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Last Updated: 04/29/24

The NCI Library of Traditional Chinese Medicinal (TCM) Plant Extracts

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been practiced over thousands of years in China and other Asian countries for the treatment and symptom management of a wide range of medical conditions. The successful development of anti-malaria drug artemisinin, the discovery of which was inspired by a TCM practice, highlights the potential importance of this unique resource for drug discovery. A prototype TCM library has previously been established through joint efforts of US and Chinese scientists (funded by NCI and other foundations), consisting of more than 200 authenticated medicinal plant and fungal species that collectively represent the potential therapeutic content of commonly used TCM prescriptions.1 The collection has duplicate or triplicate samples of each plant species that were collected at 2-3 sites with precise GPS documentation and have been authenticated visually and chemically, as well as tested for heavy metals and/or pesticides contamination.2

The NCI Library of TCM Plant Extracts is a processed library from a subset of this collection, containing both the organic solvent and aqueous extracts of 332 samples of 132 TCM plant species in 96- and 384-well plate formats. It is accessible by drug discovery researchers worldwide (academic and non-profit organizations) to investigate TCM plants as potential sources of agents for the treatment of human disease.


  1. Eisenberg DM, Harris ES, Littlefield BA, Cao S, Craycroft JA, Scholten R, Bayliss P, Fu Y, Wang W, Qiao Y, Zhao Z, Chen H, Liu Y, Kaptchuk T, Hahn WC, Wang X, Roberts T, Shamu CE, Clardy J. Developing a library of authenticated Traditional Chinese Medicinal (TCM) plants for systematic biological evaluation-rationale, methods and preliminary results from a Sino-American collaboration. Fitoterapia. 2011; 82(1):17-33
  2. Harris ES, Cao S, Littlefield BA, Craycroft JA, Scholten R, Kaptchuk T, Fu Y, Wang W, Liu Y, Chen H, Zhao Z, Clardy J, Woolf AD, Eisenberg DM. Heavy metal and pesticide content in commonly prescribed individual raw Chinese Herbal Medicines. Sci Total Environ. 2011; 409(20):4297-305. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2011.07.032.

Requests for access to the NCI Library of TCM Plant Extracts

Requests for The NCI Library of TCM Plant Extracts will be accepted from research organizations and individual investigators in the form of a brief proposal (up to 5 pages) formatted as follows:

  1. Introduction.
  2. Research Hypothesis.
  3. Screening Process, together with description of the characteristics of the screen.
  4. Personnel.
  5. Organizational Research Capabilities.

Requests will normally be reviewed by staff of the NCI Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis (DCTD). The review will consider the scientific merit of the proposal and the chemical and pharmaceutical expertise for adequate follow-up studies.

The Committee to review applications for access to the NCI Library of TCM Plant Extracts will accept and review proposals on a continuing basis. Once accepted, requestors must enter into a Material Transfer Agreement with the NCI that defines research parameters, reporting requisites and requirements for respecting the rights of the collecting institutes and Country of Origin - China.

Distribution of materials from the NCI Library of TCM Plant Extracts

  • Testing plates for screening containing 50 μg/well of each individual sample in 96-well and 384-well plates are provided by the NPB. In some cases, for more comprehensive screening programs, plates containing 500 μg/well in 96-well plates can be provided. Information of the type and source of the extracts on a particular plate will also be provided only for those extracts that demonstrate activity in a particular assay.
  • Additional shipments of active samples may be provided to investigators to enable compound identification. Initial shipments will not exceed 1 gram with further materials possibly supplied on a case-by-case basis.

Request contact:

Carol Haggerty
Natural Products Branch
Developmental Therapeutics Program
Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis
National Cancer Institute
Riverside Five, Suite 400, Room 4101
P. O. Box B
Frederick, MD, 21702

+1.301.624.1269 (Voice)
+1.301.631.3026 (Facsimile)

Requests must be copied to:

Barry R. O’Keefe, Ph.D.
Chief, Natural Products Branch,
Developmental Therapeutics Program
Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis
Bldg. 562, Rm. 201 Frederick, MD 21702
Tel: (301)-846-5332
Fax: (301)-846-6872

About the Branch Chief

Dr. Barry R. O’Keefe Dr. Barry R. O’Keefe received a B.S. in Botany from Michigan State University, and a Ph.D. in Pharmacognosy from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1993. In 1994 he joined the National Cancer Institute’s Laboratory of Drug Discovery Research and Development to study novel proteins from natural products extracts. More…