Thunder god vine (Tripterygium wilfordii) is a plant that has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine. It is also referred to as “lei gong teng.” This herb has recently been investigated as a treatment option for a variety of disorders including rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, chronic hepatitis, chronic nephritis, ankylosing spondylitis, polycystic kidney disease, and obesity, as well as several skin disorders. Its leaves and root are used to make medicine.
The extract clearly reduces inflammation throughout the body. Reducing inflammation can have powerful benefits on treating a wide variety of diseases – including arthritis.
Latest research has shown that, an ingredient used in traditional Chinese medicine could help treat obesity. They say an extract from the thunder god vine reduces food intake and causes up to a 45% decrease in body weight in obese mice. The weight-loss compound, called Celastrol, produces its potent effects by enhancing the action of an appetite-suppressing hormone called leptin. If Celastrol works in humans as it does in mice, it could be a powerful way to treat obesity and improve the health of many patients suffering from obesity and associated complications, such as heart disease, fatty liver, and type 2 diabetes. Celastrol is found in the roots of the thunder god vine in small amounts.
Counting on its Benefits
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: RA is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation of the lining of the joints. The body tissue is mistakenly attacked by its own immune system. RA may also affect the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, blood, or nerves. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disorder, meaning that although there may be occasional symptom-free periods, the disease can worsen over time and may never go away. In RA trials, 60 mg/day of T2 (a chloroform-methanol extract of Tripterygium wilfordii ) for 12 weeks has been evaluated. Several long-term studies have evaluated the use of 1 mg/kg/day of T2 for up to 5 years; however, adequate safety data during the same time period are limited.
- Laboratory findings suggest that thunder god vine may fight inflammation, suppress the immune system, and have anticancer effects.
- It is also used for pockets of infection (abscesses), boils, fever, swelling (inflammation), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), HIV/AIDS, a skin condition called psoriasis, and a blood vessel disease called Behcet’s disease.
Thunder god vine can cause severe side effects and can be poisonous if it is not carefully extracted from the skinned root. Other parts of the plant – including the leaves, flowers, and skin of the root – are highly poisonous and can cause death.
A number of participants in the NIAMS study experienced gastrointestinal adverse effects such as diarrhea, indigestion, and nausea, as well as upper respiratory tract infections.
Thunder god vine can also cause hair loss, headache, menstrual changes, and skin rash. This herb has been found to decrease bone mineral density in women who take the herb for 5 years or longer. This side effect may be of particular concern to women who have osteoporosis or are at risk for the condition.