Nanotechnology Enhances Delivery of Traditional Chinese Medicines: A Review

Researchers explore the role of nanocarriers in improving the bioavailability and efficacy of TCMs

Traditional Chinese Medicines (TCMs) have a long history of use in treating various diseases. However, their effective delivery has been hindered by poor water solubility, limited bioavailability, and potential toxicity. In a recent review published in the Journal of Nanobiotechnology, researchers delve into the potential of nanotechnology-based delivery systems to overcome these challenges and optimize the therapeutic outcomes of TCMs. By utilizing liposomes, polymeric and inorganic nanoparticles, and organic/inorganic nanohybrids, researchers aim to enhance the delivery of active components of TCMs, leading to improved therapeutic results with fewer adverse effects.

Role of nanoparticles in TCM drug delivery

Nanocarriers have emerged as a promising approach to enhance the bioavailability and target action of TCMs. Lipid nanoparticles, such as liposomes, solid lipid nanoparticles (SLNs), and nanostructured lipid carriers (NLCs), offer advantages such as improved solubility, stability, and controlled release of TCMs. These lipid-based nanocarriers have high biocompatibility, low toxicity, and the ability to modify pharmacokinetic properties, ultimately enhancing the therapeutic index of TCMs.

Microemulsions and nanoemulsions as drug delivery platforms

Microemulsions (MEs) and nanoemulsions (NEs) provide flexible platforms for drug delivery. NEs, with their small droplet sizes and resistance to aggregation and phase separation, offer advantages in terms of increased surface area and improved drug encapsulation. Additionally, polymer hydrogel-based drug delivery systems have shown potential for targeted and sustained TCM delivery, thanks to their biocompatibility and ability to encapsulate both hydrophilic and hydrophobic medicines.

Inorganic nanocarriers and nanohybrids

Inorganic nanocarriers, such as gold nanoparticles (Au NPs) and mesoporous silica nanoparticles (MSNs), have customizable size, large surface area, and surface charge, making them viable platforms for TCM delivery. Organic and inorganic nanohybrids combine the benefits of both materials, offering high stability, controlled drug release, and relative safety. Prodrug-based nanocarriers have shown promise in anticancer drug delivery, with increased drug availability, high loading efficiency, and resistance to recrystallization.

Challenges and future considerations

While nanocarriers hold promise for TCM delivery, there are still challenges to overcome. Liposomes, SLNs, and polymeric micelles (PMs) have shown limited clinical efficacy, highlighting the need for further optimization and combination with other nanoparticle platforms. Research is also needed to improve the understanding of assembly methods and in vivo fate of PMs. Inorganic nanocarriers face challenges related to in vivo biocompatibility and stability, necessitating optimization of surface chemistry and functionalization techniques.

Novel approaches and future directions

To address the limitations of single nanomaterials, researchers are exploring nano-level heterogonous systems and organic/inorganic hybrid delivery methods. These approaches show promise in cancer therapy due to their adaptability and prolonged in vivo circulation. However, further research is needed to overcome the associated difficulties and improve the stability of nanostructures. Additionally, the use of nanocarriers in nanomedicine raises concerns about toxicity, immunogenicity, and production costs, which must be carefully addressed.


Nanotechnology-based delivery systems offer a promising avenue for enhancing the therapeutic efficacy of TCMs. The use of nanocarriers, such as liposomes, SLNs, and inorganic nanoparticles, has shown potential in improving the bioavailability, reducing toxicity, and increasing the effectiveness of TCMs. However, further research, innovation in delivery methods and manufacturing technologies, and the development of supporting technologies are necessary for the clinical translation of TCM-based nanomedicines. With a focus on basic research and the integration of emerging technologies, TCM-based nanomedicines could find wider clinical applications in the future.






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