The introduction of the concept of systems biology, enabling the study of living systems from a holistic perspective based on the profiling of a multitude of biochemical components, opens up a unique and novel opportunity to reinvestigate natural products. In the study of their bioactivity, the necessary reductionistic approach on single active components has been successful in the discovery of new medicines, but at the same time the synergetic effects of components were lost. Systems biology, and especially metabolomics, is the ultimate phenotyping. It opens up the possibility of studying the effect of complex mixtures, such as those used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, in complex biological systems; abridging it with molecular pharmacology. This approach is considered to have the potential to revolutionize natural product research and to advance the development of scientific based herbal medicine. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.