florian Ueberall1*

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Medical Biochemistry, Biocenter, Innsbruck Medical University, Fritz-Pregl-Str. 3, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria

2 Division of Biological Chemistry, Biocenter, Innsbruck Medical University, Fritz-Pregl-Str. 3, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2012, 12:18  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-12-18

Published: 14 March 2012



To-date modern drug research has focused on the discovery and synthesis of single active substances. However, multicomponent preparations are gaining increasing importance in the phytopharmaceutical field by demonstrating beneficial properties with respect to efficacy and toxicity.


In contrast to single drug combinations, a botanical multicomponent therapeutic possesses a complex repertoire of chemicals that belong to a variety of substance classes. This may explain the frequently observed pleiotropic bioactivity spectra of these compounds, which may also suggest that they possess novel therapeutic opportunities. Interestingly, considerable bioactivity properties are exhibited not only by remedies that contain high doses of phytochemicals with prominent pharmaceutical efficacy, but also preparations that lack a sole active principle component. Despite that each individual substance within these multicomponents has a low molar fraction, the therapeutic activity of these substances is established via a potentialization of their effects through combined and simultaneous attacks on multiple molecular targets. Although beneficial properties may emerge from such a broad range of perturbations on cellular machinery, validation and/or prediction of their activity profiles is accompanied with a variety of difficulties in generic risk-benefit assessments. Thus, it is recommended that a comprehensive strategy is implemented to cover the entirety of multicomponent-multitarget effects, so as to address the limitations of conventional approaches.


An integration of standard toxicological methods with selected pathway-focused bioassays and unbiased data acquisition strategies (such as gene expression analysis) would be advantageous in building an interaction network model to consider all of the effects, whether they were intended or adverse reactions.

Multicomponent; Multitarget; Effect potentialization; Microarray; Network