The flower of Carthamus tinctorius
L. (Carthami Flos, safflower), important in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), is known for treating blood stasis, coronary heart disease, hypertension, and cerebrovascular disease in clinical and experimental studies. It is widely accepted that hydroxysafflor yellow A (HSYA) and anhydrosafflor yellow B (ASYB) are the major bioactive components of many formulae comprised of safflower. In this study, selective knock-out of target components such as HSYA and ASYB by using preparative high performance liquid chromatography (prep-HPLC) followed by antiplatelet and anticoagulation activities evaluation was used to investigate the roles of bioactive ingredients in safflower series of herb pairs. The results showed that both HSYA and ASYB not only played a direct role in activating blood circulation, but also indirectly made a contribution to the total bioactivity of safflower series of herb pairs. The degree of contribution of HSYA in the safflower and its series herb pairs was as follows: Carthami Flos-Ginseng Radix et Rhizoma Rubra (CF-GR) > Carthami Flos-Sappan Lignum (CF-SL) > Carthami Flos-Angelicae Sinensis Radix (CF-AS) > Carthami Flos-Astragali Radix (CF-AR) > Carthami Flos-Angelicae Sinensis Radix (CF-AS) > Carthami Flos-Glycyrrhizae Radix et Rhizoma (CF-GL) > Carthami Flos-Salviae Miltiorrhizae Radix et Rhizoma (CF-SM) > Carthami Flos (CF), and the contribution degree of ASYB in the safflower and its series herb pairs: CF-GL > CF-PS > CF-AS > CF-SL > CF-SM > CF-AR > CF-GR > CF. So, this study provided a significant and effective approach to elucidate the contribution of different herbal components to the bioactivity of the herb pair, and clarification of the variation of herb-pair compatibilities. In addition, this study provides guidance for investigating the relationship between herbal compounds and the bioactivities of herb pairs. It also provides a scientific basis for reasonable clinical applications and new drug development on the basis of the safflower series of herb pairs.
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