Research on herbal medicines in the past has generally been carried out by individual researchers working independently. One researcher may find an active principle whose pharmacological and toxicological properties are then further studied elsewhere. Finally, yet another group may decide to go directly to human studies.
A single multidisciplinary group may enable more rapid progress. In such a group the first step might be to collect information on folkloric experience whose scientific validity is then investigated. If appropriate pharmacodynamic studies seem to verify the traditional use, the group can begin to conduct more general pharmacological and toxicological tests to assure the safety of the medicinal product, which can then be tested in an initial clinical trial. Additional confirmatory clinical trials may be conducted if warranted.
In certain instances, the isolation of an active substance may be useful in order to provide an exact dosage. In many cases, however, the plant preparation as a whole is therapeutically effective even though the active principle is not known. The clinical investigation of the therapeutic activity of such crude preparations may be useful, because that activity may depend not only on a single substance but may be influenced by a large number of other components in the herbal medicine.