Hello cantarellia. Pleased to meet you. 🙂 Great question!
The way we determine which ingredients heal certain things is the same as a science experiment at school.
All ingredients in drugs are tested and we start off with a plan. Engineers call this plan a protocol. (No wonder nobody understands Engineers!)
This plan is just like a recipe and it contains all the ingredients and instructions for the experiment.
The plan tells us:
• Why we are doing the experiment and what we need to find out.
• What equipment and materials (ingredients) we need.
• How we must do it (Method)
• How to write it down (Record)
• How to look at the results (Review)
The results show us what happened and we do some more tests with different methods and ingredients until we are sure we can prove that a specific ingredient works or doesn’t work.
Basically by trial and error. The body is so complicated that we still struggle to work out what will do what. Even once you’ve found something that you know will work in a specific place in the body, you don’t know what else it might do.
So there is a lot of science working out what we might target, then some trial and error to find a molecule that will do something, then more science to work out why, and whether a similar but slightly different molecule would do a better job.
The human body is so very complex… current ways to make medicines involve a lot of trial and error. I think that the future of medicine will move from trial and error more towards computer modelling! Computer modelling is the use of computing power in the computer to foresee which drugs might work best for certain diseases. Computer science has the potential to speed up the drug discovery process… Computer engineers are the bomb!