Thunder God Vine

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Tripterygium regelii
Tripterygium regelii

Common Names: thunder god vine, lei gong teng

Latin Names: Tripterygium wilfordii

Background

  • Thunder god vine is a perennial grown in China and Taiwan. It has been used for hundreds of years in traditional Chinese medicine to treat swelling caused by inflammation.
  • Currently, thunder god vine is used orally (by mouth) as a dietary supplement for autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and lupus. It is also used topically for rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Extracts are prepared from the roots of thunder god vine.

Studies

  • A small number of studies have evaluated oral thunder god vine for rheumatoid arthritis. Very little research has been done on thunder god vine for other health conditions or on topical use of this herb for rheumatoid arthritis.

Benefits

  • There have been only a few high-quality studies of oral thunder god vine for rheumatoid arthritis in people. These studies indicate that thunder god vine may improve some rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
  • Results from a small 2009 study funded by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), which compared an extract of thunder god vine root with a conventional drug (sulfasalazine) for rheumatoid arthritis, found that participants’ symptoms (e.g., joint pain and swelling, inflammation) improved significantly more with thunder god vine than with the drug.
  • A study from China, published in 2014, compared thunder god vine to a conventional drug (methotrexate) and found that both were comparably helpful in relieving rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, and that the combination of the herb and the drug was better than either one alone.
  • There is not enough evidence to show whether thunder god vine is helpful for any health conditions other than rheumatoid arthritis or whether its topical use in rheumatoid arthritis has any benefits.

Safety

  • Thunder god vine may have side effects, including decreased bone mineral content (with long-term use), infertility, menstrual cycle changes, rashes, diarrhea, headache, and hair loss. Because some of these side effects are serious, the risks of using thunder god vine may be greater than its benefits.
  • Thunder god vine can be extremely poisonous if the extract is not prepared properly.


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